Are Coupons Killing Your Grocery Budget?

My budget says I spend $400 on groceries. My June spreadsheet says I spent $495 on food and July’s spreadsheet says you’re screwed now.

I spent $660 on food in July. With a $400 budget.

If you can’t look away from an accident, read on:

How to use coupons to save money on your grocery budget

My total budget for food and household items is $500.

I spent $1587.

I’m more than 300% over budget for July.

Holy Hell.

New month, new budget, move forward.

I need to look back though, to figure out where I went so terribly wrong.

I saved $240 by using coupons. I’m wondering: Are coupons killing my grocery budget?

Coupons are fantastic for household items like toothpaste and toilet paper and shampoo; I get great deals, free deals, they even pay me to take stuff home sometimes.

But for a family who eats mostly whole foods (not Whole Foods – my grocery budget would be 1k-plus!) coupons can’t do a lot to help lower the grocery bill.

Mixed in with the amazing deals on deodorant and disposable razors are amazing deals for Popsicles and the cereal even the kids would not eat even though it was full of sugar because it was so disgusting Hershey’s Cookies and Cream; food-like items that I normally wouldn’t touch.

I went through my receipts and added up the grocery items I would never purchase if I didn’t have a coupon for them: $23.44 out of pocket [that's after coupons.] The grocery coupon matchups to these items totaled $31.13.

$23 worth of food I bought because of coupons did not kill my grocery budget after all – remember I was $260 over budget!

We thoroughly enjoyed every one of the dye-bright Popsicles and Pretzel Crisps with GMO soybean oil. We also got to try new items that wouldn’t have been on my radar if I didn’t have a coupon for them – yes, I realize that’s the entire point of coupons.

Still, $23 is nothing to sneeze at. For $23 I can take the kiddos on a daytrip to Disneyland. I’d rather have that experience than a pantry full of Kit Kat bags I scored cheaply with coupons. I’ll be paying extra attention to the nutritional and out of pocket costs for all food coupon items from now on.

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8 thoughts on “Are Coupons Killing Your Grocery Budget?

  1. coupons are tricky fellows. I have to search pretty hard for coupons for the specific items I buy like Almond milk. So this week, I buy my almond milk but I had two 1.00 of coupons and 2 .75 off coupons that doubled. PLUS Savings star has a 5.00 rebate once you spend 15.00 on a particular brand that we buy. THAT is where couponing pays off. Its ever so tempting to get stuff you normally wouldn’t get for a fuel perk or for “free”…. I would say taht couponing has probably saved me more than I have spent but I also still have three cases of pads sitting in my garage from an extreme coupon moment over a year ago!!

  2. I’ve fallen into the coupon trap before…it’s a tough one. I really find I do better on my budget when I just take a set amount of cash for my weekly grocery trips. I might cut a coupon out if it’s for something I know we eat anyway (like those yogurt tubes although I’m on strike from them for the summer and that any whole foods people are going ewwww right now) but otherwise I haven’t been messing with the coupons as much lately.

    • Jean – cash is the way to go! I’m trying to stay strong on this – Target is killing me because I can’t stand not saving the extra 5% with my Red debit card!

  3. I gave up on coupons and started buying store brand stuff when I could, it usually ends up cheaper that way and you don’t have to buy 87 boxes of cereal just to save a buck LOL

    • You’re so right – just bought 2 boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios even though I’m on a cereal strike just because my coupon was expiring and the store had it for a good price.

  4. Great post. I have often wondered how much more I end of spending because I am using a coupon. Case in point. I needed lotion and had 2 different $1 dollar off coupons. So I went to the store ready to save some mooh-la. The think was, even with the coupon the generic store brand was cheaper. If I would have used the coupon just to use it, I would have spent $2.00 more. Guess it all depends on the item and your brand loyalty…..with few exceptions mine is to my wallet.

    -Cherin @ masterfullyme.com

    P.S – I also wish there was more healthy coupon options. Seriously, .50 cents off an apple would make my day. Have a good one

    • Try http://www.ebfarm.com/user/register?destination= – sign up for Earthbound Farms emails and you’ll get access to a weekly coupon for $1/2 or $0.75/1 coupon on any EB product – you can print 2 per device. My Target only carries the carrots but at least I can always count on cheap organic carrots. With no Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods close to me that’s really the only whole food coupon I’ve found.

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