Coupons Are Not Gifts

We are speeding down that spring slope toward summer. I’m letting go of tasks that are not vital and hanging on to the rest in my tightly-gripped paper calendar. Coupons were the first to go.

I’ve been an on-and-off again coupon clipper my whole life. Clipping coupons from the Sunday paper is therapeutic. My grandmas both clipped coupons, and my mom has over the years as well. As did my great-grandma. There is a smug gratification in clipping coupons until the total value of the coupons exceeds the price of the Sunday paper.

The system goes south after that leisurely Sunday afternoon snipping. I’ve found coupons at the bottom of purses crinkled and rubbed until they are barely recognizable. My “current” filing folders have 6-month-old coupons in the folder marked “Coupons.” Leaning against the coffee brewers are envelopes with coupons from the paper, plus little gift card-sized coupons I receive in the mail. That is the last wall I see before I walk out the door, right above the drawer where we keep our keys. And, I rarely grab the stack. I have a plastic zippered pouch in the glove compartment for gift cards to be used, but I hesitate to add coupons to that mix. Instead, if the coupons make it to the van, I place them next to me under my purse. Or with the coins in the compartment where ashtrays used to be. Or in the pocket of the door. For many, their value wanes in the mix of life, and I simply throw them away when I clean out the van. Expired or not, they mix in with other trash and that’s it.

A few times, I’ve been a coupon colonel and made a trip to the store only for coupon purchases. That’s more manageable than integrating specific coupon purchases into my normal grocery shopping list. A coupon list. The system worked – until I handed over the coupons to the cashier to find that I had lost a coupon en-route. Perhaps a 50-cent coupon on 10 cans of mushroom soup? The ire over this mishap overshadowed all the savings I had amassed in the $150 shopping trip to save multiple quarters, dimes, and nickels. How on earth could I lose that coupon? It was like walking by a garbage can and tossing in two quarters.

Sunday after Sunday I don’t clip coupons. Yet when I decide to make the effort, the moment my fingers touch a clipped coupon – that little piece of paper moves from its end life in the recycle bin to a slip with monetary value. From a scrap of paper to one-step away from quarters. Or back to garbage if it hangs in the van for too long.

Yes, coupons are out of my life for the next few weeks or months. If not before, they will definitely make their annual return in January after Christmas shopping expenses hit the books. But for the moment, that stack by the brewer is a reminder of tasks undone. Of no rational value to me. At the moment.

Coupons are not gifts.  Regardless of how beautifully they are packaged.