Photo via StockMonkeys.
Being frugal isn’t about extreme couponing or getting great sales, in my opinion. The foundation of our being frugal is rooted in living below our means.
Personally, we use coupons on occasion when they coincide with something we were already planning to buy. Each week, when I make our food shopping list, I look through the app Ibotta (use referral code: koexrvp for a free $10 when you sign-up) and find coupons that correspond to what is already on my list.
I don’t adjust my list according to the coupons available, only according to items on sale at the supermarket. Ibotta is also great, as you get discounts on produce and dairy from any store and any brand; which are items we buy every week. In addition, we shop at Walmart and use their Savings Catcher after we’ve shopped to compare prices for us and have netted several dollars in the process.
For me, when it comes to time or money, I am unwilling to spend the time extreme couponers do to purchase items I otherwise wouldn’t buy (mostly name brand, prepackaged items). Companies also know that when you use coupons you tend to spend more money on products overall. I’m sure it sounds like a lot of work with these apps, but I am just making my lists, and scanning receipt barcodes after I’ve shopped. In total, it takes me about 5 minutes every shopping trip.
When it comes to using other types of department store coupons, often I toss them away until I have a list of items I need. For example, with Kohl’s I wait to receive their 30% off coupon before I head to the store with my list or shop online. Almost every cycle, I receive 30% off to entice me to come in, since I usually don’t. With my current clothes shopping ban, I’ve found it even easier to skip the shopping mall and department stores altogether.
In addition, I use the website Ebates (referral link) to tack on a little more percentage when shopping online. I use the Chrome Extension, so it alerts me if a website I’m currently using offers cash back. Every few months, I get a check in the mail for buying items I already needed.
The best way to save money and live below your means is to plan your shopping trips ahead of time and buy only what you need. A short list, knowledge of what’s in season or on sale, and you’re ready to go. Coupons are great if they link up with what you need, but we purchase mostly generic items, or items on sale already which manufacturer’s don’t make coupons for.
Don’t get me wrong, I do like to use coupons, but the time invested in extreme measures isn’t worth it for us and if you’re not living below your means it isn’t going to make a huge dent. When a $3 off coupon from BJs shows up for a box of Luvs disposables (my favorite brand), and I add the Ibotta $5 coupon on top of it to save $8 on the already lesser expensive box it’s a win. Though, I won’t buy the diapers until both of these items match up, since we primarily use cloth diapers.
When you look at your budget income vs. expenses, your goal should be a gap with leftover money at the end of the month. If you’re living at or above your means, something needs to change or you’ll continue to sink deeper into debt. Any amount of couponing isn’t going to fix that. You need to take a hard look at your expenses and see where you can cut while simultaneously looking for ways to increase your income if this is your situation.
Once you’re able to live below your means, you might want to consider what your next goal might be. Maybe it’s paying off consumer or loan debts, or if you don’t have any of those, it might be to save for retirement or other adventures.
Our current goal is to reach living 50% below our means (essentially on one salary or less), which might take us another few years to reach. Once we’re there, we can start to plan for other targets in our pathway to getting rich slowly, early retirement, and financial freedom.