Coupon Hangups

Ever since I left my job, in a desperate attempt to maintain some of the quality of life to which we have become accustomed, I’ve been doing some fancy footwork when it comes to shopping for food and basic household supplies.

Each Thursday the local paper lands on our doorstep and I race for it, eager to scour the grocery flyers for fantastic deals.  Butter for $2.97??  I put it on the list and plan to take full advantage of the customer limit of four.  Our favourite laundry detergent for $4.97?  That’s less than half price!  And the cheese!  Every week the jumbo size seems to be on sale for less than $5.00.  Once I spotted it at an all time low of $3.97.  I can’t
believe I ever paid full price for this stuff and we’ve never had cheesier meals.

In pursuit of these deals, I’ve learned to love the discount grocery environment.  Thanks to repeated coaching by elderly Italian gentlemen, I eventually got the hang of the grocery cart release mechanisms.  FYI, those contraptions look similar from store to store, but the quarter can go in a variety of places, and that pointy thing at the end of the chain sometimes goes in and sometimes pops out when you get the quarter in place.  Now I’m a pro, and I sometimes look for struggling amateurs with whom to share my expertise.  The stores themselves were a bit of a shock at first but I’ve learned to love them in all their cardboardness.   I dance around the aisles picking up incredible deals on peanut butter, taco kits and frozen vegetables, and wonder why my fellow shoppers seem so grim-faced.  Why doesn’t everyone shop here???  Could people really be so put off by misshapen green peppers to pass up such deals?

However, I still haven’t quite got the hang of couponing.  I’ve started to think about
it lately because my kids have become captivated by the show Extreme Couponing.  They want to know why I’m not shopping with stacks of coupons and leaving the store with a cart full of goodies for just $1.54.  I tell them that the show takes place in the United States and the rules are different, which is true, but the fact is that I don’t use coupons at all.

I do clip them.  Along with my Thursday flyer ritual I pull out the coupon booklets and tear out offers for products we often use.  I even occasionally rip them out of magazines.  Then I place them in a manila envelope I keep in a basket on our kitchen counter.  But somehow the contents of that envelope only make it out of our house every six months or so when I sort through it and throw out the offers that have expired.  And each time I do this, I ask myself WHY I bother cutting them out and saving them when I NEVER use them.

Well one reason, is that I tend to forget about them.  I go shopping with a list but I never seem to take that step to pull out relevant coupons and bring them with me.  But I think the main reson I ‘forget’ to bring them, is that I have an image in my head of coupons being in the same category as food stamps.  Only the desperately poor use them. Once, in my twenties, I tried to use a coupon and was loudly refused by the cashier because it was expired.

“Really?” I said.

“Yes.  Expires September 30th.”

“But isn’t that today?”

“Yes ma’am.  It’s expired today.”

I felt the eyes of the other customers in line boring into the back of my head, heard one of them sigh deeply, and felt my cheeks turn red with deep shame.

I also remember being a busy career woman and how annoyed I felt when the customer ahead of me pulled out a stack of coupons at the last minute.  With each one, the cashier felt a need to verify that the product was indeed somewhere in the bags of purchases before she would ring it through.  That time it was me who looked at my watch and uttered a heavy sigh.

But I think I’m going to give it another go.  The other day I finally got up the nerve to
take advantage of my local discount grocer’s offer to price match advertised competitor prices.  I carefully folded the competitor flyer to the appropriate page and placed it on top of the matching item amongst all the other things on the checkout belt.  My heart began to race as the conveyor chugged forward and I held my breath as the cashier’s hand reached out for the flyer.  Would she know why it was there?  Would she have to call her supervisor to get some sort of authorization?

She simply picked it up and made the adjustment without even saying a word.  Easy peasy.  Just like that, I saved $2.47!

Flipping through my current collection of coupons I see at least twenty dollars in savings to be had.  Surely I won’t feel any sillier using them than I did a couple of months ago when I checked through with a shopping cart full of cans of soup at the hot price of 44 cents each.

Is this increase in bravery due to my current economic situation?  Maybe I’m simply reaching the age when I just don’t give a crap anymore.  Let the customers behind me think what they like…. all I see are dollar signs!