Why Not Do Both?

“Instead of using coupons, I buy things on sale” is a statement I hear often from people who think I waste my time clipping coupons. My response is, “Why not do both? If you use the coupons for things that are on sale, you can save even more.” In most cases, the “instead of” excuse makes little sense to me. (One exception that I could understand was when my mother-in-law said, “Instead of using coupons, I buy store brands.” After all, store brands are usually cheaper than even name brands on sale with coupons.)

The “instead of” excuse is used for more than just coupons: “I focus on earning more instead of saving more.” (This one is often worded, “I make enough that I don’t have to worry about saving.”) Once again, I respond “Why not do both? Earn as much as you can and save as much as you can.” If you work 80 hours a week and don’t want to spend your time off clipping coupons, that’s fine, but find some other ways to save. You can’t guarantee that your high salary will be around forever, and you may one day wish you had focused on saving more.

Funny, I never hear the opposite statement — “I focus on saving instead of earning.” I do occasionally hear “I focus on saving more than earning,” but it’s not used as an excuse for not earning. Instead, it’s an acknowledgement that the speaker’s saving skills are stronger than his or her earning skills. Those who focus on saving over earning (and those who focus on earning over saving, as opposed to earning instead of saving) recognize that both are important for financial health. Many of them, particularly those who focus on saving, know that time spent saving can occasionally be more profitable than time spent earning.

As I already mentioned, I am a coupon clipper. Two weeks ago, I combined coupons, sales, and rebate offers to buy about $25-30 worth of products (based on what I would pay on sale, not the regular retail price). In two hours, I spent $5 out of pocket (the rest was in store credit and coupons) and made back $32 in store credit and rebates. Allowing for $5 in gas to drive ten miles or so to four different stores, I saved about $12 per hour on merchandise and made $11 per hour for future spending. An hourly rate of $23 tax free is good money in my house.

Those who hate coupons or who make significantly more per hour than I do can apply this principle to any saving method. If you spend fifteen minutes calling one of your service providers to ask for a better deal and wind up saving $100, you have saved at a rate of $400 per hour. Better yet, if you spend fifteen minutes convincing yourself not to buy that $400 gadget you want, you have saved at a rate of $1600 per hour.

If you find yourself rationalizing your avoidance of saving with a statement like, “I do something else instead,” think about your reasoning. Is it actually possible and worth your time to save and do that something else — combine saving methods or spend time both saving and earning? If so, stop making excuses and get saving!

Image courtesy of babasteve

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13 Responses to Why Not Do Both?

  1. pinkie says:

    This is making the assumption that you have enough time to do both. Sometimes “instead of” is a matter of doing what you can in the amount of time you have. For a lot of people, it’s not an option to do both.

  2. Jay Gatsby says:

    There’s an old expression — “Hire someone else if they’re cheaper than you are.” This means that you should hire a mowing service at $10/hr than mow your own lawn at your rate of $75/hr.” Naturally, you don’t earn your hourly rate when you’re not in the office, but you also have to put a value on your personal time. The last thing I want to be doing is spending my valuable personal time on mundane tasks.

    This isn’t to say that I won’t use the occasional coupon, but my family’s needs are relatively simple. As such, we buy mostly the same things week after week, and those things don’t come with coupons. We do look for things on sale (e.g., meats, poultry, etc…) and stock up on them when they are.

    My personal opinion is that coupons are more marketing than savings. Yes you save money, but you would be better off buying the lower-priced store brand when you factor in the higher price of the branded item and the time required to find and clip the coupon.

  3. I’m definitely a generics shopper, so thanks for the generics mention there! My experience has been the same: unless you’re really playing coupon games and getting lots of free stuff, generics are still cheaper. Plus they’re a lot less hassle and I buy only what I want/need, when I need it and not based on coupon dates. However, on the rare occasions that I see a coupon for something I do use, you better believe that I snatch it up and use it.

    As for earning vs. saving, for a lot of people I don’t think the choice is necessarily about their skills. I know a lot of people who choose to live on less to pursue a career that provides them with other benefits. I know a lot of great teachers who could be making a lot more in other careers, but stay anyway, knowing that their pay is capped no matter how hard they work at their particular job.

    As for me, I’m focusing hard on both since I’m really at the very start of my career at the awkward place where the pay is slim but where I have lots of potential if I play my cards right. Plus, with me focusing on ways to save, it frees up my husband to focus on earning more which, as clich

  4. I LOVE coupons!

    My wife is a super coupon clipper and routinely saves us $30-50 a week on groceries. To be fair regarding the issue of time, she is a stay at home mom and views part of her job as saving as much as she can and making our money go as far as possible. I think that even if she did have a job outside the home, we would still buy on sale whenever possible… it’s part of our frugal nature.

    As for myself, I haven’t bought a CD at full price with my own money in over 3 years. No, I don’t steal the music off the Internet – I use gift cards. And even then I wait until I get a coupon or see a sale to make my gift card go further.

  5. A Marino says:

    I have done a little bit of everything I’ve read here. I’ve found extra ways to add money to our income. I’ve poured over the grocery sales papers, the CVS and Walgreens sales, and anything else that has a sale that I need. I also clip coupons and have learned not to throw the unused coupons away because many times they can be used down the line on a future sale. I buy generic items but I have also saved as much or more buying brand name items on sale that has a coupon. A few weeks ago I went into CVS and purchased almost $40 in items and came out only paying a few dollars. (Mostly because of tax).

    I also save money when I buy taxable items on sale as well. I try to do as many errands as I can in one trip to save on gas.

  6. Lisa says:

    There are so many strategies to use. And, sometimes its finding the right combination for your household. For me it is combining coupons/sales/rebates, with generic for things like canned beans and then stocking up when the generic goes on sale. It also about right usage, meaning the right portion of food or only using what the dishwasher need to clean the dishes not just filling the little detergent holder to the top(about 1T does mine). Its also about values, if I can afford it I will let the next door neighbor boy cut the grass and learn about responsibility and conducting a business. It cost $15 but I didn’t use my gas or wear and tear on my tractor (he set the price not me). It was a good deal for both of us. He was esctatic to earn $10hr at 13yr old (assuming gas/wear&tear expenses). I believe its about living within your means in balance with your values.

  7. Todd says:

    Interesting take on rationalizations. Here’s one my family does, “Instead of going to movies, we just rent them, it’s so much cheaper”. BUT, when we don’t get them watched on the first night (new releases), and we hold them over another night or two @ $3/each/night, how much did we really save !

    Thanks for the insightful post.

  8. I find the best way to start saving is by asking yourself do I really need this or is this something I really want. Most of the time I realize that it is something that I dont really need and if it is something I really dont need why spend the cash now. Spend it when I really need it or when a super good deal comes along.

  9. Kelli Myers says:

    Saving is a very important part of life. Saving does not always mean that we cannot spend but that even should be well planned. We should plan our expenditure in such a way so that we have enough fund for an emergency which can strike anytime without notice.

  10. You can clip coupons while watching TV.
    You can also “hire out” the chore to the kids in the family (penny per useful coupon?)!

  11. cooliojones says:

    I completely agree. I think people who use these excuses are just lazy, and it’s that laziness that has so many Americans in debt. If you want to change your situation, get off your rear and do something about it!

  12. Myrna Garren says:


  13. richy family says:

    There is nothing to be ashamed of using coupons – with a large family we save plenty using coupons and buy store brands. Since the recession we’ve saved thousands.

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