Friday, June 11, 2010

Why coupon?

There is an interesting conversation going on right now over at living learning and loving simply. Aimee's post is titled "why I don't like couponing", and it is a well-written essay with well-posed questions. The comments are also worth reading. It all made me do a lot of thinking, especially as I cut my coupons this week! So I thought I'd add my own bit to the conversation and try to explain some of the reasons that I do like and spend time couponing. Overall, I think it boils down to this: I believe there is a middle way. And I really like middle ways. :)

I am all for buying organic, and as local as I can. We get most of our produce from Farm Fresh To You, and flour, sugar, and various other items from Azure Standard. They are both organic, and "local" to the west coast (mostly CA/OR). Reality, however, is that most of us can't buy all local all the time. I would love to have a way to get reasonably priced milk from a local cow, but that simply doesn't exist where I live. The next best option is to use coupons on the milk that I can get. Coupons for organic items (canned goods, milk, produce, cheese, etc.) do exist! And if they exist, why not use them? As well, why pay full price for basic items like toothbrushes and batteries?

Should we give up couponing in order to spend the time on "things that matter"? I think that depends on a few things. How much time are we talking about? I do think that couponing can become an unhealthy obsession, if not used carefully. It needs to be kept in context of the rest of your life, and given a proper place in your priorities.

But what if it is enjoyable? I can't stand crafting, but planning the perfect trip to CVS makes me smile. I can see how crafting beautiful things could be very good for someone's family. But it could also be good, I think, to spend some of that time "crafting" scenarios for the trip to the drugstore, if that allows your family to have what they need and maybe some to give away, as well.

Let me give you an example. Last week I went to Rite Aid. Before leaving I spent perhaps 30-45 minutes collecting my coupons and organizing my plan. I purchased a $25 itunes gift card, a pool for the kids (originally $19.99), two packages of wipes, a mega pack of huggies, a bottle of lotion (to donate), three 8 packs of duracell batteries, and a bar of chocolate, for a total cost of $37. That is at least a $50 savings, which gives me a better "hourly rate" than my software developer husband. :) Too bad I can't "earn" that much every hour!

Aimee, thank you for your post. It is an interesting conversation, and one well worth having.


Aimee said...

Good for you, Emily!! I buy most of my toiletries from in bulk...they have the brands I like, offer reduced prices, and cheap shipping. I love seeing how your mind works :) Enjoy your journey!

slowlane said...

Emily, I appreciate your comments and your link to Aimee's post. With the disclaimer that I didn't read all of the comments on her website, I wanted to add a perspective I didn't see there: the non-Mommy blogger. (At least not yet!)

I don't follow coupons and deals as much as I assume you do. I do probably 85% of my grocery shopping at one store, but it is not uncommon for me to have a stack of more than 20 coupons to hand over to the checker (plus a few more digital ones). One casualty of a two-income household is the time to make more meals from start to finish. Because of this, I do end up buying a fair amount of convenience foods, but only when I have coupons for it. Another reason I coupon (and this may be no good reason at all) is that it brings to mind food options that help me get out of my too frequent food rut.

Ma Torg said...

I used to be against coupons (not for Aimee's reasons) but because of an misunderstanding of how business's would earn money then (which was explained to me on this very blog, thank you!)

Anyhow, I think your middle ground sounds great, Emily.

I had a lot to say, but have deleted most of it because I think that the real question that Aimee is presenting is not "to coupon or not to coupon" but a challenge of whether coupon-ing is compatible with simple living.

On that note, I really think a lot of it boils down to "What does living simply mean for your family?" For some, that is saving time. For some, that might be saving money. And those are two different things because it takes TIME to save MONEY and vice versa.

Even if you don't use coupons (like me), what I do to save money takes a LOT of time. Maybe someone spends a half hour finding a coupon for a loaf of bread instead of an hour making it from scratch. I think both are good and valid examples of being good stewards and of living SIMPLY.