I don’t think anyone would ever call me stingy, but I’m not a big spender either. I choke at the cost of a pricey new outfit, and cringe when the grocery store checker reads me the grand total. I consider myself a relatively frugal person, but there’s one major fatal flaw in my frugality. I’m totally hopeless with coupons. It doesn't matter what kind—the “buy one get one free” deals on meals or the “cents off” for drugstore and grocery store items. When the cashier hands me coupons along with the receipt, the paper they are printed on is a waste of a good tree.
I love the idea of thrift. Who doesn’t want to save a few bucks when shopping? But somehow I seem to be unable to turn the theory of thrift into reality when it comes to saving money with coupons. I’ve placed a clipped stack right by my purse on the kitchen but managed to walk right out the door sans coupons anyway. I’ve even put them on the passenger seat of my car. That should work, right? You’d think. But, there I am, half way home with a full load of groceries before I notice the coupons sitting there, mocking me.
Some things never change. I started to write this post, I came across a short piece of flash fiction I wrote a few years ago, based on my ineptitude for couponing. It sort of says it all. Full Price Frances was published in 2014 by ALongStoryShort; however, their links are no longer active so I’m going to copy the text and repost here. It’s light and a bit daft, but maybe it will make you smile. (Please click Read More, lower right, to see the whole story.)
Full Price Frances
With a sigh of impatience, Frances shoved the ad flyers, the scissors, and the remaining unclipped coupons to one side of the small kitchen table. She propped her sandalled feet onto the cleared space and switched her cell phone to her right ear.
"I don't know, Michelle. This coupon-clipping thing is just so time-consuming."
Frances tried to modulate the exasperation in her voice. She examined the chipped nail polish on her big toe while her sister's voice harangued in her ear. Darn, she was sure she had a $5.00 coupon for her next nail service, but where was it?
"Michelle, I'm single. I just don't need that much stuff. I get out of the office so late, I usually just get take-out anyway… yes, I know you and Mom want me in your couponing club. Sounds like fun."
Frances grimaced and picked at the ruined pedicure.
"I do try. I guess I don't have the family couponing gene. It doesn't matter whether I clip coupons for buy-one-get-one-free dinner deals or cents-off on hair products, I either forget to use them or, by the time I do, they've expired.”
Boscoe barked at the kitchen door. Frances pushed herself up to let him in. "Good boy. Come on in, sweetie.”
Her sister's voice stopped mid-sentence. "What? Of course I'm listening to you." Frances crooked her neck and balanced the phone between her shoulder and ear while she reached for the almost-empty box of Milk Bones.
"Here you go, boy," she whispered to the dog. His tail thumped against her leg in an appreciative wag.
"No, I heard every word. You said something about stocking up, getting two for one, never paying full price. I get it. I do. But what exactly is it that I'm supposed to be stocking up for, the Zombie Apocalypse?"
Frances plopped into a chair."I'm not being sarcastic. Maybe you're becoming a bit obsessive/compulsive with this couponing thing. Didn't Brad have to install storage shelves in what used to be your sewing room? How many boxes of Cheerios can one family use before the stuff goes bad? Ever hear the word ‘hoarder’?”Frances held the phone away from her ear. Boscoe dropped his tail at the high-pitched,angry-human sounds. She reached down to give him a reassuring ear scratch.
"Michelle, listen to me. After your last come-to-Jesus talk, I organized my coupons by store and by product. I put them in an envelope, which I stashed safely in my car. Five hours later, on my way home with a trunk full of shopping bags, guess what I found? The envelope, stuffed with coupons, sitting on the passenger seat taunting me. I'm not cut out for this couponing thing."
Frances walked over to the table and stared stony-eyed at her disordered pile of coupons. On the top was a shiny ad offering $1.00 off on a box of Milk Bones. She reached for it and tucked it into the pocket of her jeans.
"But I live in a small townhouse without much cupboard space. I still think that the best place to store excess packaged goods is at this great big warehouse down the street. It's called Wal-Mart... yeah, I did think that was funny."
Frances scanned the kitchen for her car keys. Where were they? She scooped up her clipped coupons and opened the door to the garage. "I'm almost ready to leave. I'm putting my coupons in the... darn, the car door is locked. I'm sticking them on the hood where I won't miss them when I leave and going in to look for my car keys. I am organized, Michelle. Okay, here's an example. Last Saturday I tucked several coupons in my purse with my shopping list. As I crossed the Safeway parking lot I grabbed a stray shopping cart and pulled out my list. I felt very self-righteous about all the money I was going to save. I reached into my purse to retrieve my coupons and, you guessed it. No coupons. I must have dropped them in the parking lot somewhere."
Frances held her upper lip between her teeth. "I'm not careless. Maybe if they made coupons for books instead of.... found 'em… what? My car keys. They were under the morning paper. Okay, I'm leaving right now. I’m heading out the door."
Frances punched the automatic garage-door opener and slid into her shiny, blue Mazda.
"Michelle, I'm putting the phone down and putting you on speaker. I'm pulling out of the driveway."
Frances backed into the street, pushed the gearshift into drive, and accelerated uphill. "What was that, Michelle? I didn't hear— Oh NO!"
Sudden movement off the passenger side caught her eye. Frances slammed on the brakes. A flurry of color sailed across the front windshield as the carefully clipped coupons flew off the hood and cheerfully fluttered away in the afternoon breeze.
"No, I’m okay. What happened? Let's just say that someone has to pay full price to help keep the economy going. Maybe you and Mom can join my book club? We drink wine. Any chance you have coupons for wine?”