My Mom always had (and still has) a coupon drawer. It was where she stashes any coupon she might find in her Valu-pak, any and all coupons attached to a box of pizza, scissors, birthday candles, and the one book of matches in our home, circa 1972.
To call my Mom a bargain shopper would be an understatement. I think she has spent her whole life carefully calculating the tricks and habits of our local Safeway, and thus has become somewhat of a silent-but-deadly lion when it comes to getting in and out of the grocery store without paying full price for a single item. But here's the thing: I don't think I've ever seen her use any of the coupons she painstakingly collects. They just sit in her drawer, expiring one by one. It's one of the many enigmas about her.
As I've been trying to organize my life here in Pleasantville, I began my own coupon drawer. I thought that I would be the one to master its organization as I tried and tested the grocery stores in close proximity for their deals, but a last-minute trip to Pottery Barn a couple of weeks ago because the 20% off coupon I'd forgotten about was going to expire in less than an hour was proof that I needed a new strategy.
For this, I turned to L's Mom, whose ability to organize is, without question, a God-given talent. Her kitchen has the cleanliness and order of a model home. She sits in that kitchen every Sunday, and, like a hawk on the look-out for prey, searches out coupons to use for the week. Last week, while watching football and trying to follow what was going on (a woman in her thirties should know the rules to football, I know. It's on my list.) she and I went through the Sunday paper and collected coupons for the week.
Her strategy is simple: Onsie coupons go in an envelope that is slipped into the purse, so they can be easily referenced. Coupons in a book get clipped just on one or two sides-- they flap like flags when you take them out of your purse, silently calling, 'Don't forget about me!' Genius, I'm telling you.
This week, I saved $3 on olive oil and $2 on two boxes of Multi-Grain Chex. I saved a total of about $20 at Costco (a euphoric feeling, I must say). I saved 20% and got a free lotion at Bath and Body Works. And it was through my shopping this week that I did some real mental comparisons between stores to see who truly has the best deals. Now that I've got the idea down it's starting to look like Christmas is going to be an exercise in clipping and buying, stalking and saving.
I remember being a woman in my twenties and worrying that I would look cheap looking for deals and clipping coupons, but all of that has changed. A woman in her thirties saves proudly. She brags to her friends about the deals she gets on rotisserie chicken, because she knows exactly when her local grocery store has it on sale. She wears her coupons like girl scout merit badges.
And when it comes to learning, she is one part lion and one part hawk. A lawk. Or a hion. A proud one.