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Coupons. Everything about them screams “consumerism”. They are tempting, but the whole coupon game is much more sinister than you might realize.
We’ve all seen the “Extreme Coupon” show, where people nab hundreds of dollars worth of “groceries” for just pennies, right? It looks amazing and spectacular, it makes us all want to run out and buy 15 Sunday papers and start clipping!
I’ll be honest with you, I’ve done that. Yep, years ago and I did it well, complete with the three-ring binder and baseball card sleeves! When I went to the grocery store, I was a boss. Sure, I saved money on all kinds of crap that I didn’t need, but more importantly, I was missing the big picture. Today, I don’t even get the Sunday paper, and I don’t print coupons from databases. I’m not interested in the least.
There are so many reasons to turn and run away from the whole coupon mentality, especially if you want to be sustainable, I could seriously write a book about it. Shopping because of coupons is diametrically opposed to being self-sustaining. Here are a few more things to consider….
- Coupons encourage and emphasize consumerism – Coupons are only useful if you buy something. The pursuit of coupons keeps you thinking about buying things. Enough said. I don’t want to think about buying things, I want to think about NOT buying things. I want to think about how to DIY what I need. These companies use us like lab mice to collect information about what we buy and throw us a few crumbs of discount once in a while. Once I began to see how I was being used, it made me angry. Most of the best coupon discounts require a loyalty card at the register. Folks, the stores sell that information for big bucks!
- Coupons keep you “branded” – Coupon offering companies are hoping that you’ll become “brand loyal” to the products they offer coupons for. Many will forego their favorite brands in order to use a discount coupon. Again, I am insulted and I won’t be “branded”. Companies also rotate their coupon offerings about every 6 weeks, in other words, the same old coupons come back around again and again, trying to keep you loyal.
- Couponing is absolutely addictive – Let’s talk mental health here. There is scads of research about how addictive couponing can be. This isn’t something to be taken lightly. If you listen to the people on those “Extreme Couponing” shows, they are honest when they tell the camera that all they think about is couponing. I would go further to predict that all they TALK about all day with their children and family is couponing. How healthy is that? I’m being honest here, but I found myself so anxious to see what coupons were in the Sunday paper, that I would forego a few extra precious minutes just cuddling with my husband on Sunday morning in order to run out to the mailbox. That’s when it hit me….I was addicted.
- Coupons are for mice – The whole “grocery game” is quite the industry and consumers are their “lab mice”. Do you realize that there are companies who’s only job is to track your spending and where you shop? Do you also realize that there are sensors in stores that know you just walked in, because of that loyalty card? The grocery store is set up to get you to purchase as much product, in the way of unplanned purchases, as possible. The perishable items that most people come in for are “conveniently” located around the perimeter of the store, forcing you to walk longer and further. Studies show that for every minute you spend in a store, you’ll spend more money. The key is to keep you there as long as possible! Now, fussing around with coupons, looking for the right size for the coupon and the ever changing price of products is sure to keep you not only in the store longer, but spending more. It’s a game that most people will lose.
“Retailers are able to market to us much less expensively when they offer promotional programs that entice us to share our personal information with them,” says Stephanie Nelson, founder of CouponMom.com.
- Couponing uses up your precious time, resources and energy – There are 24 hours in a day, we all have the same amount of time. How we choose to spend it is entirely up to us. To be a true “Coupon Queen”, it takes at least 8 hours each day (probably more to be honest) to acquire coupons, cut, organize and match up with sales. A “big haul” like you see on the shows is only likely to happen every few months, not every time one goes to the store. Now, can you imagine what all you could get done with that time if you weren’t playing the coupon game? In 8 hours, I could plant a lot of fruit trees, check on my bees, repair some pasture fencing and plan out a garden. All of these things will sustain me for years into the future without ever stepping in to the grocery. Another thing to think about, how peaceful do you feel in the grocery store? How gentle is the whole process of being a “coupon queen”? I don’t know about you, but I’m looking for ways to live more simply and reduce unnecessary stress.
- Couponing keeps us dependent – Coupons are only available when companies put them out, leaving us completely dependent upon their decisions. I don’t want to be dependent, I’m going for independence.
- It leads to hoarding and other unhealthy behavior – Hoarding is a form of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) which is nothing to joke about. People who go to the extent to use personal space to store excessive amounts of product need to re-evaluate their spending. Again, I’ve done it, stored canned food and loads of toiletries in every nook and cranny I could find in my home at one point. This is not healthy.
- Coupons are typically for processed foods – Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it said that there are coupons for healthy foods out there. I’ve also heard that you can use a negative cash back situation to purchase fruits and vegetables, but that’s just not how it works. I’ve never known of a grocer in Ohio that would give cash back for a negative balance. Maybe it’s different in other parts of the country but I doubt. it. And the coupons for healthy, organic, overpriced food? Not a great deal. Again, most of the coupons offered are for items that I’m trying to work myself away from.
- Coupons create more plastic waste – When I was couponing, I was bringing enormous amounts of plastic into my home. Even free sample items, which are fairly easy to get if you want to be bombarded with junk mail, bring with them excessive plastic packaging. I don’t want this in my home or in my life anymore. Today, I’m irritated if I have to find some use for a plastic container because it came into my home. Recycling is fine, but not everything that is supposed to be recycled gets recycled. That’s another post.
Steps to break coupon habit:
Deal with FOMO – This was my big drive with couponing, I didn’t want to miss a deal! Today, I see this very differently. Again, I’m no “lab rat” who responds when told to. Store having a sale? Great, I have other things to do.
But what if I need something? Ok, let’s consider that. I keep a running list on my calendar of things we need to shop for, and on my shopping day I’ll will get those things…period. Store sales last a week at a time, and so when it’s good for me, I will shop.
Sometimes I receive coupons in the mail from Meijer, based on what I’ve purchased in the past. These are sweet coupons with big discounts, that are good for about a month. Every coupon bundle includes a free item, which is about a $3 value. That’s nice, thank you very much. However, I just threw away the December coupons that they sent me because I just wasn’t able to make it to Meijer this month. The coupon incentive doesn’t motivate me enough to make the trip, unless I need something else.
Actually, it’s pretty creepy that they know what I buy and send me coupons, there’s that dang-blasted loyalty card again. See what I mean?
Think About How to Make Your Own – Look at a coupons that you intend to use, say for boxed cereal, and ask yourself what you could replace that item with that you already have on hand or could make. Would you like to learn how to make a yummy and wholesome granola for your family and never leave the house, or go run and buy preservative, GMO-laden boxed cereal? Or maybe some simple muffins, or even breakfast burritos? Check out my post here about breakfast alternatives!
Spending time to build your cooking and DIY skill levels will pay off far more than couponing ever will. That’s because you’re in control of what you’re eating and buying, not some corporation who is just using you for your information and how they can get you to jump.
Knowledge is power! Building your skill level to provide for yourself is uber more valuable than any product you can buy!