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.


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