12-Step Couponing

They say admitting the problem is the first step to getting help.

They say you have to hit bottom before you're ready for recovery.

Well, I hit bottom at approximately 4:56 pm today.  It was at this moment that I realized:  Even though I was getting out of work early and had time to spare, even though I've been waiting for an opportunity to go clothes shopping, and even though the weather just got warm and I desperately need to buy a few things..... I was not going shopping.

I was not going shopping because I'm expecting department store coupons in the mail, and apparently I will not shop without them.

I didn't realize my couponing had become a problem.

I didn't know my couponing was spilling over into other aspects of my life, making me a potential danger to myself and others.

Hell, I didn't even know that "coupon" was a verb.

But there it is:  Extreme Couponing, right there in the TV listings next to Hoarders and Bad Girls and Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.  The TV has spoken.  Problem Couponing has become our latest addiction.

It started out so innocently.  As I relaxed on weekends with the Sunday paper, the glossy coupon section offered harmless fun.  Fifty cents off here!  A dollar off there!  I would clip freely, carelessly, enjoying the light buzz of anticipated savings.

Then came the department store coupons.  I seem to recall a time when you could use these even if you paid cash -- without the guilt of running up store credit card debt.  But clearly, this was a ploy,  just like the creepy guy hanging around outside the middle school offering free drugs to kids to get them hooked.  These no-strings-attached department store discounts were my gateway coupons.  I felt such freedom, such power, when I used them.  I still remember a $75 pair of boots that I acquired for $60 over ten years ago.  I floated on air that day and never wanted to come down.

And then one day, suddenly, all Macy's coupons required use of the department store credit card.  Well, surely, I thought to myself, I'll just stop using these coupons, right?  Because that's how they get you, right?  I can pay cash -- without a discount -- any time I want to, right?

Wrong.  I can't remember the last time I made a significant Macy's purchase with no coupon attached.  Plus I now also use Kohl's coupons, which -- I don't know if you've noticed -- are mailed out constantlythese days.  And you expect me to shop without one?  Feeling like a total chump because I know they're coming in the mail?  C'mon, just give me one more day!  That's all I need!  I'm in control, I promise!

I blame Mr. Frump for starting me down this sinister downward spiral.  I used to laugh at him for using coupons so often.  If a business was locally owned, and if we were regular customers, I'd try to convince him not to use their coupons.  "Honey, those are to attract newcustomers," I'd tell him.  "We should support our local businesses and not abuse their discounts!"

Ha!  Like I had any choice.  The die had already been cast.

Now, I'm the one whose wallet is bulging with coupons.  I can't find my debit card, my health insurance information, or my damned driver's license, but by God those coupons are protected!

Today, I seriously thought about stopping at the mailbox on the way to work to look for those department store coupons and, if they were there, removing them while leaving the rest of the mail in the box.  I didn't do this, but who knows -- tomorrow I might not be so strong.

Tomorrow, you might find me hiding my coupons from family members.  Stashing them around the house.  Lying about how many coupons I've used.  Getting the shakes at the mere idea of paying full price.

When it all comes crashing down some day, when I'm found dead in a seedy motel room, clutching a stack of shredded coupons in my shriveled hand -- please take care of them, ok?

Buy yourself something nice.

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