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How can you track your coupon savings?

Do you ever wonder how coupon queens manage to tell you how much money they have saved on coupons?

It’s really quite easy to track, but I didn’t start it until two years ago. Duh! I figured out how to do that accounting trick about four years earlier when my daughter needed to report for a fundraiser how much money we got back at the Michigan bottle deposit machines.

If you are tracking your grocery expenses with a household budgeting software or accounting system, this is how you do it.

  • Payee: Kroger
  • Category: Groceries.
  • Amount: $45.01.
  • Date: Jan. 2, 2010.

Then do a “split transaction” or a second line item as your system is set up for:

  • Payee: Kroger
  • Category: Groceries / coupons
  • Amount: -$4.20
  • Date: Jan. 2, 2010.

Did you catch the minus sign on the coupon entry?

You might instead list it in red or in parantheses, if that’s how your program works: ($4.20).

The bottom line is that you spent $45.01, but took home $49.21 worth of groceries.

So now when you download your grocery expense reports, you’re going to see a mix of positive and negative numbers. The positive number will be how much the retail value was in groceries. The negative number will be your coupon savings. Subtract the negative number from the positive number and you’ll see what you actually spent (which is the figure that you’re probably used to tracking).

Now here is the catch: each retail store has a different way of listing its coupon savings and promotions on its receipts. You will have to get used to how  coupons are reported by your favorite stores. The percentage-off calculations that some stores do are fun to look at, but may not give you the amount that you are looking for.

But this is just a line item to add up when you are inputting the receipts. Many people who track their expenses already scan through shopping receipts to divide out medical expenses, clothing or household supplies from the groceries.

I personally do not count the sale prices or 2-for-1 deals as “coupon savings” when I do my bookkeeping. That’s just the price of the day in my opinion.

In order to be listed on my “coupon savings” line item, it has to be a discount that I made an extra effort to get: such as cutting out a coupon, downloading a deal to my shopper card, or giving the drugstore cashier a rebate check.

If you can save just $30 a month via coupons and rebates, what else would you spend that money on?

Update: this post is featured on the Jan. 5, 2009, Festival of Frugality.

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  1. 40 mos, 3 wks ago

    I don’t do this every year, but a few years ago I tracked every penny of our grocery budget. I saved over $1K in coupons and several thousand total through smart shopping. I love having those numbers when naysayers tell me it isn’t worth it!

  2. 40 mos, 3 wks ago

    I’m still working on my bookkeeping for 2009 (it’s almost done), but the grocery and drugstore receipts are now accounted for.

    We had two adults home for 2009. The college daughter lives in a dorm and spent summer 2009 living with relatives while she did an internship. We also didn’t host any international students last year. So I don’t need to pro-rate how many people were eating our groceries as I did with the 2008 figures.

    The USDA Cost of Food survey for November 2009 http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/USDAFoodCost-Home.htm estimates my grocery expenses (on the thrifty plan for two adults) at $344.90 a month.

    My 2009 grocery report is showing $4,269.66 total spent on groceries; of which $1,056.90 came off because of coupons, drugstore rebates, bottle returns (the 10-cent returns balance out the purchases that show up on the other side), and it looks like there’s a $30 grocery gift card in the mix.

    So the chart shows $3,212.76 spent on groceries a year or $267 a month for two people. My 2008 figures were showing up as $375 a month when three people were in the home.

    My grocery category does not include dinners out, vending machine candy, coffee shop visits, or over-the-counter medications. I do include our cleaning products and personal care products in the grocery line items. But we use a lot of cheap cleaning methods such as a refillable bottle system. We also were given a big bag of soap / toothpaste / etc. during the summer from a frugal friend who wanted to share his goodies.