Sunday, November 29, 2009

(Not) Shopping with Coupons

My husband loves to save money. It's his hobby. It hurts him to spend it. So, you can imagine how Black Friday went at my house. It didn't. I bought nothing. Sorry kids, I guess Santa thought you were naughty.

We call my husband Captain Coupon. He has earned this nickname. Because do not go to Target to buy toilet paper without a coupon. He will ask you about it and then he will TESTIFY about the importance of saving money: “Would you leave a dollar on the ground and just walk by? Well, that is exactly what you are doing when you fail to use the coupon to buy toilet paper. All those dollars add up! Lydia, please take this seriously.”

No, sorry, but I really can’t. I just can’t care about coupons. Because they are stupid. They are irregular sizes and they fall out of my checkbook and they are invariably expired when I need them and they make no sense. And they are to blame for countless trips to the parking lot while leaving a full cart of crap in the store because I forgot the damn coupons in the car. And there is always another type of toilet paper on sale that is cheaper than the kind that the coupon is for. Isn’t the whole point to save money? So if I buy the cheaper brand but don’t use the coupon, am I somehow wrong? It shouldn’t be hard. Because I am not bad at money. I am just bad at coupons.

You see, I don't care about money. Really. Other people say that but in my case it is 100% true. This not-caring-about-money thing comes in handy, when say, my husband wants to quit his high-paying, corporate job in favor his dream job. Did I mention that said dream job was just a tad inconvenient, in that it was located in Alabama and paid only half of his fancy salary? But did I get upset? No, not really. I said okey-dokey and we moved to Alabama. And let me tell you people, I am from NEW JERSEY. That’s like Yankee squared.

So why did I do it? Because like I said - I don’t care about money. I care about other stuff. Life-is-too-short-to-be-miserable kind of stuff. Quit your job! Take that vacation! OK, so maybe I have “accidentally” spent $200 at Sam’s Club and not really been able to tell you what I bought. But see, that caused a big fight. So, moving to Alabama because I don’t care about money = good thing. Buying crap we don’t need at Sam’s because I don’t care about money = bad thing.

[Sidebar: We spent four years in Alabama and I loved it. Oh my GAWD - the food. And people really are nicer there. For example, they say ‘how are you’ and actually expect an answer. Though I later learned none of them could understand me because apparently I talk too fast. Two of my three terror suspects were born there. I learned a lot: I make banana pudding. I smock dresses. I fry chicken and green tomatoes. I now somewhat understand college football. I put bows in my daughter's hair that are as big as her whole head and I LOVE IT. Also, you get freaky wildlife in your backyard there like armadillos and alligators and scorpions (oh my!) and one time, my friend’s husband bought a truck for $200 and a shotgun -- entirely nonfiction here! Sigh… good times]

But this post is about money. I want to share some lessons learned on how to spend money without getting crap. So, technically these tips are more about crap-avoidance than saving money. I am not qualified to advise anyone on the latter even though I'm a pro at the former. Here goes:

1. When you buy something cute for yourself, let it live in the trunk of your car for about a month so that when your husband asks you “Is that new?” you will be telling the verbatim truth when you say no. I can not abide lying. Plus, I am bad at lying to the Cap'n.

2. When you get the raised eyebrow because you went to the supermarket for milk and came home with brie, crackers, wine and a new DVD for the kids - remind him that his scotch costs $50 per bottle.

3. A trip to McDonald's is almost always less than $15. It is an investment in my sanity and should not be questioned. Kids will do complex offshore tax calculations for happy meals. That nasty mcnugget lunch with a 20 cent plastic toy from China can also yield dramatic results in room cleaning, tooth brushing, and even bathing.
I hate it, too.  But do not question the power of the happy meal.  Just use it to your own advantage. 

4. The craft store is a good place to spend money because the items purchased there help developing minds do creative, intelligence enhancing things - like not watching Dora and that damned monkey. Plus, they have coupons.

5. If your husband offers to take over the weekly shopping to demonstrate how it can be done better and for less money. Go on and LET HIM. Grocery shopping sucks. Now, he may bring home some pretty bad stuff (the Cap’n once bought the cheapest breakfast sausage at the cheapest discount super market – the kids actually gagged and called it monkey sausage, because it smelled like the Monkey House at the zoo -- that and feet). But if he does it enough, he may learn something about the magical process of how his dinner lands in front of him every night.

6. Manicures, new clothes, and haircuts give the poor Cap’n apoplexy. The last time I mentioned I needed a haircut he said: “What?! AGAIN?” Now, my last haircut was six months ago and cost $16 at the Hair Cuttery next to Walmart. The fact that I am able to type that sentence is… well, sad, but demonstrates clearly that I am not high maintenance. I then catalogue the cost of a high maintenance wife, starting with shoes. [Editor's Note: That would be me, though I still dispute I'm high maintenance, which makes Lydia laugh every single time. The Cap'n would have long since made me walk the plank. - Kate] By the time we get up to hair, my husband has to breathe into a paper bag and I am off to the Walmart shopping center.

The Cap’n really is great at saving money. He took over the weekly Target runs and we now save about $200 per month. And because he loves to save, he also took over groceries. After two savings-filled trips, the Cap'n decided we didn't need monkey sausage after all. Even with the pungent simian sausage vanquished, he still saves about $400 per month. I think we may have discovered the real reason for our nation’s economic downturn. Local merchants are losing money hand over fist. I blame… coupons and, to a lesser extent, the Cap'n.



  1. See I am the exact opposite! If I can leave target having spent 0 dollars out of pocket after coupons and gift cards I am a happy woman. I haven't spent a dime at target in over a month thanks to good coupons and GREAT gift card deals :)

  2. Yes, Rebecca. Wow.
    Alabama is a stunningly beautiful place to live.
    You should visit sometime! I did and I never left!

  3. I think for it to be truly equitable, the Cap'n should grocery shop with the three kids in tow...then see how well he does in coupon management.

  4. What part of Alabama? We moved to a small town in Alabama 9 months ago. I laughed so hard, because of the big bows (wow, big is an understatement), understanding college football (we never cared for football until now) and the wildlife in the back yard (we have found 2 turtles in our backyard).

  5. Good post, nice blog. Thanks for share useful information.

  6. I live in Arkansas and we have armadillos and alligators, deer, possums a trip down the highway is like a trip to the zoo except all the animals are dead. I love being from the south! My idea of a good Saturday is going "mudding" down at the river, "mudding" consists of a group of people with four-wheelers (or 4 wheel drive vehicles) going through mudholes, trails and across the river and being completely covered from head to toe in mud! I LOVE IT! My step-daughter is a country girl and I plan to raise my daughter that way, I love living in the south!

  7. While not from the "south" per-say, okay I'm so far north I've seen Santa in the summer! ( southern Ontario, Canada) we have all kinds of wildlife chilling out in our backyard on a daily basis (and a big ass tractor just rolled by on the main street lol). I'm more of the saver in our little fam damily, I haven't had a professional hair cut in almost 2 years nor a mani-pedi. The Dude on the other hand gets his hair cut every six weeks like clock work but for $12.00 a pop I wont complain. And the midgets have pretty cute clothes and what-nots but I REFUSE refuse refuse! To use coupons, my mother and grandmother both use them it drives me batty!!

  8. I JUST found your blog, so I had to start at the beginning (I'm just like that). And I LOVE it! You are so right on every aspect of motherhood! I also want to give a shout-out for ALABAMA! I was born and raised here, and I'm raising my kids here. I can't imagine living anywhere else! Thanks for the laughs, ladies, and please keep 'em comin'!

  9. It takes a practiced hand to find the right balance between buying the cheapest groceries without getting stuff that's garbage. In effect - you by the "good" cheap stuff. Shoprite mac 'n cheese? Yes. Shoprite tomato sauce? Only if you like to make chili. In your pants. (of course a big part of it is personal preference, what the kids will actually eat, and, of course, what's on sale that week).

  10. Dear Lydia, The Cap'n and my husband are one in the same. At the beginning of every month, he painstakingly creates a budget of every dime we are to spend that month, and then I must save every receipt. If it wasn't on the budget, even if it was on sale, and even if it was something that we actually needed, it must come out of my meager allowance. Yes, I am 30 years old, and I have an allowance. Granted, he gives himself the same allowance, but it's the principle of the matter.

  11. Number Six is a stunningly accurate description of my life... except it's not the WalMart hair studio he gives me crap about going to, it's the EYE DOCTOR. Where do we find these men?

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  14. If you're bad at coupons, Target has an app for that. It's called "Cartwheel"




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