Clipping coupons, looking at sales papers. Shopping around for better rates on car insurance. Researching before a major purchase.
Money saving experts typically recommend these types of strategies when asked how to save money. They have one thing in common: they take time.
When does it stop being worth it?
I have five kids – that makes time a very limited resource. The graphic above shows an estimate of about $15 per week “saved” with coupons, and the monetary value of the time that takes. What is difficult to quantify is how much money would have been spent without researching grocery sales papers, finding good deals, making a grocery list…
This graphic is based on my average personal experience. This article at the Wall Street Journal shows entirely different numbers, so it may vary based on the local stores and coupons you have access to, motivation, family size, etc. The author says:
If motivation is an issue, the next time you find yourself facing a stack of coupon booklets and flyers don’t ask yourself if you can be bothered. Try asking yourself if you’d like to earn more than $100 an hour for a job you can do, at home, while sitting on the sofa watching TV.
Again, this has not been my experience with coupons, though there have been some weeks that I’ve saved more than $15. I’m a huge advocate of coupons; I enjoy using them and most weeks I feel like they add value to my budget. Other times, though, I question whether they are as useful as I perceive them to be.
Sometimes we have time but not money. Other times we have money but no time. I’m not a money saving expert, but I’m beginning to believe that, just maybe, whichever resource is the most scarce at the moment is the one that we value the most.
I’m trying to prioritize and make sure that the things I am spending my time on are the things that are the most valuable. “Value” is not relegated to a financial context, though. Time, for instance, can be given a dollar-value in some contexts, but how do you decide how much money it’s worth to spend an hour with your children? your husband? cleaning the house? These things vary from person to person (and sometimes day-to-day).
No discussion about money is ever “just” about money. That’s probably why Jesus spoke about money more often than he spoke about heaven and hell combined. The way we spend our money reflects what we value.
What about you? What types of “cost savings” do you take advantage of? Is clipping coupons worth it for you?