Now for some of my friends and readers who think that's not a lot, let me explain how I use coupons:
First, I only clip and use coupons for products we use. If there is something I wanted to try, I will clip and use that coupon, but I do not buy something merely because there is an available coupon. (In rare cases if I know of a wonderful deal, I may do it to be able to donate my purchases to a local food bank or other charity, but generally speaking, I do not do any crazy "deals" just because they are out there. To my mind, that's wasteful -- and greedy, because there are people out there who use those products.)
Second, I do my best to match coupons with sales, and to use store and manufacturer coupons together. This actually reduces my percent savings, though, because ...
Third, I do not count my savings as compared to the regular, full-price ticket. So, for example, when I leave Kroger and they tell me I saved $x.xx with my Kroger Plus Card, that's not the amount I record on my little spreadsheet. Why, you ask? Simple: Because 99% of the time, I would not have purchased those products at full price. For me, the sale price is the regular price. I look at it this way: I was already in the store making this particular purchase. If I left my coupons on the kitchen table, I would not suddenly be paying full price for the items in my cart; I just wouldn't have the benefit of the coupons. So I don't count sales, just coupons.
Also -- and this is where I differ from most people in how I record my total savings -- to be recorded on my spreadsheet, the coupon has to be something that I physically had to bring or mention. For example, at Barnes & Noble, I get a teacher discount, but only if I mention it and show my ID. That counts. But using my Kroger Plus card does not count, because that only gets me to the sale prices. Getting buy-one-get-ones does not count at Publix, but any additional savings because I had a coupon does count. I do use Extra Bucks at CVS (I've been doing this for as long as they've been around!) but I don't "net out" my purchase by subtracting the value of the Extra Bucks I receive. I strictly consider the money I had to pay, and when I subsequently use the Extra Bucks on another purchase, I consider them as I would a coupon. (Likewise, if I get any rebate money, I don't go back and reduce the dollar amount on my receipt. I consider what I paid at the time of purchase to be my purchase price. This year, however, I do plan to add a separate tally of how much rebate money I receive.)
The moral of the story is that what I record on my spreadsheet takes into account only what my total purchase price was and the discount I received for coupons. Sales do not count, and that makes my totals look weak in comparison to some of the "pros" out there, but it is the way I'm comfortable recording my totals. I have friends who record their savings as compared to the original full-price value, including sale price, and they get a kick out of seeing the full savings. So please know that I am not saying all this in judgment, just to explain how I arrive at my calculations.
If you're wondering just how much time all this takes, it's really not bad, and when I say that I genuinely mean that it took me longer to write this post than it takes me to worry about coupons each week. Whenever I talk with friends who don't clip coupons, their number one reason is that it is too time-consuming. I think I might write more about my "couponing" techniques in another post, because I've actually had a handful of friends ask me about it. But that's for another day. ;)
Anyway, the $1279 for 2011 represents a 20% savings on purchases made with coupons, and in some cases as much as 100% savings from full price costs! Truly! This is actually down by about $800 from our 2010 coupon savings, but that's got two primary causes. First, we certainly had a more restrictive budget last year, but second, for the entirety of 2011 we were living in one place and not splitting our time between two states -- so I wasn't shopping for two complete and separate households.
I know there are a few readers out there (Mom and Meredith, I'm talking to you!) who enjoy hearing how much I've saved. I thought you'd like to know my 2011 total. And if I find any stray receipts in the coming days, I'll let you know!