Couponing, a North American “Sport”

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At home, we always joke that if a product is expensive, I’m naturally attracted to it; and that if product is cheap, Feng is the one who can’t resist buying it. This is especially true when it comes to food: Feng likes good deals while I always subconsciously think that if food is inexpensive, there must be a catch. I guess it’s my French upbringing: in the old world, we think of food as a delicacy—the less, the more expensive, and the more expensive, the better.

This is probably why it took me a while to get into “couponing”—a very North America sport and a verb since the TLC show, “Extreme Couponing.” Indeed, “Coupon” may be a French word but these little pieces of paper are not used much in Europe. French go crazy during the sales periods, twice a year (imagine, in France, sales periods are regulated by the government!), but the rest of the time, they aren’t natural bargain-hunters—maybe because of this very French taboo?

When I first came to Canada, I did notice stacks of flyers filling the mailbox and catalogues left periodically at the front door, but I didn’t think much of it. Spontaneously, I’d put all that in the recycle bin. I mean, I hadn’t skimmed through a brochure since I was a six years old impatiently waiting to look at the Galerie Lafayette toys catalogue around Christmas time!

Feng like to skim through flyers. Sometimes, it drives me crazy. But I must admit they do contain some good deals. For instance, we often get coupons for restaurants in our neighbourhood. Since we go there once in a while, may as well use the “20% off dinner” or “two for one” offers, right?

Last year, I also started to use coupons for services, such as massage, pedicure, facials etc. These online deals are great is you are willing to be flexible and to read the fine print, and so far I haven’t had any bad surprises.

This is called “recession 101”: scoring deals is in, and paying full price is so 2008.

The savings added up, and little by little, I got into couponing. Don’t be afraid if I’m in front of you at the cash register—I’m not as bad as these people who show up with two carts of food and hundreds of coupons. I only collect coupons for brands I actually use, and I don’t have a pantry full of cans “because they were cheap.”

Lately, I discovered I could also get online codes discount. Ever better than browsing  badly-designed supermarket flyers, I can go online, search for the products or the brands I’m interested in, and get a coupon if available. If so, I just have to print it. Ta-da! That’s how I save quite a lot on amazon.ca,  or on photo printing, for instance.

In North America, competition between stores is fierce, and consumers can easily take advantage of it. I’m not saying you should go to great lengths to save a few pennies but shopping around, comparing prices and using coupons when available is a great way to make your money go further.

How about you? Do you use coupons? Do you have any tips for saving money?

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

19 Comments

  1. Hmm, I only use coupons every once in a while, for a couple of reasons. First, most of the coupons are attached to the newspaper, which I have no subscription to (I read my news online). Second, most of the coupons are discounts for more costly items, which can still be more expensive even after the coupon compared to the store brand, which I don’t mind for most items. Third, I know there’s Groupon and things, but come to think of it, most of the “deals” are about stuff that I would not want in the first place, and I have an idea that it is only the illusion of savings that makes people buy it, not exactly the need.

    • I know exactly what you mean with Groupon and the like, you have to make sure you would actually need the “deal”. Otherwise, it’s tempting to just spend and spend!

  2. I rarely use coupons – not sure why. It’s not as if I’m rolling in money! But I watch for sales of the products I do use and stock up.
    Best way to save money? Stay clear of certain stores! If I go to Homesense, it’s a struggle not to spend money – I might have gone in for just one item but see so many beautiful things I (DON’T) need but would love to have!

  3. Well there was a TV show this week about how the French are starting to get into couponing. I don’t really do that my-self because I mostly buy used or old stuff … I love cheapo 🙂

  4. Living in NYC, my friends and I have made it a skill in finding the best ‘meal deals’ in the area. Yet, we are often tempted to spend a little more when we hear about a new restaurant or trend of food that has come to the neighborhood… So, in the end, we struggle with watching our spending when we go out to eat..

  5. I never realized the value of this sport until one of my coworker told me… “In America, if you buy things (specially electronics) without coupons you must be a stupid”

    From then on, I started this game. yes it brings huge difference especially in electronics. I have got savings up to 100 USD.

  6. I’ve never really got into couponing, but after hearing about some of the amazing deals through Groupon and other sights, think it might be worth trying. I’ve heard about the show “Extreme Couponing” but have never watched it. How is it? I must admit while I don’t use coupons I am big into collecting reward miles, Airmiles, Frequent Flyer points, etc.

  7. Hi Zhu,
    I haven’t used coupons yet, I admit I find it very embarrassing to ask for a dollar off. I’m quite zealous about the flyers though. Every friday one of my favourite activities is to go to work (well that’s not a favourite) and browse online flyers of 3-4 stores. Several have weekend airmiles bonuses for example. As a result, I end up having a dozen toothpastes, but that’s a different story.

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