One of the popular ways that many frugal people save money is with the use of coupons. I, however, could never get into penny pinching or clipping coupons. I've tried, at different points in my life to use coupons, but I'm not a coupon maven, and I wasn't willing to put in the time or effort. But I'm not sure that you even need coupons to be frugal. In my mind, frugality isn't just about completing a laundry list of items like clipping coupons, and buying the cheapest thing you can find.
Frugal is more of a state of mind — and a lifestyle.
Best Value For The Money
To me, one of the essentials of frugal living is getting good value. A frugal lifestyle doesn't have to be about getting the cheapest thing imaginable (and using coupons to do it). Instead, it's more about getting the best value. Sometimes, the best value isn't the cheapest thing out there. My favorite example is shoes. I buy high quality shoes that cost more — but they last longer. Instead of replacing shoes every six to eight months, I can keep them for years. I still have the hiking boots I bought 10 years ago. They've held up much better than the cheap pair I bought less than a year before I spent the money for a better product.
Whether it's food, clothing, tools, or other items, sometimes the cheapest thing you can get is not the best value for the long term. It is worth it to carefully evaluate what your buying. In some cases, the truly frugal choice is to buy the higher quality item without the coupon. Saving $2 now isn't going to be a big deal if you have to spend another $15 in a few months to replace a low quality item.
Do You Even Need (Or Want) That?
The savviest couponers, I know, only clip coupons for what they need/really want. However, there are many more who are convinced that they are being frugal because they bought something with a coupon — even though they had no intention of buying that item in the first place. Using a coupon to buy something you don't want or need isn't true frugality. Instead, you are still spending money, no matter how much you think you are “saving” with the coupon.
A problem with using extreme couponing to stockpile food is that it can go bad before you use it. If you have to throw away items in your stockpile, what's the point? Another problem is that many of the foods you can buy with coupons are pre-packaged and outright junk food items. This isn't healthy, and can cost you more in the long run as health care costs go up. Pay attention to the types of things that coupons encourage you to buy, and be wary of them.
In the end, coupons work well for some people. They enjoy the challenge, and don't mind spending the time. However, I would rather use the time to make more money, and not worry so much about saving a few dollars at the store.
What do you think? Can you still be frugal even if you don't use coupons?