Growing up we lived in a tiny 3 bedroom apartment, shared by 2 parents, 5 siblings, 2 turtles, 1 bird and an occasional fish. To describe our family as poor would be an understatement, but as kids we were oblivious to our financial situation. We thought everyone wore the same pair of shoes until their feet touched the pavement, and then traded them in for a raggedy hand-me-down pair that still had a good 3 weeks left in them before the soles completely blew out. We figured all kids held yard sales to earn enough money to feast on the gourmet cuisine at McDonald’s. We didn’t realize things came in brand names and that there were places besides Pic-N-Save that sold school clothes.
Being poor never affected our happiness. We couldn’t afford gymnastic and dance classes, so we choreographed and performed our own routines to Madonna’s Material Girl for the whole neighborhood to enjoy (that is if you could afford the hefty 5 cent cover charge). We never had money for the latest toys, so we created elaborate carnivals with games, “rides” and prizes. We wrote, directed and performed our own plays and even made up our own version of Mancala using old egg cartons and rocks, all the while unaware there was a struggle to put food on the table.
I knew my mother used coupons. As I got older and the reality of our financial situation was better understood, I began to resent those coupons. As I became more aware I was a “have-not,” I hated those coupons for how I believed they classified me. Coupon use defined social class. Coupons=poor.
When my mom would send us to the store a block from our apartment with a fistful of coupons and a pocketful of change, I would do everything in my power to conceal those coupons. After I carefully arranged my purchases for the cashier, I would scan the store for anyone I knew. I would not be caught using coupons for fear those coupons would label me. I swore to never use a coupon when I grew up.
Fast forward 20 years. Happily married with two kids and a comfortable life, I never clipped a coupon. The maturity of adulthood had wiped away the coupon stigma and the potential embarrassment was the farthest thing from my mind, but my non-coupon use had become a habit. I soon realized how ridiculous that non-coupon use was.
I was paying FULL price when I didn’t have to. If a company was willing to cut me a deal on their product and I chose to instead pay full price, well that doesn’t really make me the sharpest tool in the shed. I began implementing coupon use in my life and never looked back.
Sadly, I think many people don’t recognize how smart couponers are. Like I naively did as a child, too many people view those who use coupons as poor or lower class and actually look down on us, as if couponing is beneath them.
I am a proud coupon user. I am not poor, but who cares if I was. I am not lower class, but who cares if I was. It doesn’t matter what our social standing is or how much money we have in our bank accounts or what drives us to coupon. It makes no difference what side of the tracks we live on or what car we drive to the grocery store. As couponers we share something regardless of our differences: common sense.
When given the choice, we choose to pay less. We choose to save money. We choose to take control of what we are spending at the grocery store. And contrary to what I believed as a child, that certainly doesn’t mean we’re poor. It means we’re brilliant!