Use a $1 coupon on that free tube of toothpaste and you just made money.
I get what you are saying. And I have nothing against using coupons. If I see a great deal or stumble on a coupon that I can use for something I would buy anyway, I will.
But I figure my time is worth around $25 per hour (which is only $50k/yr). If I spend an hour finding and organizing coupons then driving from store to store to optimally redeem them, I need to save at least $25. In my experience that is difficult, though probably not impossible.
No doubt the time factor should be taken into consideration. I personally do not do the binder system that is used by a lot of experienced (and most extreme) couponers. I suspect that they cut thousands of coupons that just end up in the trash because a good deal did not present itself.
I only cut a coupon when I have a specific deal to use it. There are several sites on the internet to find the deals several weeks in advance. The best sites will tell you what the sales price is, the reward received and if any coupons are available for that item. If there is a coupon, the information usually includes where it originated. If the coupon is from this Sunday's (10/23/11) Redplum insert, then it would be listed as 10/23 RP.
What I do that is not the norm is I just write the date on the top of my coupon inserts, and put them in a folder in date order. If there is a deal that requires a coupon from a June insert, I pull out that insert and clip that coupon. The binder system just seems to be more work than it is worth.
The first year I learned how to truly benefit from coupons was in 2008. That year I brought home over $10,000 worth of merchandise from the drugstores and made over $1,100 in profit from coupon use. I also made some extra money selling some of the stuff on eBay, but that was not a main focus. I still have both my parents around and 3 siblings. All of which have benefited from my couponing. The daily regimen of low dose aspirin for 3 family members has not cost a single penny since 2008.
If you put the thought into it you can come up with a process that takes very little time. I definitely lose out on deals because of my more laid back approach, but it is a trade off that works for me.