I used to be a legit couponer. At the time, I was at home full time with my oldest child and my husband’s income was about 50% of what it is today. I became so adept at the practice that I was that annoying person no one wants to be in line behind when she’s checking out at the market due to my possession of many coupons and a lot of items to scan and load. I began keeping track of how much money I was saving as an alternative to the $0 salary I was bringing in at the time. Highlighting our savings on receipts and showing them to my husband became a source of personal pride for me.
Then I moved overseas.
1) I couldn’t take all those items I’d been saving money on with me. One does not simply pack 12 tubes of toothpaste or 6 boxes of cereal, and she certainly wouldn’t be wise to pay to move or ship said items.
2) In Europe we ate less and ate simpler. Our family was no longer consuming the pre-packaged foods that are most often have coupons available in the Sunday papers. Coupons weren’t available for the fresh fruit and produce available in our local market. My new routine became picking up items at the store for the evening’s dinner on my way to walk and get the kids at school.
3) There was no room to accumulate. My kitchen was about 7′ in length x 4′ wide. We had one cabinet to store pantry items and a euro-sized fridge that was about 4′ tall including 3 shelves inside and a small freezer below. Our sink, stove, and washing machine were all in this tiny space. If I’d chosen to live out the American values of never running out of anything and having plenty on hand, I would’ve had to resort to using up the open space in our home for storage.
4) For those of you who took college accounting courses, you’re familiar with the FIFO practice – First In, First Out. In America, I accumulated canned goods and freezer goods to the point that I could pass on using the ones that weren’t appealing. When practicing FIFO, we eat what we have before adding more to the mix. If I bring a dozen bananas home from the grocery today, it’d better be because I’m running low and our family will consume the new ones in the week to come.
5) No matter which countries I’ve lived and traveled in, I’ve realized I’m uncomfortable keeping extras of nearly anything around. Even though I’d saved us thousands of dollars on items we’d “eventually” use, they were often not used or of much value overall. The main thing I had to show for the “savings” were cabinets overflowing with “just in case” items.
6) We had no income and were living on our personal savings when we moved overseas. Adopting this lifestyle forced me to realize that, back when we’d had my husband’s salary I never felt it was enough and was trying to squeeze all I could out of it by couponing. When we had no true income in Europe but I stopped couponing, I began to see what we had as enough.
Now that we’re back in America, I’ve taken my couponing lessons and experience and applied them to my preferred method of grocery shopping. The images in this post are screenshots taken from a video our family filmed of a decluttering project we did in our London home. If you’d like to see the video (and our results), click here.
If you’re an avid couponer, I encourage you to ask yourself whether the financial savings you’re gaining and the time you’re spending truly outweigh the resulting clutter and accumulation that this practice creates.
Ready to drop the scissors and stop clipping? No problem! Try these 8 Alternatives to Couponing.
Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally. She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and recently moved to Oklahoma to become the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.