Coupons. Despite my child-like love for things you cut out of paper, it’s taken my entire adult life to warm up to the idea of coupons. Till recently, when I thought about coupons, an image of my grandmother, lit by spilling sunlight, came to mind. In this mental picture, Grandma’s hands, with their lovely, long bones and papery skin, are snipping, with silver, at coupons. By the filtered light of the paper pulp, she is tucking them, one at a time, into a bright, plastic purse. She lives on a fixed income, she says. She needs coupons.
In my family growing up, and my current family, too, we thought we were above them. “Don’t send me to the store with those,” my husband would say. He didn’t want to be that guy. The one with the long line behind him. In a few words: Desperate. Cheap. I went along with that notion, of course. Fixed income we weren’t. Who is, in this day and age? Don’t we always have a bit of plastic in our wallets (What’s in your wallet?)
Enter recession-omics, and two kids who are private school bound. At my Mothers of Preschoolers group, local blogger Maggie Howes of MyBatonRougeMommy.com (warning: it’s very addictive, and she’s got 50,000 page loads a month to prove it) came to speak about how she bought her husband a car by slashing her grocery budget and strategizing her purchases using coupons. I felt a stirring in my gut. This could be the secret ticket to financial peace! I thought.
As it turns out, though, you need the mind of a rocket scientist to completely reap the benefits of coupon clipping. On day one of becoming a coupon clipper, I clipped individual coupons of things that interested me. My bad. Turns out, I should’ve been saving the entire coupon section in anticipation of the time when individual stores place items for which I hold coupons on sale. That way, the savings goes much deeper. There are actually Web sites that are dedicated to revealing what stores are slashing prices, and pairing those slashings with coupon references. Like I said, this can get pretty complex pretty quickly. Then there’s the whole world of freebies. With enough vigilance and diligence, you can engineer your life so that you receive something free in the mail each day. I suppose the tradeoff is being flagged by a bunch of marketers, but isn’t that what a dedicated Gmail account is for?
You can look at coupons either way, and you’ll probably be right. They are a bit annoying. Why don’t these companies simply reduce the charge for their products and stop forcing the loyal and dedicated to peruse the paper, purchase multiple copies of the paper, even, to save a few cents?
But coupons are also an opportunity. Each flip of the page is a re-jeuvenation, in miniature, of the American Dream. You can make your own fate, if you’re willing to sweat and crunch a few numbers. If you’re willing to work.
For myself, I plan on using these slips of paper to fund my children’s education, 50 cents at a time.