Those “extreme couponers” make it look so easy. All you need is a pair of hands, a few grocery store circulars, and a pair of scissors in order to save hundreds of dollars on groceries. Seems simple, but why do many Americans opt out of using coupons? For me, the answer is simple…it is way too time consuming! With college tuition and fees nearly sextupling since the 1980s, greatly surpassing increases in medical care and gasoline, couponing would seem like a great alternative to save money in order to allocate that saved money to pay off some student loans. However, as you watch those “extreme couponing” TV shows more closely, you begin to realize how truly time consuming extreme couponing really is. There is a math, even a science, to figuring out how many coupons and items one would need in order to get a bulk of items for free. But in all honesty, who can really use over 500 bars of soap? Most likely, those bars of soap will dry out before one uses all of them.

A note from us at I’m In:  We offer lots of ways for you to save on groceries at I’m In!

I don’t doubt that many couponers truly do benefit financially in the long run but as a current graduate student, I don’t have time to sleep let alone coupon. Okay, okay you say, “Oh, but you don’t need to be an ‘extreme’ couponer, you can just coupon every now and then”, this is true, but is 30 cents off a tube of Crest Toothpaste really going to help me save hundreds? No. Again, you might say, “Oh, but every cent counts; it will add up in the end!” Again, another great point, but let’s do the math. Let’s say that the tube of toothpaste costs around $2.99. Let’s also say that you use about 4 tubes of toothpaste in a year. 4 x 2.99 = $11.96. Now, let’s say you have 4 coupons for 30 cents off. 4 x 0.30 = $1.20. 11.96 – $1.20 = $10.76. That is about a dollar that you saved in one year. Is that motivating enough? Maybe it can buy you four gumballs at the vending machine but not much more than that. In fact, it wouldn’t even buy you anything at the dollar store because (with 7% sales tax) whatever you buy for a dollar would cost you $1.07. Therefore, you would be seven cents short! Alright, I’ll admit I am being a bit facetious; couponing does save money but to save a massive amount of money, it takes much time and dedication.

This past semester, I spent every waking moment of my day reading and studying for my courses. Reading, alone, was about 400 pages a week; now add on studying for tests, completing paper assignments, commuting to school, and working on the weekends to pay for gas. I didn’t even have time to breathe! How on earth would I have time to coupon? However, I have found a few alternatives to couponing. My first alternative allows you to get produce for free. Yes, I said it…for FREE. Shall I tell you my secret? Gardening! Gardening is one of the best ways not only to save money, but also to grow your own fruits and veggies without the fear of genetically engineered foods and pesticides. Now, you might say that this is time consuming, and I do agree that it is very demanding in the beginning, but once the garden is started it is a cinch! When the winter months roll around and a garden is not possible, one can simply freeze fruits in separate packages in the freezer or pickle vegetables. My second alternative is looking for sales and buying store brand items. Many stores have items that compete with big brand items. These items usually have the same ingredients but do not come with the fancy brand name packaging. This is what I look for when I shop ALL THE TIME. I always check to see if the store makes a “knock off” item of the item I choose. Not only that, but I make sure it is on sale. The circular is a wonderful thing to breeze through in the morning to check for sales. To me, these two things do not take as much time as couponing. One does not have to dedicate time and energy to collecting coupons and worrying about expiration dates. If you have the knack and time for couponing, I say go ahead and do it! However, if you are like me (with no time to even blink your eyes), I suggest gardening and simply looking for sales and store brand items. Unless someone is willing to give me a crash course in couponing and prove to me that it is not as time consuming as I deem it to be, I will stick to my methods. To all of the extreme couponers out there, I applaud your efforts.