Coupons are like the currency of a foreign country to me. I understand that they are currency, and I can guess at what the writing on them means, but I’ve never used them nor do I understand the economy in which they are used. This is not to say that I have always had enough money to shop without thinking about price! On the contrary, I have always known how valuable a dollar in the store is, but I was raised in a coupon free house and have never learned the habit.
My parents were hippies, in many ways. The most striking feature of this in my childhood was the food that was brought home. My parents mostly fed me whole foods that they had prepared from scratch. Additionally, my clothes were all homemade, gifts, or second-hand, and all of our household products were bought on the basis of ecological friendliness before cost. Brand recognition was seen as something that other people did, but not us. As I have grown up and examined coupon books, I have noticed that brands are an important feature in the ever-shifting landscape of bargains. The few brands that I do consistently buy are rarely in the coupon books, so I move on without another glance.
I have used coupons very rarely, when they were forced on me, and they never seemed like a bargain worth bothering with. Sales and discount bins are different, I utilize those all the time! I don’t hunt good deals down, but if I’m in a store and I see a sale for something I was already going to buy I leap on it, and of course discount bins must always be perused for items that deserve to be bought on impulse. I guess I have a bit of a stigma towards coupons, like if you need to use them then you must be really desperate, or really focused on shopping. I would rather that the world see me as capable if frugal, and certainly not focused on shopping.
Some stores make coupons seem unnecessary. They advertise bargains in the coupon book and on the shelf, and then regardless of your actions the discount gets taken at the checkout anyway. This makes coupons seem like a waste of time, a game designed to suck you into shopping for things you never needed in the first place, or buying extras of things because it is a “good” deal. I have known a few family members that hoarded items bought because of what a bargain they were, and fear falling down the same slippery slope.
Many of the stores that I patronize don’t offer many coupons, and I am unwilling to go to a different store just to get a supposedly better deal on a given product. Often, getting a “better” deal means using a different brand than I am used to buying, and I prefer to spend the extra $0.60 on knowing that I’ll like what I bought. Also, many of the products that I prefer to buy are never offered in coupon form. I haven’t yet been poor enough that I have to change my standards of quality, so I have never had a compelling reason to see what were the cheapest options.
Perhaps my view is a bit naive and cynical. I loathe shopping in general, and avoid anything that could prolong my shopping adventures, like booklets of coupons. Learning to use coupons would be a valuable lesson that could save me money. If I win this scholarship, I am surely more likely to explore the world of coupons, starting with this sponsoring website. Even if I don’t win, simply writing this essay has got me to thinking that, maybe, I could put more effort into finding and using coupons to ease the financial burden of my household. It seems worth a shot, given the phrasing of this essay assignment.