For those of you who are new here or don't know, Justin and I pay for all of our groceries and household spending in cash. We budget $80 a week in cash for all our shopping at places like Publix, Walmart, Target or drugstores. We also use that $80 a week to cover things like our occasional organic produce shares ($45 each time, now about once a month) and our twice a year Zaycon chicken order ($70-$80 for 40 pounds of chicken)
Many weeks we spend much less than $80 and so I usually save some of the cash as reserve grocery money for bigger shopping weeks and we also use the extra grocery money to go towards any big bills we might have pop up that month or for any short term savings goals we currently have, like buying a new camera on Black Friday.
In the 3 years that I have been couponing, I have constantly been tweaking what I do to find out what works for us, how much we realistically need of each item, and how sale cycles work in my area. However, one of the biggest and most effective changes I have made is couponing using cash.
Although we were seeing a significant impact on our monthly spending by couponing, I still felt like there had to be a better way to make those savings work for us and have a greater impact on our weekly and monthly saving goals.
I have always been a debit card kind of girl. Justin and I have a budget and a savings plan but we just never made that leap to a cash envelope system. About a year and a half ago, I started to think long and hard about the benefits of using cash. Justin and I discussed it and decided to try using cash for our weekly grocery, toiletries and household shopping. We decided to try it for the month of January last year and we love it so much it is now a permanent part of our lives.
Here are just four of the ways switching to cash has made me a more effective couponer:
1. It forces me to stick to our budget.
Let’s face it, as someone who coupons, it can be so tempting to spend a little more because you are getting a great deal. I try to be as practical as I can in my couponing but I still struggle with this every once and awhile.
We have set a budget of $80 a week for all household shopping. This includes groceries, toiletries, and all household items. This allows me to buy what we need and add to my stockpile, pantry and freezer without blowing our weekly budget. If there is a great deal that I want to stock up on, I have to take into account what else we need that week before I take advantage of the deal.
2. It forces me to plan my shopping trips.
I have always tried to make a list before I go shopping and stick to it. Before I started paying in cash, I could be more flexible with my list and what I chose to buy.
Now that I only have a set amount of cash to spend, I carry a calculator with me and as I go through my list I add up my total spending to make sure I am staying on target. This forces me to avoid impulse buys and really ask myself if we truly need something or if I am just buying it because it’s a good deal.
3. It keeps our stockpile under control.
One of the benefits of couponing is having a stockpile or a supply of grocery and household items on hand so you don’t have to make an extra trip and pay full price for something when you run out. It has allowed us plan our meals better, entertain friends on a budget, and give more to homeless shelters and food banks.
Having a set weekly spending budget helps keep our stockpile at a reasonable size. I can’t buy unlimited amounts of things even if it is a great deal. This has forced us to be more practical about couponing and kept us from failing into the trap of having excessive amounts of things or buying what we can’t use in a timely manner.
4. It helps us save more and balance our budget.
As I said earlier, couponing significantly lowered our weekly and monthly spending. I was able to start budgeting less for groceries and household items but the number still changed from week to week.
We now pull out two week’s worth of spending cash each pay day. This allows me to know exactly what is going to be coming out and budget the rest of our pay checks accordingly.
If we have extra money left in the envelope at the end of the two weeks, we split it between our long term and short term savings accounts or save some of it for reserve grocery money or our produce share. This allows us to save more on top of what we already budget for savings; and by also putting some of it in a “short term” savings account, we can spent that money on house projects or a fun weekend trip. It also gives us a cushion for those bigger shopping weeks when I want to stock up on meat, butter, or other super deals.
If you are reading this and thinking that using cash is a hassle, just know that I was you a year ago. I could never have imagined how something as easy and simple as using cash would make me a more efficient shopper, couponer and budgeter – but I am now converted to the cash envelope system and I’m not looking back!
Do you a cash system? Do you have any tricks for being an efficient couponer? New to couponing? Check out my Learn To Coupon page to read about the basics for getting started!