Monday, January 26, 2009

Making Do in Hard Times/Anytime

I get more junk email than snail mail. I’m not always sure where it comes from. A few weeks ago I started receiving emails from, probably because I snoop around websites devoted to frugality. Today I received one from the above outfit with the “tip” titled “Coupons—not just for your grandmother.” Is this a news flash or am I just very old? Well, I am a grandmother. My age not withstanding, I have always clipped coupons.

There is a debate as to whether or not clipping coupons is worthwhile. In the Tightwad Gazette, Amy Dacyczyn is against the practice. She believes that shopping sales and big box stores is sufficient and that coupons only entice us into buying things we don’t need. I am sure manufacturers count on us being lured into such purchases or trying something new.

One of my favorite movie scenes is of Michael playing poker with neighborhood moms in “Mr. Mom.” Maybe coupon exchanges will make a come back, kind of like cookie exchanges without the baking.

When my oldest son and his wife first began their lives together I presented them with a nice little plastic envelope with dividers containing coupons. My son got it, but my daughter-in-law was a bit horrified. Coming from the home of wealthy grandparents I doubt if she’d ever actually shopped for food, much less used coupons. With some reluctance she caught on.

My strategy is simple, every Sunday my husband hands me the ads and coupons from the Sunday TNT. I circle things that look like bargains and cut out coupons that are for things that have the potential of being of use to me, my mother, my children or my aunt. This does not necessarily mean I will be buying these products, that decision will hopefully be made sometime between that Sunday and the expiration date on the coupon.

I have had a variety of containers for my coupons over the years from envelopes to a briefcase. When I was a stay at home mom I had a briefcase with rows of dividers and I cut out everything just in case. It was a tremendous amount of work culling the expired coupons and adding the new ones each Sunday. That was at the height of the refunding thing when it was worth your while to keep the receipts and UPC codes from products in order to send in for refund checks of two or three dollars. I had bags of UPC codes, box tops and receipts in my utility room. Because I wasn’t the only OC homemaker doing it, refunding eventually fell out of favor with manufacturers.

Currently I have a little cardboard envelope with dividers pre-marked with categories and which I found at Goodwill. Their price tag is still on it. (It makes me feel good to look at those little victories). I watch and wait for things to go on sale. Generally speaking besides being something we use, an item needs to be on sale as well as having a coupon. Store coupons such as those Fred Meyer puts in their Sunday ad are usually better than manufacturer coupons. I usually get the limit and keep the freezer and cupboards full. I no longer cut out every coupon because there are simply things which we used to eat that we would no longer buy on a bet…well, how bad would the economy have to get for us to go back to mac and cheese?

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