We all know that saving a little bit of money here and there throughout the month is one of the best strategies for accumulating savings. However, it can be difficult to keep that in mind while you’re shopping, especially if your goal is generalized to “save money”.
Using coupons is a popular method for saving money, and can absolutely be an effective way to generate savings. There is a mental trap that many people, myself included, fall into. When you save $3.00 with a coupon, it becomes very tempting to turn around and use that savings on another item. In other words, you feel like you saved money with the coupon, and want to reward yourself.
But really, this means that you didn’t save any money. Yes, it stretched farther, but now that $3.00 has no chance to become savings. To combat this bad habit, I find it very helpful to have a specific reason not to spend that money.
For example, right now I’m saving for a new car, because my current vehicle was given a death sentence. So when I use a coupon, I say to myself, “Awesome, this is $3.00 toward a new car!”. That car is much more important to me than a coffee or a candle, so thinking about the car diminishes my urge to splurge.
My savings goal is probably different from yours, and when I’ve saved up enough for the car my goal will change. I’ll probably begin saving for a new computer, but there are plenty of worthy goals. Saving coupon money throughout the year is a great way to generate a holiday shopping fund, or you can add it to your child’s college fund or put it towards a down payment for a home. Only you know what savings goal fits best into your financial life, and whatever goal you choose helps you develop the habit of saving your coupon money.
Using a system to track your coupon savings is just as important as your savings goal. My system is a catch-all that I base around my two week pay period. After I receive my paycheck, I take $300.00 in cash for groceries and other items (I use my debit card for bills and gas). When two weeks pass, the remainder of my $300.00 goes into savings, and then I take $300.00 from my new paycheck. Although I don’t record specific savings, using cash and depositing the extra on a regular basis helps me keep my savings goal and budget in mind.
Many people don’t like to carry a lot of cash. If you carry a limited amount, stash the dollar value of your coupon savings into an envelope to deposit at the end of the month. Or just keep a written record of the dollar values, and deposit that total into savings weekly or monthly.
There is also an app, called Checkout 51 that stores savings for you, but their product selection is limited. The FLIPP app doesn’t store savings, but it does compile coupon booklets from a variety of stores to help plan your shopping and maximize your savings.
It is important to have an amount specified in your budget that you always deposit to fund retirement, job loss, or emergency savings. Coupon and other small accumulating savings aren’t meant to replace that, but do help supplement and support those savings goals. Having a reason to stash individual coupon savings consistently helps you build significant savings over time. Saving just $3.00 a week with coupons adds up to $144.00 over a year; if you saved $5.00 a week, you’d have $240.00 in a year.
Written by Mckenzie Candalot, Staff Writer – Mckenzie Candalot graduated from the College of Idaho with a B.A. in English Literature. She has a passion for written language and helping other women take control of their finances. When not blogging or reading, she enjoys cooking and spending time with loved ones.