From Qdoba’s BOGO deals, to Kohl’s Cash, to manufacture coupons for crackers, coupons have an impact on how I shop, but not necessarily in the way you might expect. I was raised in a household where a day was set aside each week to cut coupons. We would scour the newspapers and magazines for coupons, spreading them out across the living room floor or kitchen table, each person cutting coupons and organizing them into our labeled bins. We would even cut out coupons we had no use for – we would give the dog food coupons to the neighbor down the street, and the diaper coupons to a friend at church. We knew that every little bit helped.
Fast forward ten years and the times have changed. My mother still searches the newspapers for grocery coupons, but even then, not as much as she once did. I rarely even grab a newspaper or magazine, and if I do, it’s because I’m at the dentist office with no cellphone service. Away with the scissors, welcome to the world of the internet. If I want to grab dinner at a local restaurant, I’ll think of what sounds appetizing and then proceed to Google “Chili’s discounts” or “Arby’s coupons”. If I can find a coupon, I know I’m meant to eat at that restaurant, and if I can’t, well I still tend to eat at the same place. Coupons can save you a lot of money, but in a society that is so connected by high speed internet, companies can no longer offer the huge savings that existing years ago. Black Friday sales still attract a large crowd, but recent years have seen the numbers drop off. I can go on Amazon or any of the other dozen websites that exist and find the same deals people wait hours for in the stores. Coupons don’t hold as much power as they once did. Sure I can find a coupon to a new restaurant in town, and I may end up going to check it out, but majority of the time, I no longer shop according to the coupons, I shop and then look for deals afterward.
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Let me clarify a few things before I continue down this road. Coupons can still save you a lot of money, but now many “coupons” have transformed into “Store-wide clearances” or other “holiday specials”. What was once a way for a few frugal and motivated individuals to save on purchases has become an expected element, an event taken for granted. A week after Halloween—candies half off, a day after Thanksgiving—get your new TV’s, and with the start of the New Year people are practically giving away Christmas lights and decorations! You don’t need a coupon to get these discounts, you simply have to be at the right place at the right time.
But wait! Someone exclaims in the back. I have a coupon for an extra 20% off. Well, I’m sorry to tell you, that coupon normally works…but not on holidays, on already discounted items, on these 27 brands, or on men’s clothing….oh and only at the store on the other side of the state. Coupons aren’t as simple anymore. More often than not, I find I am limited rather than empowered by a coupon.
Now before you question how I can go from a boy practically raised on coupons to a coupon cynic, let me point out the few areas in my life I still find coupons as being beneficial. 1) Grocery stores. I routinely will check online or in the little racks at the front of supermarkets to find what the weekly specials are. If there is an exceptional deal, I may try something new—but it has to be greatly reduced in price, otherwise I just look for ways to save e few extra nickels on a box of ramen, I am a college student after all. 2) Restaurants. Again maybe it’s because I’m a college student and am attracted to deals on food, but if I can find a good buy-one-get-one-free coupon, I can now afford to be in a relationship and take my girlfriend out to eat. 3) Pants. Everyone needs at least a pair or two of good jeans, but nowadays you practically have to use two credit cards to buy a single pair of pants! It’s ridiculous! I always search for American Eagle coupons so I can afford a new pair of jeans.
So where does this leave us. While coupons may have influenced the entirety of my shopping decisions for years, they are now an afterthought. Coupons within the grocery industry are by far the most useful in my opinion, but even then stores are continuing to switch to online systems where my account automatically applies all the discounts I qualify for. With websites like Groupon, Livingsocial, and ImIn, the challenge of finding coupons has been taken away, now the only questions that remain are: Can you use it? Is it worth it? And do you actually need it?