I went on a coupon shopping trip today. I armed myself with a fistful of carefully prepared bargains, braced myself for the inevitable waves of dirty miscreants, and entered Wal-Mart with one intention in mind: Savings!
A great deal of you probably have your hands out right now, demanding that I hand my Man Card back in to be unceremoniously recycled into confetti, but hear me out! Times have changed, technology has progressed, and this ain’t your grandmother’s coupon book anymore.
I can also hear a whole bunch of you saying, “Geez, man, where have you been? This is old news!” (Yes, I’m looking at you, Stacey. Don’t piss me off, lady, I got yer number. So I’m not the first to discover this underutilized resource — shoot me — but suffer me for a moment while I expound on it, eh?
To alleviate the fears of those out there who now envision me, curls in hair, stockings over leggings, smokin’ a Marly and pushing a wobbly cart through the bra section of Wallyworld, let me paint for you the picture I’ve developed for myself on how to do this ‘coupon thing’ and still retain your masculinity in a soccer mom world –
Nathan’s No B.S. Coupon Policy
1. Don’t screw around trying to get the damned things. — It used to be that in order to come across a plethora of good coupons and deals, the person responsible for the weekly trips to Hell would have to sit for hours at a table, armed with Fiskars, pouring over the Sunday paper and every one in between just to glean a few crappy, “30¢ off a sloppy-beef tostada” coupons before collapsing into a heap and promising to get together with neighbors the next day to swap collections.
These days, a computer, a printer, and a sense of, ‘ah ha!’ is about all you need to successfully make it in the coupon world. Sites like The Krazy Coupon Lady, Coupons.com, Smartsource, and others make finding and printing these things a cinch. It’s so easy it’s guaranteed you’ll spend more time searching for female celebrities in thin shirts and cold weather than you will for your weekly grocery-run. Time is money and/or sitting on your ass drinking beer and watching tube. Keep it in perspective and exploit the tech.
2. Not every thing that claims it’s a deal really IS a deal. — I don’t mess around with anything less than 50¢ off and it’d better be pretty specific or cheap if I go below $1. Anything less and I’ve just burned up my time, energy, gas, toner, and sanity trying to squeeze a penny. Using a coupon on a brand-name item to bring it down to a price that’s still above a comparable generic is also stupid — you’re NOT saving money, you’re just blowing less of it. Repeat after me, “Most Coupons Are Not Worth It”. The one part of this that actually does take some work involves winnowing out the chaff and picking out the really sweet, wheat deals that you can be proud of. But that’s kinda fun.
3. Having to buy multiples to just use a coupon is almost always a lose-lose. — Sometimes you can make this work to your advantage, but you have to do the math. For instance, tonight I used a, “Buy 4, get 75¢ off” on some cans that were 60 cents each, so that’s a good deal, and it’s something we use all the time. But most of the time, once you add in the amount of money you have to spend FIRST to get the item, especially if you won’t use it or won’t use it much, it’s a screw.
4. Buying stupid, worthless crap because of a coupon is idiotic. — Occasionally I’ll buy something I wouldn’t have normally or upgrade from generic to brand name if I have a coupon, but it’s almost always a trap. You don’t like kumquats, you wouldn’t have the first faint idea on what to DO with a kumquat, so why waste the $4 just because you have a 2-for-1 coupon? Don’t be a moron. Buy what you normally buy and wait for the coupons to appear for those things.
5. Be Thee Armed and Prepared. — When you enter the store, have your weapons (coupons) organized by section and ready to check. Don’t screw around with walking up and down the aisles, seeing what else is on sale — remember, you’re here on a mission. Avoid distraction. Don’t spend too much time — if the deal isn’t apparent, move on. If you have to do calculus to figure out your savings, ditch it. Be cutthroat and ruthless.
6. No matter what, coupons are still Marketing; Caveat Emptor. – Remember that stores and manufacturer’s aren’t doing this out of the goodness of their heart. They are out to get you to buy in some form, fashion, or otherwise, so keep your thinking cap on and your gun cocked because you never know when they’ll try to get sneaky. You can game the system to your advantage, but you have to stay alert — saving $15 on your bill when you’ve just bought $300 worth of shit means you still paid out $285 for a cartload of crap. Don’t be a dumbass.
In conclusion, you CAN be a man and still use coupons successfully and without feeling like you’re entering into a world of Better Homes and Garbage. While printing and cutting out coupons hasn’t made me rich, allowed me to afford a yacht, or paved the way to get laid by a girl made entirely of breasts, it has enabled me to shave off some money on regular items we get and that feels pretty damned good at the end of the register, and when was the last time a bill total made you feel good?