We all know the two rules to shopping. Life takes Visa. For everything else, there is Mastercard. Don’t ask me what “everything else” means – Entertaining expenses in Heaven? Ice packs in Hell? I don’t want to know.
But there is also a third rule – Stores take coupons.
In childhood, I collected stamps. For some time, I also collected coins. Now that I am older and (presumably) wiser, I collect coupons. Blue Bed Bath and Beyond coupons, Pink Linens n Things coupons and Macy’s coupons. Pizza coupons, dry cleaning coupons, oil change coupons. We-will-clean-your-place-to-a-sparkle coupons. We-will-move-your-goods-and-your-grand mom coupons. Yes, I collect them all.
I cannot see why anyone would pass up these coupons. Don’t they represent free money? Okay, I don’t see that I need a mover right now, and maybe my car does not need an oil change either, but so what? Isn’t it better to have them handy for when you need them?
You would think I must save a lot of money each month with these coupons, right? Well, I certainly try. But here’s how things usually work out:
R: “I need a new set of pillows. Let’s go to Bed Bath and Beyond.”
Me: “Okay.” Start to daydream about what else I can buy at Bed Bath and Beyond. Scented candles? Bath salts?
We drive a few miles. Then I suddenly remember.
Me: “I haven’t taken the Bed Bath and Beyond coupon! We have to turn back! We shouldn’t go there without it!”
R: “But we are almost there! Can’t we buy the pillows without the coupon?”
Me: “No, no, how do we know we will only buy pillows? I might buy a..a.. santoku knife. We shall end up spending $50 then! That’s a $10 saving with that 20% off coupon! No, no, you should definitely turn back”.
R (Sulking): “Why don’t you keep that coupon in your handbag? You will never forget it then.”
Me: “The Bed Bath and Beyond coupons are too big to fit in my handbag.”
R: “Get a bigger bag then.”
Me: “You are right, maybe I should.” (Dreamily) “You remember that lovely bag I saw in the Coach store? Maybe I should buy that.”
R (Sputtering now): “You mean that $500 bag? But..but..hey, we agreed! That’s too expensive! I mean…not this month!”
Me (Dreamily): “Yes, but it’s big.. and I really liked it. It is perfect for the Bed Bath and Beyond coupons”.
The car now starts to veer a bit. R is getting very nervous. They say, in moments of extreme stress, one lapses into one’s mother tongue. So it is not surprising that R now starts talking Finance-speak.
R: ”But what about the Return on Investment? That’s a $500 handbag! You are probably saving $5 on average with those coupons, at most! What about the payback period? Look at the Net Present Value!”
Me (now sulking): “Well, I didn’t start this topic. You did. You wanted me to get a new handbag. I just told you what I liked.” I start looking out of the window. Why should I look at Net Present Values? They are obviously not even good-looking.
R decides that further conversation is too dangerous. He turns the car around.
R: “Okay, let’s not go to Bed Bath and Beyond today then”, he says.
And so it goes…
Today I found another Linens n Things brochure in the mail. I carefully cut out the “20% off” coupon and added it to my growing pile of coupons.
Someday, I am sure, I will actually use one of these coupons. All I need now is a bigger handbag.