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Coupons: My Personal Mutiny

Coupons: My Personal Mutiny

Is it just me or is EVERYONE in the world talking deals, coupons and how to save money?

As a new inductee into the world of moms who blog, (I really don’t like that other term) I’ve signed up to receive a lot of RSS feeds from various parenting resources and I’ve “liked” just about every conceivable relevant website on Facebook. Now my news feed and inbox are full of “Save Money Here!”, “Deals, Steals and More!” and of course, coupons – tons of coupons.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE saving money. While I’m certainly no spendthrift, and my husband would argue that my idea of a good deal on shoes and his are very far apart, I appreciate that every penny saved is one less penny I have to try and earn. I have featured articles about couponing more than once on this site and I greatly admire the women who are able to make it work for them. What I don’t love about all this saving talk is that it seems aimed squarely at me and just me. Now that I have a child and especially now that I stay home with my child, I feel like these sites are telling me that my life does (or at least should) revolve around shopping. Shopping for food, shopping for clothes, shopping for “fill-in-the-blank,” and not just shopping but saving money while shopping.[pullquote type=”2″ align=”right”] There is something insidious about aiming all this money talk at moms.

Our family made a lot of sacrifices financially so that I could stay home with our daughter in the first few years of her life. We moved to a new town so my husband could take a higher paying job. We sold a home we loved for a loss and in the process spent all of our savings to avoid defaulting on our mortgage. We sold one of our cars and paid cash for a vehicle that rattles, has a sticky door when the weather is cold, and smells slightly of an odor whose origin I would rather not guess at. It was all worth it and now that it’s done, let’s move on.

I get that when you become a SAHM money is high on your list of things to worry about, but I don’t think it has to be the only thing and I don’t think you have to do it alone. I’d really like it if these sites acknowledged that budgeting is something best done by the WHOLE family. There is something insidious about aiming all this money talk at moms. The sites seem to be saying, “now that you are not making money, you must find other ways to earn your living.”

I was talking to a friend recently who went back to work after spending the requisite three months at home. She was getting ready to take a day off just to spend it with her now six-month-old daughter and she said to me, “I really wish I could stay home, it must be so nice.” Yes, I acknowledged, it’s wonderful and I fully appreciate how lucky I am to be able to stay at home and now work from home. But there is a downside too, one most SAHMs don’t talk about much. When you go from a two-income earning couple to a one-income earning family, the dynamic in your relationship changes.

Suddenly, the balance you might have had is gone. One person has a lot more pressure at work and the other person has a lot more pressure at home. As someone who once felt like she had it all figured out, that has been the hardest adjustment. Is it fair to still expect my husband (the cook in our family) to come home from a long day at work and then make dinner? It worked for us when we both had incomes. Why should it be different now?

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The problem is, it is different. I suddenly feel guilty when the laundry isn’t done, the house is messy or I don’t contribute to dinner (despite the fact that I could effortlessly win America’s Worst Cook). By the virtue of the fact that my work is at home, “keeping house” has become my domain. My husband still cooks – no one in our family wants to do away with that. But for now, I’ve become the housewife I never thought I would be. I get it and I deal with it because in the big picture, I appreciate that it’s a short-term problem and one I am lucky to have.

But when it comes to coupons, I am making my stand. Kudos to all you mothers who have the energy, the resourcefulness, and the will to search out the bargains and manage to feed your family on pennies a week. I admire you but I am not going to be one of you. I may be a domestic goddess but I am no coupon queen.

I’m just too tired.


View Comments (18)
  • Oh, honey. I totally get this. When I was laid off last year, I felt absolutely BEHOLDEN when the financial dynamic changed, and I was not graceful about it AT ALL. I had always been the breadwinner, sometimes twice over, and to suddenly have no stake in the income? I was a hot mess.

    And while *I* was all about saving money, YES, it became a family affair. Also, I found that (in my experience) I wasn’t able to effectively “coupon” to any miraculous savings. Time to money ratio: wasn’t worth it.

    • Is it wrong that it makes me happy that I’m not the only one who can’t find a way to be “graceful” about being the non-income earner?

  • The guilt thing of trying to keep everything balanced is always tricky! Am I doing my part, should I be doing more, is he doing his part – its exhausting!

    I haven’t given up coupons, but am pretty darn close. Every Sunday I go through the paper and do the mindless task of cutting coupons. I do get all excited when I come upon a P&G super saver and I can save 25 cents on Charmin. When I remember to bring them (not often), I feel a sense of victory when I proudly hand those coupons to the cashier. The victory soon fades when I see my total due reduce only about a $1.50. I wondered after my last experience of calling the manager over to give me credit for my 25cent coupon that wasn’t registering and subsequently holding up the line, is this really worth it?

    Your blog has empowered me – maybe I will spend less time hassling with coupons and more time remembering to bring those darn reusable bags!

    • OMG. The reusable bags. I must have at least 5 in my car that I NEVER remember to bring into the store. That will be my new goal and one I might actually be able to accomplish. Coupons = no. Reusable bags = yes.

  • I am SO with you on this one! While I would love to save boatloads on our ever-growing grocery bills, with four kids and my own business, I just DO NOT have time to play the coupon game. I did do a spreadsheet analysis a while back for some of the things we buy most, concluded that almost without exception Sam’s Club had the best prices, and do most of my shopping there. Things that can’t be purchased at Sam’s, I try to get at Wal-Mart, the runner-up in the low price race. I have found that some things can only be found at Publix, and do appreciate the extremely good customer service (including carts that seat two, balloons, and cookies for the little ones), so I do make it there now and then.

    One thing that occurred to me about couponing: isn’t it mostly on things that are processed? How many coupons are there for (organic, locally grown) produce, or milk, or eggs, or meat? It seems to me that these things are at opposite ends of the spectrum and that I’m somewhere in the middle. CouponingGreen/Organic/Crunchy

    I’m glad that extreme couponing works out for some people and that they’re happy doing so. As with everything in life, to each his/her own, and just leave me to make my own decisions. Each family has to figure out what works best for them.

    • Barbara – I love that you did a spreadsheet analysis of this!

      I agree, to each his own. I just felt like our perspective wasn’t put out there much and as I said in the piece, even on my own website, I felt like we were only pushing coupons which is kind of antithetical to my personal life.

    • Yes, Barbara! That’s a great point – we don’t really do processed in my house (if it can be helped), so there aren’t a lot of coupons out there for me!

  • I’m not a die-hard couponer either. I clip the ones for brands we actually use, peruse the meat prices in the circulars, and occasionally remember to check & clip the coupons at Earthfare. All that strategy-based-buy-eight-cases-of-ravioli-just-because-I-CAN-couponing isn’t for me. (And even as I type that I feel bad because with a little effort I could get those eight cases of ravioli and donate seven of them to the Food Bank.) So I dabble a bit, but haven’t taken The Class or anything. Your coupons are my mini-van. I refuse to succumb.

    PS – to Barbara. The post below is about finding healthy/organic coupons. Earthfare also has an AWESOME coupon page for things like meat, eggs, juice, and their free weekly produce coupon. I love my Earthfare coupons. I can’t tell you how many bags of free apples I get every week from EF.

  • Oh, I succumbed to the mini-van and now embrace it.

    Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll feel that way about coupons too. I do get more inspired to do it when I read about the people who use it to donate to food banks like The Passionate Pennypincher.

  • Okay, I am soooooo in a rush to an appointment, but had to chime in (of course!) I’ve couponed for YEARS. It has saved me LOADS of money. But, after seeing just about every deal there is out there, I think most people can save simply by shopping the sale ad (how hard is it to pick out the BOGO’s?) and choosing to do things a little differently –

    It is incredibly overwhelming, but you can always just pick simple ways to save, IF the need to! For me, it started out as something we needed to do, but now I just love it because I’m able to give abundantly to others, and my own family has more than we could ever need. BUT, figure out what works for you! (And yes, it does make all of us nuts some days!!!) 🙂

  • I so agree with you. I feel the same way.
    And coupons? I started to watch coupons recently, but I feel so overwhelmed and especially I don’t have the time to sit for hours to figure out what coupon to use where. So I end up in Costco, save money, time and energy! But I admire all the coupon queens and their determination!

  • My policy is that I set a time limit for myself of 10-15 minutes to clip, organize, and do my grocery list. I usually save around $18-20 a week in coupons and I only use ones on brands we like…yes I am one of those picky who will only use Angel Soft, etc people 🙂 We also do very little processed as possible and shop the outer rim of the grocery store on foods. I have been a working gal, stay at home mom, now work part time/stay at home part time. Most of the time the money we save is money we use to purchase items for our local food pantry or give to families that we know are in need, or projects like Loads of Love. Look at the time you might spend doing it to how much you might make an hour…if you’re spending more time working at it than you will save then you are losing money not saving…your time is definitely worth something. I look at my time at home just like I look at my time at work…it’s probably worth more 🙂

    • I too am picky about brands when it comes to certain things and toilet paper is definitely one of those things! The point about our time and what it’s worth is especially important. Just because you don’t work outside the home bringing in money doesn’t mean your time has become less valuable.

  • Yes, yes, yes I admit it I am one of those crazy coupon ladies. I spend about an hour a week on getting my list and coupons together. Most weeks I don’t even spend that much time. I went from easily spending $600-800+ a month on groceries and toiletries to less than a hundred. I don’t feel that it is my duty as a stay at home mom to do this but it is more of a game. I try to get my personal best every week. I do tell lots of people about my deals just because I get a “high” over the savings. I literally can no longer shop at night because I will not be able to go to sleep because I get so giddy. I will say that when my kids were younger I don’t think I could have done this. They are now 6,7 and 8 now and are all in school so that gives me more time to do things during the day. I normally don’t run out and get the latest deal because more times than not they are out of stock and I have wasted my time. I have and will again in the future teach my little couponing class at my house because I know the frustration I had on trying to figure it all out. I was so overwhelmed with all the information out there that I just had to walk away many times.

    Many things have changed since I started staying home with the kids. I used to have a maid, we shared cooking, laundry and many of the household chores. Now I do them all including changing my own oil in the minivan (which I also swore I would never have LOL). It really frustrates me that my husband does not help out with any of it but he also goes to school full time. Although if I tell him I am going out with friends to get away he doesn’t fuss.

    And back to couponing. Because of couponing I don’t stress over spending the money on extra activities and other things for the kids. Not that they wouldn’t get to do them but I just don’t stress over it. So all in all I love couponing but there are alot of people that just don’t think it is worth it but I have this one down pat and by using coupons I feel like there is something in my life that I can control ;-).


  • Good point, Jennifer! I fully applaud and admire the moms who do the couponing and make it work, but I just don’t have the time nor the passion for it. I tried it and found that I couldn’t keep up with it–the coupons would expire before I used them because I tend to only buy what I need. Also, I buy a lot of store generic brands, so that leaves me out, too. If I were more organized, I could probably pull this off. But I’m not, and I’m okay with that. I’m glad you brought this up because I’ve sort of felt bad for not getting into couponing. I finally realized that I’m not being lazy–I just have very, very little leisure time, and I simply can’t use it chasing the “rush” of victory that comes when I save a few dollars.

  • Jennifer, I found your article very refreshing. I thought I was the only one who felt that way! Some of my stay at home friends are really hard core about being frugal: coupons, cloth diapers, homemade cleaners and detergents, sewing, etc. After a while you start to feel guilty for not doing it too. We need to be confident with who we are and how we choose to run our households. Just buy what you need, get deals when you can and trust God to meet your needs. Just because you stay home & have time to strategize coupons doesn’t mean you have to spend your time that way if you don’t want to.

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