Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Coupons: How They've Changed How We Shop

I will never be an extreme couponer but I do love a bargain. In fact, over the last decade or two, I have become trained by big box stores to never buy anything from them at “regular price”, and I rarely do.  

From what I understand, regulations on the use of coupons differs between the U.S. and Canada so we don’t get the kind of bottom line deals (i.e. $500 worth of product for $2.00) that we see on the reality shows from the U.S.  

I have a love/hate relationship with coupons and sales. The main reason being I have been forced into using coupons and clearance racks because some regular prices have become so artificially inflated to accommodate this burgeoning phenomenon. Another reason, I hate buying something only to have the price later reduced and I’ve paid more than I had to. Yes I could take it back and get the better price but takes up my time and patience.

I don’t know when it happened but one day I noticed that processed cheese slices were something like 6.99 for a package of 24, say what?!  So now I search for coupons and wait for a sale before I’ll consider buying them.  One store I shop at has reduced me to buying one item at a time as I use the 40% off any one regular priced item coupon I get with each purchase. 

I assume coupons began and continue to be a way for brands to encourage consumers to try new products or new to them products.  What they have become is smoke and mirrors through which the consumer has to spend way too much time finding their way to affordable living. 

We prefer to cook from scratch and grow some of our own food. We don’t have a whole lot of use for prepackaged and processed food products so we don’t get to make use of many of the coupons I find. Yes, I confess, you will find some cans and boxes in our cupboard but prefer fresh given the choice and time. Neither do we have room to hoard shelves full of toilet tissue, dish washing liquid and shampoo.

There is a proliferation of websites, blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages devoted to coupons and free samples. I have a few favourites.  I “follow” and “like” a few brands that I buy regularly hoping they’ll throw a morsel my way. I check out store flyers and comparison shop as much as I can but I have a full time job and don’t want to spend my free time devoted to full on research into every single purchase I make. Hmmm maybe I’ve found a new job for Brian.

On a positive note, I’ve found some pretty darn good bargains, like the “regularly priced” at $600 cashmere & wool coat I got for $99. All this research to ensure I’m getting the best price also gives me time to pause and rethink some purchases.  This has occasionally resulted in some big savings as I decide I don’t really need a certain product or I don’t need it “right now”.

Don’t get me started on loyalty cards and points. Yes I use them because, frankly, I’m paying for all those “free” rewards one way or another so I might as well take ‘em.

This is one instance I’d like to see a return to the old days. A time when store owners paid the producer a fair price for their product, marked it up enough that they could make a decent living, charged the consumer a price they can afford every day and when a sale was something used to get rid of merchandise that wasn’t moving.  And a time when loyalty was earned with good customer service and quality product. Can I get an Amen!


  1. I went shopping this past weekend deliberately looking for bargains. It was so much fun because I left feeling really happy getting crazy deals on clothes I really needed at an insanely low prices. Coupons will be next on my list because I like feeling good about shopping instead of feeling I can't have things because the price is too high.

    1. I love the feeling of getting a good deal too. Sometimes I have to be careful I'm not buying things just because it's a good deal and not because I need it.