Filing Coupons is a Business Decision

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Filing coupons is a business decision for me.  Yes, you read that right.  I am not one of these people that care about the “flair” of my coupon binder or the rows and columns of a perfectly organized file box.  I am wham, bam, thank you ma’am.  Seriously.  The only way that it makes sense for me to coupon is to have a quick and dirty file method.  If you have taken any of our webinars, then you will know that I am dead serious about this.  If you haven’t taken them, shame on you!

There is a method to my madness, so just take a minute to hear me out before you think I’m off my rocker.  In the business world, there is a term called “opportunity cost”.  Opportunity cost is defined as the cost of any activity measured in terms of the value of the best alternative that is not chosen (that is foregone). It is the sacrifice related to the second best choice available to someone, or group, who has picked among several mutually exclusive choices.  Before DVR, there was an opportunity cost associated with which television program you chose to watch.

If you chose to watch Jeopardy after the news, your opportunity cost may have been the chance to watch Entertainment Tonight.  In more applicable terms, every single minute that I spend filing and organizing coupons is a minute that is taken away from something else in my life.  As we begin to teach you how to run your household like a business, you need to think about your couponing in business terms.

In my case, it’s even more relevant because by day I am a consultant that bills by the hour for my time.  To apply the definition of opportunity cost, every single minute that I invest in couponing is a minute that I am not billing revenue for the company that I own.  That presents an interesting dynamic.  Let me put it more in perspective for you.

Let’s say that I bill my time at $200 per hour for a consulting engagement.  That means that if I spend one hour couponing, I just lost the potential to bill for $200.  In order for me to be able to justify couponing, I have to be able to save at least $200 for each hour that I spend couponing.  The reason for this is that if I don’t save $200, I have not overcome the opportunity cost of lost revenue.  In that case, it would make more sense for me to just work, bill my customers and pay retail.

Here’s an example of that concept: David has to decide if he wants to work on a risk analysis and bill out $800 for 4 hours worth of work in the month of September. He knows this is going to cut into his couponing time and has really enjoyed saving the money that he has saved in the last several months.  David decides that he is going to continue on his path to savings and turns down the work and allows one of his competitors to get the business instead.  For the entire month David tracks his receipts so that he can boast to everyone about how smart his decision was.  In addition to tracking his savings, he tracks his time.

At the end of the month, David sits down at his desk and realizes “I am so stupid”.  “What what I thinking?”

After adding up all of his savings, David arrived at a grand total of $450 in savings for the entire month.  Not bad, right?  David also looked at his calendar to see the days that he had allocated time for couponing.  He added them up and realized that he had spent about 2 hours per week for 4 weeks clipping, organizing, filing and adding coupons to his binder.  Therein lies the problem.  Had David just taken the job (as the business owner), he would actually have been $350 ahead by using no coupons at all.

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In fact, had David been able to bill time on another job equivalent to what he spent on couponing, he would have been a total of $1150 ahead.  Yes, David saved $450 couponing.  However, he gave up $800 in positive cash flow.  Then, he took 8 hours to coupon (which would have been worth $1600 in billable hours).  If David would have taken the job and not couponed, he wouldn’t have saved the $450, but he would still have $350 of the $800 left over and would have spent 4 hours less on his work than on his couponing.

You may think that the example above is extreme, but it really isn’t.  Every single one of you has an opportunity cost that you have to calculate as you decide on how you are going to approach your couponing.  You may be a business owner that has to hire someone to “watch the store” while you knock off early to handle your couponing.  Your opportunity cost is the amount you have to pay that employee in addition to the difference in sales your business will achieve as a result of “someone else” being responsible for the store (who may not be as good a sales person).  If you are a stay at home parent, the amount of time that you spend coupoining takes away from your domestic responsibilities directly.  What could you get done if you weren’t spending time with your coupons?

Yes I realize that this is an unexpected point of view from someone that owns and runs and couponing website.  However, the truth is that I have calculated the costs and I cannot devote more than 1 hour to 1.5 hours to couponing each and every week.  If I spent more time than that on my coupons, I would be better off just shopping sales and accumulating billable hours for my consulting practice.  So, as you can see, for me, filing coupons is a business decision.



  1. Filing is the only reason I have stuck with couponing. I would of gave up along time ago if I had not learned your filing method..

  2. David, I agree with you 110%. My time is a valuable commodity. When I started couponing in May of last year I tried the binder method and was like are you kidding? Then I found your site in June and took my first webinars and started ordering inserts. Filing whole inserts is the best way for me. I only clip what I need when I need them. I have a full time career and am in a graduate program and I have no time to waste clipping coupons and organizing in a binder. I am so glad that I found The Coupon Wizard!

  3. Sneaky Lisa says:

    Binder baby – it’s the only way to go! :) To each his/ her own :)

  4. See, this makes TOTAL sense to me.
    I want to save money…I LOVE to save money – but I always question others about the time and effort they “invest” in their methods. For example, those people they feature on “Extreme Couponing” on TLC spend hours and hours driving around (gas, mileage, upkeep) to dumpsters to collect coupons (I’m sorry, there’s no way to put a value on this, LOL) but, of course, they have to factor in their clean up (praying they do clean themselves up!), and even if they order packs of inserts – there’s the time to sort, file, etc. (Now, I know that the show is very staged – just using it for an example because I have talked with people who actually do these things)
    I am just as proud of someone who saves some money as I am of myself for doing so – but I am a realist…and just like the other blog talked about people who count their store bucks for future purchases toward their current trip’s savings – I think that you do have to factor in your time, effort, and other expenses in order to be honest with yourself and others about your TRUE savings.
    That is just my opinion… and I love that you posted this blog because I was beginning to feel like I was the only person who thought this way!
    The old adage “Time is money” comes to mind and if it equals out for you, then that’s wonderful, but you do honestly have to factor that into the savings equation or you’re fooling no one but yourself, in my opinion.

    DISCLAIMER: the opinions stated in this comment are solely the poster’s OPINIONS…please do not bash the poster for sharing said opinions :)

    Happy (and cost/time efficient) Couponing to all :)))

  5. EvelynHernandez45 says:

    Have been using binder but will try filling them this year

  6. Emma Pfanner says:

    I combine the binder method (for common items used in my household) with the filing method (for items that come up in match-ups that become great deals or money makers). I am an organization neat freak and it bothers me to find a deal in the store and not be able to pull a coupon out of my binder on the fly. I don’t have the luxury of billing $200 an hour for my time as David does – so to me, spending an 1-2 hours a week on coupons and saving $500 a month or more on couponing is MORE than worth the time I spent sorting, clipping and filing. Again – to each his own – but this works for me and to me…that’s all that matters.

  7. I also use the file method as a business decision! Great article and thanks for spelling it out for others.

  8. I would definitely say to each their own on this one. I don’t stress over my binder, but having my binder is what saves me the most—it keeps me organized, in a way that I can catch unexpected sales and deals. However, I don’t spend hours hunched over it—I am wam bam…I cut what I’ll use or think I’ll use, throw in the right category, and send the other coupons overseas or trade. I don’t spend hours on it.

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