Wednesday 2 March 2016

Adventures in Couponing (Pt 4 of 4) - Myths, the Unexpected

Many people believe that items purchased with coupons must be off-brands, expired or damaged. Largely, this is untrue. Junko purchases the same things as everyone else. Occasionally, she will buy a chocolate bar or bag of potato chips that may have expired, but only because we believe that those dates are more of a marketing tool than a warning.

For the most part, we ignore dates on fertilizers, detergents and toiletries, judging that they may become a little less effective over time, but not critically so. Largely, this has proven true, though we have had a couple of surprises. Liquid drain uncloggers and liquid fabric softeners coagulated and became unusable, after two or three years. So far, those have been the only losses, and they were minor because Junko is careful not to overstock as she always has new deals that could use our limited storage space.

Some think that couponers gratuitously stockpile and perhaps some do; but not us. Junko never buys items that we will not consume. Sometimes, we've had to be creative in order to use large quantities with nearing expiry dates. For instance, when she purchased 30 pounds of cheese we grated it all and froze it for use in cooking, because cheese goes bad quickly and, once frozen, it only regains its original texture when melted.

Downsides, and the unexpected...
For us, Junko's couponing has been a completely positive thing. In fact, our little family has become dependent on it. If she ever decided to quit, I'd probably have to get a second job or pray that the books I've written start selling—yeah, it'd be the second job. But there are some downsides:

• Whenever I make a purchase, whether it be a stick of gum or a load of gravel, I am aware that Junko would have spent less for the same thing. She is also aware of this and tends to grimace whenever I come home with something store bought.

• We eat more frozen products than we used to.

• Our recycle bins are always overflowing.

• We had to buy a larger freezer.

• We have a walk-in closet, half of the attic and much of the garage dedicated to stockpiling.

• My nephew decided that it would be fun to jump all over 700 rolls of toilet paper. For two years I thought of that kid every time I went to the bathroom and had to use paper that did not roll smoothly because the cardboard tube had been crushed. Harbouring that much resentment toward a 6-year old is an uncomfortable feeling.

• We don't always get the brands we grew up with. So, often we don't get the flavours we prefer.

• Junk food is one of the easiest and cheapest items that we can get. Our junk-food cabinet is the malnutrition capital of the world. Also, we have a junk-food cabinet.

• The day after Valentine's Day, Easter, Hallowe'en and Christmas the junk-food cupboard overflows to the walk-in closet.

• Some things are more potent than you might imagine. We once stored boxes of fabric softener sheets in the same room as everything else and, within weeks, the smell had infiltrated some of the food, including sealed boxes of crackers and breakfast cereal. We've since relegated all of the offending products to the garage. It's been more than a year but the storage room still smells like Bounce, which is a pleasant smell in the air, but an unpleasant taste in the food.

• In order to get extra coupons, Junko has borrowed the identity, email addresses and physical addresses of everyone in the family, close friends and our tenants. I particularly resent the coupon notifications on my smartphone that make me think, for an instant, that I am popular enough to receive a text.

• Our son and I had grown up on Kraft, largely-unnatural, peanut butter but our daughter was just starting solid food when Junko purchased about six jars of Adams all-natural peanut butter. I didn't like having to stir the oil back into the thick paste before I used it, and neither of us boys really liked the taste. Consequently,  household peanut butter consumption plummeted and those jars lasted about four years. Finally Junko purchased another jar of Kraft. Our son and I were elated, but our daughter, who had only known the all-natural brand, didn't like it. We now have a family whose peanut butter tastes are so far apart that we have to buy both. A similar thing happened with Miracle Whip and Hellman's Mayonaise.

• Because she can always get them cheap, we use baby wipes as napkins. They are particularly convenient for road trips but are mildly disconcerting on the dining room table.

• The most useless things Junko ever collected for free were pesticides like Off! and Raid! We have two dozen cans and no one we know wants to use any of it. We'll sell them at our annual garage sale, along with all the excess candy we think we will never be able to eat. If you have a sweet tooth or an infestation, you'll want to come to our garage sale. I may use that line on my signage.

• Junko bought me about a dozen sticks of an antiperspirant labelled, "clinical strength." It's so powerful that my armpits have friction burns and I swear that it sucks the moisture out of my mouth. Also, the back of my hands sweat. It is practically impervious to soapy water and I am tempted to use a scrub brush, each night. I suspect the label was meant to say, "clinical trial." I'm the only one I know who is hoping for a chilly summer.

• Once, while we on our way to visit a relative, my wife made me stop the car so that she could go dumpster diving to retrieve coupons from old newspapers. To be fair, it was a paper recycling dumpster and not a garbage dumpster, but people can't tell that when I show them the video on my smartphone.

• Since she began couponing, buying gifts for my wife has become near impossible. First of all, if she really wanted it, she would have found an incredible deal and purchased it on her own. If she has not done this, then she really doesn't want it. Further, we both know that she would have gotten a better deal than I did, and, though she's smiling, she views this gift as a waste of money she could have saved.

• Although she manages incredible savings on everything from toilet paper to plant fertilizer, so far, no deals on big screen TV's or computers. She did get a microwave, coffee maker, waffle iron and a digital camera for the kids, at huge discounts, so she's moving in the right direction. I'm going to put a bug in her ear regarding Scotch, as well.

• She once brought home eight bricks of unsalted butter. That's when we discovered that I have limits: You do not tamper with the butter or the popcorn!

When it comes to shopping, I am resigned to being the John Watson to my wife's Sherlock Holmes; following along behind, shaking my head in disbelief, and chronicling to friends and family her adventures in couponing—while munching on potato chips. I have been put in my place, transitioning from tolerant to awestruck to dependent. I may be the bread-winner, but she's the one who brings home the $1 bacon!


More Junko-approved deals!

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