so, the day weve all been waiting for is finally here (ok maybe its just me). today im going to make the final analysis of my couponing hobby for 2013 (you can read my first, second, and third quarter reviews at their respective links). before i start rattling off the numbers, first id like to give a little background about the project just in case we have any new readers here:
see, i started using coupons somewhere in the second half of 2012 after we moved out of my parents house and into our current apartment. we were totally broke (james worked at a totally shady pizza parlor and i was still a contractor with joanns), i was out of practice with grocery shopping for two (we had lived with my parents for about four months after moving back to california), and our grocery spending was out. of. control. and of course i thought that i could fix our grocery budget problems with coupons.
and it didnt exactly work out as i had hoped (you can read more about that, as well as some tips on using coupons like a normal person here). and then last january (or maybe at the end of 2012, im not sure), i noticed that i seemed to be spending quite a bit of money on printer ink and newspapers, and it really had me questioning whether or not couponing was a productive use of my time.
and i needed to figure this out with science. because i guess i decided that it was only a worthwhile hobby if i had the math to back it up.
so i commited myself to track, for the entire year, all my grocery store savings (coupons and otherwise) and all coupon-related expenses (really just the newspapers and printer ink). i only tracked grocery savings, because i didnt want the data to get distorted by selectively tracking really great trips to joanns and not all our other purchases (i mean, this scientist needs to have a life, too), and the metrics i chose to record were the following: total coupons used, total dollar amount saved, percentage saved, and a cumulative net savings less any related expenses.
now i just want to congratulate anyone that made it through that last paragraph and point out that I WENT TO ART SCHOOL AND IM TERRIBLE AT MATH SO THIS PROJECT WAS A PRETTY FREAKING HUGE DEAL.
and now, without any further ado, lets get into some of these numbers:
total coupons used: $772.55
total savings (includes coupons, club card, target card, etc.): $2656.61
total expenses: $181.59
average savings per transaction: 39.45 %
and my total net savings for 2013:
im serious. and if you dont believe me you are more than welcome to come over and double check my little hello kitty notebook for errors. two thousand four hundred and eighty five dollars. for reals.
and what makes this number extra crazy is that we live in los angeles. where the prices are (only slightly) higher and NOBODY doubles coupons. and we live in a one bedroom apartment so i cant stockpile anything (ok, theres a bag of toiletries that were free or 25 cents in the closet where i keep the vacuum). also over the course of this year ive cut WAY back on the quantity of groceries we buy. so that means i literally cut (or printed) $772 of coupons and only used them on things we actually used.
now im being completely honest here, i started tracking this because i thought this wasnt a productive hobby. so im just as shocked as you are (unless of course youre a real extreme couponer and thats pathetic).
so the numbers are cool and all, but because were doing science here, the real question we need to ask is what did i learn from this experiment?
and it turns out, kind of a lot:
i learned that coupons will not solve your grocery budget problems.
i learned that the purpose of coupons is to trick you into buying things that you dont need and spending more than you had intended to.
i learned that it takes a LOT of time and effort to make coupons work for you.
i learned that keeping a notebook of statistics for an entire year is way harder than it sounds.
i learned that its really hard to keep track of grocery receipts long enough to extract the necessary data.
i learned that sometimes i really like having a newspaper subscription.
i learned that most weeks we dont actually have time to read the newspaper.
i learned that sometimes sausage goes on sale for fifty cents a pack the day after you used all your coupons buying it for $2.
i learned that food coupons are mostly just for junk food.
i learned that buying the expensive cat food with coupons is actually cheaper than buying the cheap cat food without.
i learned that "dollars saved" and "percent saved" mean totally different things.
i learned that its entirely possible to feed a family of three on a vegetarian and gluten free diet for $50 a week (but its not very fun).
i learned that a years worth of newspapers and printer ink costs $181.
i learned that the best way to save money on groceries (and everything) is to simply not buy things you dont need.
i learned that grocery store prices are falsely inflated to make the sales better and most foods are cheaper at sprouts or target.
i learned that coupons are really awesome for the first half of the year and taper off into almost nothing around the holidays.
i learned that all those little bits of money really do add up to some meaningful cash.
but most importantly, i proved with science that couponing was in fact, a productive use of my time, because we did not have an extra $2400 to blow on groceries this year.
will i keep couponing? definitely. will i keep detailed statistics for 2014? im not sure yet.
thanks for sticking around to the end! i hope you didnt get too bored.