- Personal Finance
Coupon Strategies That Push the Envelope: Are You a Coupon Guerrilla?
Coupon Guerrillas Exposed
They look like nice frugal girls, but don't let their looks fool you. They're cheap. Really cheap, and I've got the proof on tape (receipt tape, that is.) Nowadays, it's hip to be frugal. Everyone's doing it. It feels good. So why not? But some people take frugality too far. Wayyyyyy too far.
Some people call it guerilla shopping. Others call it insanity. Here's what I mean:
She was a nice girl using her coupons at Christmastime, until a certain department store offered a $10 free coupon for in-store use. She didn't use the coupon once or twice. No. She bought ALL of her Christmas gifts using those coupons. She said it was hard work, but her face beamed with perverse pride as she described her frugal methods to me. How did she get enough coupons to buy ALL of her gifts? By ransacking the local newspaper recycling drop-off location. I know. I saw her mini-van there at 6:00 in the morning. She says she went from mall to mall, all day long, and she kept the cost of each of her gifts down to $10. That nice frugal girl doesn't even realize she'd gone too far, prostituting her integrity for bargain. I say she crossed the line.
But she's not the only one.
Do you know the difference between frugality and cheapness? Some people will say it's merely a semantic distinction, but I say it's something else. Cheapness is a certain money-saving savoire-faire that borders on zealotry. I know the type, because I'm a recovering cheapskate.
Someone who's frugal might shop at a thrift store. Someone who's cheap will donate one box a day to the same thrift store in order to get a $5 off one item coupon per box, then go through the checkout line buying $5 items one at a time. The cheapskate is fixated on the bargain, and will do anything to get it. Using guerilla-style couponning tactics at the thrift store? I'd say that's pretty cheap.
Buying a used sofa at a yard sale for use in your playroom. Frugal. Buying lingerie at a yard sale? Cheap. Definitely cheap. Selling used lingerie. Tacky. But that's fodder for another hub.
I'll be the first one to admit that bargain hunting has its rewards. Most recently I found a new, one-thousand-dollar Pfaff sewing machine, in its original box and packaging at a yard sale. I called my mother-in-law who makes about thirty small quilts a year, and she was happy to pay one-third of the price. And that's not the only bargain, it's just one of the really good ones. I beam with pride when people remark that a piece of furniture in my home looks good. Almost every item of furniture is second-hand. My thrifty pride causes my chest (and my head) to swell. After all, it takes some ingenuity and a good eye to find the treasures amid all the junk.
But as people try to stretch their dollars uncommonly far, the thrifty frugal practices become more and more questionable. What about the family who shows up on the food bank doorsteps because the free box of food is such a good deal? I'm not talking about anyone who is hurting financially, who really needs it. No, I'm talking about the frugal zealot who sees this practice as "gleaning" or just "using what's free and available to the public."
So what IS the line between frugal and cheap? The line forms at bending and breaking the rules, and you've fully scaled it when you find you've sold your integrity to save a dollar or two. You out of control nice-frugal-girls-turned-wild, I have something to say to you: Don't sell your souls for a mess of pottage. It isn't worth it.
One final thought: passing hand-me-down clothing from one child to the next is a common practice in middle-class families. Definitely frugal. After all, who wants to spend $20 at the mall on a shirt for a three-year old who will outgrow it in three months? Passing down said three-year old's used underwear down the line of progeny? Cheap. And shame on you if this is a revelation.