Couponing Versus Bargain-Sniffing

As I have confided in my blog before, I suck at couponing.  I have never been one to shy away from using vouchers for this, that and the other so in Scotland I was considered pretty thrifty with the way I could save money using vouchers and deals.  Here in the US, however, so many people have managed to make couponing a hobby / talent / extreme sport that I am very much in the dunce corner of the remedial group when it comes to saving money using vouchers.  This annoys me because I absolutely love being thrifty.  I am no Ebenezer Scrooge but I definitely experience a thrill knowing I have saved money.

My difficulty here is that the vast majority of coupons – and I am referring to the thick wodge of paper that is deposited in my mailbox once a week – are completely irrelevant to me as they are for products I would just never purchase.  It seems to be that the companies who run these promotions are the ones who sell junk, snacks or processed foods.  I, therefore, use the few coupons that are for food products I use or for household cleaning products and then I shop the in-store deals to drive my grocery bill down.  I do pretty well despite the pile of coupons that just go in the recycling bins each week.  In an average week I can shave almost a quarter off my week’s grocery bill.  Not bad.  Certainly better than I could achieve back in Scotland.

However, I am then reminded what a “loser” couponer I am when I am behind someone in the checkout queue who has managed to reduce their bill from $83 to $32.  My jaw was literally agape last week when that exact thing happened.  Sure I had the supercilious glow of knowing my trolley was a whopping deal healthier and more nutritious than the shopper in front of me but my goodness the thrifty side of me felt like such an also ran.

So here’s the thing that prompted today’s blog entry.  My husband is used to wearing business smart for work.  Back when he worked in London and then when he worked in Scotland, his uniform was a suit, shirt and tie.  Sometimes the shirt was so formal it required cufflinks.  Here in the US he is working somewhere that requires smart casual attire.  In his suits, he feels too formal.  He, therefore, needs a whole new wardrobe of work clothes that fall somewhere between his two usual modes of business smart and at home casual (which sometimes veers on the slobby but hey ho).  That is a whole load of clothes to buy in one go so, of course, it was the perfect challenge for Little Miss Thrifty.

I found the website of a store that sells brand name clothes at reduced prices.  I headed to the clearance section for men’s clothes and I scoured each page weighing up the options, adding things to the virtual basket, occasionally editing the basket as I went on and found a similar item for even less.  Some of the items were as much as 75% off the original price so I was picking up some really good deals, the type that make me feel accomplished.  One jumper (here they are sweaters) was reduced from $45 to $9 so I decided to go into futures at that point and buy several of them.  Once I had created a virtual wardrobe of shirts, jumpers and trousers I set about reducing the total even further by inputting the perfect combination of voucher codes and I had a code for free shipping to boot.  In the end, once I divided the total up, the average came out to $13 per garment.  That is eight pounds sterling, people.  For brand name clothes.

I felt so super-thrifty I had to do a little happy dance and then text my husband to show off.

So I do absolutely bite at couponing but I am still an ace at bargain-sniffing.

Coupons

I am by nature a very thrifty person.  I know how to spin out a budget so I have always used vouchers and coupons when they are available to me.  I feel like an utter amateur here though.  

Twice now I have been in the checkout line at the supermarket behind someone who has saved a King’s ransom by using coupons.  I have to admit that last time was a bit tedious.  The woman in front of me handed over a fistful of coupons, a bundle of small papers the thickness of a decent novel, and each coupon was then laboriously scanned or, worse, typed into the till.  A few would not process so a supervisor had to be called to override the system and permit the discounts.  It took an age.  However frustrating it was, I was still massively impressed that the woman was walking out of the shop with her trolley bulging having handed over relatively little cash for it all.  She was a couponing pro.  When it came to my turn, I was almost sneered at for handing over just one measly coupon.  Amateur.

I have good intentions.  I have a little coupon wallet where I can file all my clipped coupons until it is time to use them. I’m a control freak who loves nothing more than making lists and organising things so this is right up my street.  The trouble is, every time I go through the coupon books, I find that probably 5% of coupons are for things I would buy.  The rest are either not relevant or are too expensive even with the discount or are simply things I would not choose to buy.  I have, however, been clipping those coupons anyway and have been leaving them on the relevant shelves at the supermarket so that someone else can benefit from them.  It adds to the time it takes me to go around the supermarket but helping the Coupon Fairy makes me feel a bit warmer and fuzzier inside so I will keep clipping.  Suffice to say, I am never going to be a coupon pro.

What is great, however, is that discounts on groceries in the UK are proper discounts.  In the UK, discounts and deals often smacked of tokenism or required the purchase of three weeks’ worth of seedless grapes in one transaction.  Lame.  And loyalty cards meant racking up points that were worth a sliver of a pence each.  Here’s a measly few quid to thank you for shopping with us all year.  Oh and by the way you need to spend that few quid in our shop like a throwback to the truck system.  Thanks again.  Here I have a loyalty card for my local supermarket, a national chain, that saves me money with regular everyday purchases, sometimes knocking things down as far as half price, while also still racking up points for special coupons and vouchers.  That’s a much better way to reward customers.  I can easily save a quarter of my bill each time I shop there with money off for this, that and the other.

I still aspire to get better at couponing though.