Couponing is a great idea, right? It’s a fantastic way to save money on groceries and other purchases, plus try new products at a discount. Unfortunately, when I was at my couponing peak, I discovered a dark side to clipping coupons.
I was going about my business, using coupons to save my family money… and then I realized my jeans were tighter than they used to be. I also noticed that I felt a bit more lethargic and bloated than I normally did.
I started trying to figure out what was different. Was I exercising less? Was I not sleeping as well? It didn’t take long to zero in on my eating habits. They had changed, and that change was due to couponing.
Here’s how using coupons affected my health and eating habits -- and how I adjusted my couponing strategy.
I was totally focused on getting the best deals. As a result, I would buy foods I didn’t need, simply because I had a coupon.
Not only was this a bad idea in terms of managing my weight and health, but also my wallet. You shouldn’t buy things you don’t need just because they’re on sale. Paying $0 is better than saving $1 when you buy something unnecessary.
I hate wasting food. It feels like throwing money away, because that’s basically what it is. Why don’t I just throw $20 bills down the garbage disposal?
And all that food I was buying just because I had a coupon, I would end up overeating in an attempt not to waste food.
A lot of times, the coupons I had were for high-calorie or processed foods. In addition, since I didn’t have coupons for them, I bought far fewer healthier items, like fruits and vegetables. I based too many of my food choices on my coupon selection, rather than buying what I really wanted and needed.
Does the possibility of weight gain and health consequences mean you have to give up couponing? Certainly not. I didn’t. You just need to be aware of the “dark side” of couponing and adjust your strategy to ensure you protect the health of your family. Here are a few tips that help me stay on track:
Make a list of items you need from the grocery store. To avoid forgetting something, start this list early in the week and keep it on the fridge so you can add to it as you go.
Also take some time to make a meal plan for the upcoming week before you go to the store. Add items you’ll need for those meals to your list.
At this point, you should have a complete list of items you’ll purchase from the store. Then, and only then, start looking for coupons -- and only focus on coupons for items on your list. If you see an awesome coupon for something you don’t need, ignore it!
Sometimes, even with a coupon, a deal isn’t as great as it appears at first glance. Avoid falling prey to marketing tactics by knowing the “normal” price of items you buy on a regular basis. You can keep track of these prices on a piece of paper or in your smartphone.
If you determine something is a great deal, stock up and avoid paying higher prices later. If you determine a deal isn’t so hot, you can purchase the minimum needed to get by in hopes that prices will be lower next week.
If you want to find coupons for healthier items, you’re probably going to need to get creative. For example, embrace mobile and digital coupons. A few of my favorite apps are:
If you’d prefer to stick to organic foods, you’re not out of luck. You can still find coupons on manufacturer’s websites, coupon websites and in your grocery store’s circular.
Finding deals is important, but it isn’t worth sacrificing your health. Instead of letting coupons dictate your shopping strategy, know what you want to buy -- and then find the coupons to help you save money on those items.
Your Turn: Have you ever struggled to balance couponing with healthy eating? Share your strategies in the comments!
Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!
Kelli Bhattacharjee, the owner of FreebieFindingMom.com, is a former investment professional with nearly ten years of experience. After graduating at the top of her class in finance, she decided to pursue her passion of empowering others to better manage their money via her savvy financial blog.