You may have noticed that my blog posts have been rather sporadic as of late. I do apologize. I’ve been very busy with important things, like pretending to work on my memoir, taking fun weekend trips, and watching the new TLC series Extreme Couponing!
I get all nostalgic when I see those crazed women clipping coupons for things they don’t need. It reminds me of my mother with her blue plastic file box full of coupons, organized by category and then sorted by expiration date. She once left it behind in a store and immediately started to panic. To her, it was like leaving $1,000 cash lying around in plain sight. She was convinced that someone would take it. As we raced back to the store, I reassured her as only a teenage daughter can: “Oh my God, Mom, no one wants your stupid coupons! Normal people look at that box and see a stack of meaningless paper.” And I was right – her coupon box was right where she left it.
The thing I’ve always hated about coupons is that they require you to buy in bulk. That’s fine for large families, but I'm an only child, so purchasing a product by the truckload meant that I would be stuck consuming that product until the end of time. My father and I knew better than to tell my mother that we liked anything. I once made the mistake of saying that I “thoroughly enjoyed” my Healthy Choice Pepperoni Pizza, and I came home a few days later and found forty boxes all lined up in the basement freezer (Of course we had two freezers! What family of three doesn’t need a second freezer?).
I guess having a massive stockpile of frozen goods made my mother feel more secure ... until the power went out. I remember once, when the power was out for an unusually long time, our precious stockpile began to rot. Luckily, my mother worked at a nearby elementary school that was unaffected by the blackout, and she had access to the cafeteria's massive industrial freezers. All we had to do was move 500 pounds of food. And so, my parents and I headed to the basement to form a bucket brigade. I stood at the basement freezer and handed armfuls of Lean Cuisines to my mother, who then passed them up the stairs to my father. When I started passing bags of frozen peas, I heard my father yell, "Screw the vegetables! Save the meat!" I can still picture my mother running to the steps with a whole chicken under each arm and one balanced on the top of her head. That's one memory that I'll cherish forever. It was a true family bonding experience. And, of course, the power came back on just as we were loading the last of our stockpile into the school freezer.
Now, as an adult, I’m the most fickle consumer you’ll ever meet. Not having a stockpile makes me feel liberated. I’m free to be swayed by marketing gimmicks and “new and improved” labels. I have absolutely no brand loyalty. I buy one item at a time, and I get excited whenever I've almost used it up because it means I get to try something new. I crave variety. And freshness. After years of drinking decade-old Capri Sun pouches, I prefer to consume my products when the expiration dates are still far into the future.
Still, when I see those women on TV getting $2,000 worth of groceries for only $3.46 while onlookers applaud and the cashier hands them a mile-long receipt, I can’t help but be fascinated. I do like to save money. Just ask my friends and family, several of whom have called me “cheap” to my face. I always treat it like a compliment: “That’s right! I’ve worked the night shift at a gas station! I’ve sold shoes at Payless! I know the value of a dollar!” I sound like a ninety-year-old man.
Yesterday, inspired by extreme savings, I printed out a few coupons before going to the grocery store. I managed to save a whole dollar on 3 boxes of Special K for my husband, and I must admit, it was pretty satisfying. In the end, I got $118 worth of groceries for only $115.90! I got so excited looking at my receipt that I spilled an entire bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper into one of my shopping bags, ruining $5.50 worth of Kleenex. Factoring in the cost of the soda, that means I got $111 worth of groceries for only $115.90!
I have since decided that I am done with coupons. Clearly, God wants me to pay retail.