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.

Small Differences: Denominations

I am being scuppered by denominations here.  Not religious ones, you understand: coins.  Seriously, my kids can make change here better than I can.  Obviously they had only just embarked on having to use coins in Scotland so it has not been such a big deal to toss that little slither of learning out of the window and start from scratch with American coins.  For me, however, I am having to undo a few decades’ worth of knowledge, something that had become reflex, and learn something new.  Apparently my brain is not coping very well with that.  It’s all about the denominations.  In Britain we have 1 pence, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p and £1 coins; in America those denominations are 1 cent, 5 cents (nickel), 10 cents (dime) and 25 cents (quarter).  There are also half and whole dollar coins but those are rare so I am discounting them.  Clearly, therefore, I am used to adding and multiplying using different bases than are available here so all my maths (or math, as it is here) has to alter.  I am not innumerate so that it is not that I can’t do it but I am very conscious that it takes me more time to rake around in my purse (wallet, as it is here) to find the coins I need and tot them up to the amount I need.  And I have to keep reminding myself that the five cent coin is larger than the ten cent coin because they are the shape and size of UK five and ten pence coins but with the scale inverted.  Two university degrees mean nothing when you are at the head of a queue of people who are all aware that you are taking an awkward amount of time to fumblingly make 68 cents.