A lesson in couponing: Read the damn ad carefully. I was excited to find Pepperidge Farm cookies on sale at Safeway, with Buy One, Get One Free. Tim loves Sausalito cookies, but he doesn’t get them often because they’re a ridiculous $4.19 a pack.
So I found an eBay auction for 20 coupons. The end price, with Safeway rounding the coupons up to $1, would be $1.095 a package. (Plus 10 cents per coupon.) Well worth it, by my calculations.
All that was great in theory. But apparently only MILANO cookies on sale. I had planned to get some for myself, so I grabbed 8 bags. Tim, however, was pretty disappointed. (Since he’d been anticipating the cookies for four days, I went ahead and let him get two packages. I consider it a carelessness tax.)
Here’s the problem: There are 16 cookies in a Milano bag. And the things are really good. Especially if you put them in the freezer so the mint is extra cool.
So I had some cookies. And a couple more. And a couple more. And then I had just an empty bag. In one night. Then I looked at the nutritional info (no good can ever come of that, by the way) and found that 2 cookies = 130 calories. I managed not to scream. Instead, I just cursed their cookie goodness.
Today, I resolved to be more careful. I opened the second bag and told myself to just have, say, four cookies. But those were so good, I had just two more. And suddenly I’m 2/3 of the way through the bag and stuffing the bag back into the freezer hurling curses at its minty, witchy ways. Argh.
From now on, it looks like I’m getting 2-4 cookies out and leaving the rest in the freezer. And that I’d better take a walk later today. For, like, five hours.
The upshot of this ridiculous tale is that I am slowly dipping my toe back into the couponing waters. It’s really only for one item, and I only find a worthwhile deal every 2-3 weeks at most. But it’s a start.
Each Wednesday, I sit down at the computer with the food circulars. I get on eBay and coupon clipper sites and check the items on sale. If there are corresponding coupons, I decide whether to use them to get a better deal. Sometimes it’s worth it, sometimes it’s not.
I’ve been mainly reserving this effort for cheap Fiber One and Nature Valley bars over the last year or so. But I’m trying to expand to help us find cheap treats that would otherwise be dismissed as too pricey.
It’s nice to do this limited version of couponing. I think too many of us feel like it’s all or nothing. Like if we don’t use as many coupons as possible, we’re not “real” couponers.
The fact is, I’m far from great with coupons. But when I tried to be really seriously immersed in the coupon culture, it was too much stress. I’d get behind in my reading/clipping and feel guilty and exhausted. In the end, I just quit using the damn things at all for months.
Better, instead, to do some selective couponing and be partially more frugal. At least then I get some results, rather than getting a load of stress and guilt and giving up altogether.
I think Tim’s mom will help me find a middle ground. She’s pretty excited about moving here, where coupons are worth more than face value. So she has been watching Extreme Couponers to learn more about the process. (Don’t worry, she’s wary of the extreme a lot of the people take it to.)
If she’s going through the coupons ahead of time and clipping the relevant ones, that would take the worst of the responsibility off my shoulders. Then we could just sit down and look at deals and decide which ones were worth jumping on.
It could be a good middle ground for me. I guess time will tell. In the meantime, I’ll just keep looking for good deals on one or two indulgences and leave the serious couponing to the professionals.