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Watch the Pennies


In some circles, it’s considered a nasty ‘c’ your pennies

But I grew up in a family of couponers.

Not Extreme Couponers, like in the trashy reality TV show in the United States.

We were in the more moderate faction.

Each weekend, Dad would sit down with the newspapers, and what I now consider to be junk mail, and cut out all the coupons.

As kids, it was exciting.

Sitting down at Sizzler, we’d clink our plastic glasses and say “Cheers!” to the $2.50 we’d saved.

However, as a cynical teenager, I mocked this practice.

“Bah, humbug!” I told Dad (or words to that effect). “It’s not really saving that much. And how much time does it take cutting out the damn things, anyway?”

Further scepticism ensued when Coles and Woolworths were rapped over the knuckles by the A-C-C-C for their shopper docket schemes at service stations.

Meanwhile, consumer group CHOICE criticised loyalty programs, such as frequent flyer points, as being “poor value”.

Certainly, many store incentive cards benefit the seller more than the buyer.

And there’ve been complaints about daily deal sites, such as Groupon.

(These include stores not having the item in stock, restrictive times for service appointments, and vendors going out of business.)

But I think there’s a lot to be said for the old-fashioned coupon.

Dad collects discount vouches from the big shopping centres then stops at each one for the individual sale items.

No loyalty is required, so the shopper secures the best bargains.

You can also compare prices, to make sure it’s a genuine saving.

They’re also handy if you’re buying in bulk. (One episode of Extreme Couponing was about a woman who bought 1000 rolls of toilet paper in the one – ahem – sitting. We’re not that crazy. Well, not yet, anyway.)

I see it as a modern day version of the adage, “Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”.

After all, this is the basis of compound interest, which, in turn, is the theory upon which superannuation, home loans, and some bank deposits are based. (As long as you invest the money you saved couponing!)

We’ve saved a lot by following for discounts on gas, electricity and insurance.

Hubby proudly boasts that he’s never bought anything, unless it was on sale.

Although he earns less than me, he manages to save more. (He’s also never owned a credit card, a lesson I am yet to learn from him….)

But how much time does it take to make these savings? And, if time is money, is this false economy?

I guess it depends on how you do it.

Dad always got us to help him cut out the shopper dockets, so it was seen as family time.

Then, a day at the shops was quite an adventure: rock ‘n’ roll wrestling at the red light specials; jumping the hurdles near the clearance bins; and celebrating with a victory lap around the car park.

Even now, Dad will bundle up the dockets and pop them in the mail to my sister and me.

It’s a lovely way to keep connected.

So, let’s raise a glass to the couponers of this world.

They’re a wise – albeit sometimes weird – mob!