Making Change | All Blogs


The ballad of the unused coupon

By Rachel Sauer

The first sign of trouble came via email.

I'd been traipsing merrily along, happily congratulating myself for how easy it was to keep my New Year's resolution of not spending money on unnecessary things, when JoAnn sent me a coupon for 50 percent off any one item in the store.

Half off! I love the half-off coupon! I've never not used it, generally wandering into the store and finding something that I “need” or that I definitely will use for future projects. Someday!

I rarely spend more than $10, thanks to the 50 percent off, but as I think we can all agree, the figurative nickels and dimes add up. Plus, I believe it's this “must use my 50 percent off coupon!” mentality that explains a mystifying array of stuff in the other bedroom. Why, for example, do I have a stack of eight half-yard pieces of garish fabric? I can't even remember what I was ever going to do with them. But... there they are, next to two mesh bags of smooth river pebbles. I can't remember what I was going to do with those, either.

Because I entered this three-month period of not spending money on unnecessary things with the smug conviction that it would be so easy since I'm not much of a spender (I told myself), I've also taken it as a tough-love opportunity to go through my stuff. And it's been humbling. I honestly can't believe some of the things I've bought, and hauled across the country and back through multiple moves, and continued to store with the vague promise that I'll use it “someday.”

With lots of it, and years on, “someday” still hasn't come. My Goodwill pile is growing.

I mean, I'm not such an ascetic that I'm getting rid of all my worldly burdens, but I'm just trying to be honest with myself. Am I ever going to use some of this stuff? Probably not.

And that's why this spending freeze is valuable so far. If I can be clear-eyed before I whip out my credit card, then I'll save myself a lot of clutter and, more importantly, a lot of guilt over all the projects I haven't completed or even started.

I know I will always like to make stuff, I will always have bins filled with yarn and shells and colored pencils, but so much of it? I'm trying to be reasonable.

So, thanks for the coupon, JoAnn, but the sequins will have to stay on the shelf.

(But please don't stop sending me the coupon. Just in case, you know.)

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