Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Extreme Coupon Nation

They are everywhere...on their crusade to help moms and folks everywhere do everything for pennies or free. They scour the web for daily deals and coupons; they may have invented the online version of Publisher's Clearinghouse sweepstakes and giveaways. Every day in my Facebook stream is another "frugal" blogger touting her bad ass find or roundup of deals. For tons of followers to comment how excited they are and validate that blogger's existence.

I've come to hate the word "deal." The word "frugal." The word "giveaway."

Hey, I'm the first to admit that after spending my $500 in a quarter at J.Crew I am VERY excited to get my $25 reward bucks in the mail. Or enjoy the annual denim sale at Gap. Or get hooked up with free tix to Dutchwonderland thanks to my hubby's radio spots. A coupon here and there...a Groupon deal here and there...on stuff I/my family love and enjoy.

But I'm not frugal by any means. I'm not thrifty or a penny pincher. And I don't care if in today's times that is frowned upon. I'm just smart and responsible. And being smart means knowing that nothing is for free. Someone somewhere is paying for whatever it is. And that is what gets me fired up. This recession has given rise to a group of obsessive consumers who could care less about the worth of something...about the labor that someone put into their craft. Because while a Groupon to the Gap might barely affect the bottom line, a Groupon to a small business or free tickets to a performance does. AND I HATE THE MENTALITY.

This climate perpetuates the "do all, see all - for nothing!" mentality - the sense of freedom and entitlement that we felt pre-October 2008. People still expect all that. Just - for next to nothing now. Since they were so wronged. Somehow people have forgotten - or decided not to care - that constantly slicing away at the price means no one wins and we don't get out of this recession. I get that times have been and continue to be rough. I was a 2009 layoff victim too. And I still want and expect a certain lifestyle. But is my response to insist I get a deal to everything? Hell no. I don't make it my mission to find or ask for a deal to/for anything. I don't believe that everything in this nation is or should be a freakin bargin bin. I believe most businesses set competitive prices and/or fair prices. It's not always affordable for me but it is what it is. I just might have to cut expenses and cut back on performances, coffee, eating out, cable TV or make a big lifestyle change like scale my child back to PT day care (is that frugal? Or is it just smart economics?). I've done it before. Maybe that's it. My fourth layoff and I'm like, OK - re-evaluate. And certainly, as a business woman, I don't take away the power of negotiation. When and where appropriate. Or the occasional sale or discount.

But the bottom line is this -- I can't have it all and all at the same time, for pennies on the dollar. It's about evaluating...understanding that everyone needs to make a living so I making smart choices, value time and labor, value my family's time, and value everyone's hard work and income.

I've had to minimize the time spent with some folks who make it all about the price tag and whether there is a deal for it -- because they actually can't say no (to themselves or their kids) but rather, let's find a way to do it. That is sad. But then again, I don't have a problem saying no.

And the disclaimer here is - I do know that just because one is a thrifty or frugal person doesn't mean he/she falls into this category of extremeness. But it sure does feel as though the extreme either runs rampid or else has a very loud voice.

But I wonder --- all these people obsessed with their daily deal...Do they value the chase more than the capture? or the feeling of holding 25 deals in their inbox? Do they spend the vast majority of their time online hunting for a deal than actually enjoying it? or running themselves and their families into the ground to take advantage of every single thing? And could they ever put a price on their own time and labor and hold someone to it?

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