Coupons save a pile of money on stuff you didn’t know you needed

Clipping coupons is a productive and enjoyable way to pay a lot less for things you never would have purchased in the first place.

It’s also becoming popular in these tough economic times, when people’s dire financial situations force them to spend money on only the most necessary essentials, like decorative cellphone covers.

Part of the popularity stems from programs like “Extreme Couponers,” which is a show about people who clip coupons, then go bungee jumping.

My wife is so good at working the coupon system (legally, I’m pretty sure), that in some cases the store actually pays her to take the items home. I didn’t believe this until she came home one day with 20 bottles of steak marinade. Normally we’d feel a little guilty about greedily hoarding items, but in this case the marinade was disgusting and inedible, so we were pretty much doing our fellow shoppers a favor.

Judge us if you will, but if the store or manufacturer is going to give you free bottles of marinade, and then pay you 33 cents for each bottle on top of that, you’re going to take home as many bottles as you can, even if you run into friends who glance into your shopping cart and look at you with pity — sensing that you’ve developed some sort of marinade obsessive compulsive disorder.

So now we have 20 bottles of steak marinade in our pantry. We can’t afford the actual steak to use it on, but the bottles look very pretty on the shelf.

When not making money, Marie’s super-secret coupon voodoo magic saves our family a ton on our food bill — so much so that I’m basically not allowed to go to the grocery store unsupervised, especially after the infamous May 2011 incident, when I made the mistake of coming home after making a spontaneous purchase without prior spousal approval.

“What is that?” she said, in a tone that was part angry, part annoyed.

“I got some Cheez-Its.”

“Why?” (The angry/annoyed ratio now tilting more toward angry.)

“Um, because I felt like eating some Cheez-Its?”

“I could have got those for free.”

“Yes, but some of us have moral qualms against shoplifting.”

“No, what I mean is that I have three half-off Cheez-It coupons, plus a cash-back and triple-double Wednesday loyalty card bonus points.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning the store would have given them to me for free, plus given me $236 in cash and a Cheez-Its trucker hat.”

So she does all the shopping and couponing now. Which is just as well because couponing is tougher than it sounds, as I was reminded of last Saturday, when I tried to use a haircut coupon.

Even though it looks like I hire a $4,000-an-hour famous Hollywood stylist, I get my haircut at Supercuts. The local “Student Saver” magazine has always had SuperCuts $2 off coupons, and I’ve used these successfully for years until last Saturday, when I went to pay and was informed it’s for CMU students only.

Normally I’d just lie and score the discount. Everyone has to judge for themselves what their integrity is worth, and mine is worth less than $2. Unfortunately I had my daughter with me, which limited my options. I’m trying to teach her right from wrong, and I’m not going to flat-out lie and say, “I’m a CMU student,” just to get a discount, so when the stylist asked to see my college ID, I told her I left it in my dorm room.

It turns out that CMU dorms aren’t open in the summer. So I’ll leave the professional couponing to my wife and fully support her in her efforts. Because while some of you may think we’re pathetic, penny-pinching, stockpiling hoarders, when doomsday comes, and there is no food on Earth, we couponers will celebrate our foresight by having a huge potluck.

I’ll bring the marinade.

Reach Steve Beauregard at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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