To clip or not to clip? Coupon values slide, as consumer goods climb

You don’t have to take couponing to the extreme like the shoppers featured on several reality television shows may, in order to save money.

In 2010, the average savings per coupon was valued at $1.44, so you can easily see how even a few coupons per week could add up.

It’s estimated that the average family who would normally spend $5,000 on groceries each year can save $1,000 annually by also spending 20 minutes each week to clip and organize those money-saving coupons.

The End of “Extreme” Clipping?

Regardless of if you’re a casual couponer or a money-saving maven you’re at the mercy of the companies issuing those coupons and marketing whims.

To that end, coupon processors Inman and NCH marketing, by way of CNBC, reported that the overall value per coupon declined by 2.8 percent as marketers pulled back on the number of coupons issued in 2012.

At the same time, the cost of what we buy at the store has gone up; the Consumer Price Index increased by almost as much as the overall value of the coupons has dropped — 2.1 percent.

That means, while redeeming a coupon will still result in a lower price on what you (hopefully) had intended to buy anyway, your savings may not be as dramatic as it has been in prior years.

Savings v. Time

While saving 50 cents on a pack of soda may not be as attractive as the $1.00 savings you may have redeemed on the same product a year ago, it is still savings. But time is also money. You may need to rethink the amount of time you spend clipping coupons. Do the savings justify the time commitment?

That said, you don’t have to go to “extremes” — as some coupon queens may. Of course, their reward for all that clipping and collecting is $200-worth of product for what the rest of us might spend on a latte.

In all likelihood, many of us would be happy to just trim our monthly grocery bill by, say, 20 percent.

In the end, keep in mind there are other ways to save money at the grocery store that don’t involve clipping and the extra time investment at all, such as not grocery shopping on an empty stomach (when you’ll be tempted to buy more products that you don’t really need), or understanding that stores place the priciest goods at eye level.

Look up and look down to secure savings — no scissors required!