Friday, October 22, 2010

I have an obsessive need to use every coupon I receive. This is not good. But, you may say to me, you're saving money! So what's the issue? There are several issues. Time for a (semi, not really) brief list of said issues. I've bolded the key points for easy reference, not that it's really beneficial, or that you particularly care:
  1. I typically end up spending more than I'm saving. Yes, I get some good deals, but me receiving a coupon means me buying something I most likely wouldn't have bought without said coupon. Example: Trisha gets coupon for $10 off a purchase at a Nike outlet. Does Trisha need new sneakers? (No) Does Trisha even like Nike products? (Not particularly) Will Trisha still go to the store and buy an $80 pair of sneakers for $70 just to use the coupon? (Of course)

    CVS is another good example. You know how you get those coupons at the bottom of your receipt for say, $2 off a pack of brand XYZ sleep-aids or buy-one-bottle-of-wrinkle-remedy-get-one-free? You can bet I buy every single one of those items, most of which end up in a random drawer at home... because really, how much of that junk do you need? Yet I can't resist the incentive of savings! But, you never know, maybe someday I'll decide to go back to taking Flintstone vitamins or a young cousin will stay over and it will be my chance to teach them about healthy habits... and I saved money, so the purchase can be justified, right? Of course, I get these coupons every time I visit CVS so each visit ultimately leads to just another one. Vicious cycle of unnecessary spending.

  2. Going hand in hand with issue number 1 is that you usually have to spend X dollars to use the coupon or rack up say, 10 purchases at a store to get $20 off your next one. Both cases lead me to spend more than I have to. Instead of buying just one item I may actually want or need, I have to buy four to get the discount. Great example here is this deli I've been frequenting in between work and rehearsals during the week to kill time (and have some dinner). Now, I work in one of the richest, most expensive counties in the country. Things here are far from inexpensive. A regular old sandwich at this little mom and pop deli could easily cost me more than $10. After every purchase they give you a green slip of paper with their logo on it. Turn in 15 of these and get a free sandwich. I've gone there every day, determined to earn 15 of these said coupons just to be sure that I get a free sandwich for my loyalty. It's to the point where I'm sick of sandwiches. To be honest, I'm looking forward to the day that I finally get my free slices of bread and meat just so that I don't have to go there anymore. That's right, I said "have to", because going there is basically a necessity until I earn my well deserved free meal. At the end of the day I'll end up having spent at least $150 on 10 sandwiches just to get one for free that probably would have cost $2 to make on my own. But I need that free sandwich.

  3. While coupons typically offer a good deal for whatever the particular store is, quite often similar products are available full price at other stores for cheaper than the coupon's discount offers me. Make sense? Best example I can give here is Borders. At least twice a week I get emails with coupons for 33% off any one item, or 20% off all paperbacks.'s average savings (sans coupon) is something like 45% from the listed price. Almost all of the time it's cheaper to order books regular price from Amazon than to buy them at Borders, using the best coupons Borders offers. If it's not cheaper at Amazon then it's at least the same cost. I don't think I've ever once gotten a better price at Borders than at Amazon. Yet I get those bi-weekly Borders deals and HAVE to use them. It must be psychological with the savings. Well nice marketing campaign on their end, because I can't even tell you how many books I've bought at Borders in the past month alone. It seems every weekend I'm going there because I have another coupon it will kill me not to use.

    Another word about that psychological savings thing... it really is a smart way for businesses to get customers in their store. Their regular price items could be as high as they want but so long as there's a discount offered, people will buy what they're selling. There's an Indian restaurant I go to whose prices are quite higher than average for the area. However, when they bring you the check the waiter always says "I gave you an extra 10% discount". Every time, without fail. So really, their ultimate costs are probably on par with other Indian restaurants in the area, or possibly still more expensive. But this "automatic 10% discount" makes me feel special and keeps me coming back. It's an obvious trick, but a smart one that I completely fall for. Honestly, I'm encouraged to return just to reward them for their clever business scheme.

  4.  Final issue with these coupons is that it's usually the same stores I receive coupons to over and over and as a result, I end up shopping there on a fairly continuous basis. I already mentioned Borders, a.k.a the reason why I need to purchase a new bookshelf due to my overload of books that keep coming in weekly. I must say they are the primary culprit. However, Express gives them a run for their money. (Pardon the trite expression). Now I love Express, but to me it's a "treat store". Its prices are higher than I can realistically afford if I'm shopping there to fill my wardrobe because I'm basically poor. I'm really a $30 or under for pants and $20 or under for tops type of shopper and Express' average ticket price is closer to $80. Needless to say, I only shop there when I'm depressed and looking to splurge (retail therapy) or if I can get a really good deal with a combination of sale prices and coupons. They like to send me $30 off $75 or $50 off $150 type of coupons. They like to send them to me a lot more often than I prefer to receive them. Because once it's received, within a day or two it is spent. I don't often buy new clothes for myself so this type of deal is okay with me, except when it happens more than once a month... and it's still difficult for me, who is usually a discount/bargain clothes shopper, to walk out of the store having spent $100 on only three items, despite the $50 off I received. Just last weekend I went to the store to make some big purchases using one of their coupons and what happened? Two days later I got an email for $30 off $75. Even though I just went to the store and spent over $100, I promptly went online and ordered some of the other things I had wanted, but didn't buy. If they sent me a coupon daily you could bet I'd probably own the store's entire collection within a relatively short time frame.

  5. Okay, I lied about that being the final issue. While typing issue #4 I thought up issue #5. Usually the coupons you receive regularly are all for expensive stores. This is really kind of a combo of issues #3 and #4, but let's ignore that fact. I've mentioned Borders, I've mentioned Express, both of which have somewhat higher than standard ticket prices... depending on your definition of standard. For someone like me (read, very little to no discretionary income), standard = discount-ish places a la Walmart or Forever 21. Sephora is another place that sends me coupon codes on a regular basis. Do I really need another $30 eyeshadow? The overflowing makeup bins at my house will tell you no. But I'll buy it if Sephora's offering a bonus-size free item with any $50 purchase. (Then of course after the $30 eyeshadow I have to spend another $20 to reach $50 and in reality, an additional $25 on top of that in order to get free shipping because I refuse to pay shipping for anything).
Why do I do it? Why do I keep buying things I don't need, from expensive stores, just because they say "shop here between these three days and we'll give you 20% off your purchase"? It's completely psychological. Even if you don't immediately need something you purchase, discounts = spending more now to possibly save more later = being a smart shopper = little pat on the back to self + new stuff! And what's wrong with that equation?! It's like a little treat to yourself (fun new stuff!) that makes you feel good about spending money (because you saved money too!). It's indulgent without being overly indulgent. Who doesn't fantasize about getting luxurious new items? If you're offered a discount, it's a perfect excuse to go ahead and make that purchase you dream of! So what if the "luxurious" item is a new book or a fairly common pair of jeans? If you wouldn't buy it full price any other day, it's a luxurious item in my mind. Hence that exercise dvd suddenly has this feeling of luxury. It may be completely ridiculous, wasteful and result in some degree of "spending guilt", but I don't see my coupon obsession ending anytime soon. And ultimately, I'm okay with that. We all deserve a little treat from time to time... or bi-weekly :-) and you might as well feel thrifty while indulging, even if your savings aren't really so great. Justifiable or completely illogical?... don't answer that.

Do I need new fabrics? Not at all. Will I find a use for them
if I buy them? Probably not. Will I buy some anyway?
Most likely. Who can resist those colorful swatches!?! 
(Or that lovely 10% off sign?)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

So it's been roughly 4 months since I've updated my sad little blog here. The reason is not from a lack of ideas... (at one point I had a written out a list of 6 or so blog topics I wanted to sit down and write... of course, now they all escape me... my memory is slowly dying away at age 24, although it was never that strong to begin with, while my ingenuity and motivation comes and goes in random outbursts). I can't blame my lack of writing on being too terribly busy either. I have been busy, but I've always been busy... it can't be an excuse now if it never was one before. I'm going to stop discussing why I haven't written. Just like that. Done.

Today's topic goes back to my old school style blogs. My more recent blogs have dealt with my ponderings on life, random ideas I dream up, bizarre lists I create, etc..  But back in the day I was not so philosophical, and I was arguably, less random. My blog posts were simply stories of what happened in my life, sort of like a humorous diary shared for the reading pleasures of the world (or just me, foolishly narcissistic in the belief that others rushed to read about my life). Today's post is simple... a story about something small and insignificant that happened to me that I found rather amusing.

So, on a recent weekend I went up to Mass. with my boyfriend to choreograph. The hotel we stayed at was no Ritz Carlton, but it had a decent enough pool slash hot-tub area that we were lounging around in. This hotel also had a couple of meeting/event type rooms, a ballroom, and the like for weddings, conferences and other such social occasions. Well, we had noticed during this weekend stay that there was some type of event or reception going on for an Orthodox Jewish group. It was kind of a difficult thing to miss. While we were in the pool area (switching between the hot tub and the pool so as to avoid the groups of children) we saw the whole Jewish group start to convene in one of the hotel's big event rooms. All of a sudden, around the corner, through the traditionally dressed sea of Jewish men, women and children, comes a man decked out in the full on Scottish garb.

That's right. Full on Scottish garb. He was carrying a bagpipe of course. Did we miss something? Did this Jewish group hire a Scottish bagpipe player? That somehow strikes us as odd, but what do we know? We're not Jewish. I suppose it's entirely possible Scottish bagpipe players are part of their customary traditions, however incredibly unlikely it may seem. (Just kidding?) Or maybe they just wanted to let loose with a little Celtic music. (Just kidding again?) We look with curiosity.

Scottish man starts playing his bagpipe. Then he starts walking around the pool, playing his bagpipe. Even the crazy pool children stopped splashing. It was just too bizarre to do anything but stand there and watch. Many of the hotel's rooms had sliding doors that opened directly to the pool area. These said doors opened in rapid succession at the bagpiper's first few notes. It was difficult to tell if people were more a) confused, b) angry at the noise or c) pleasantly surprised by the evening's entertainment. One man pulled out his cell phone... I thought he was calling someone to complain, but Vinny thought he was calling his wife. I think Vinny's guess was closer because sure enough the guy held out his phone for whoever was on the other end to listen and enjoy. He pulled up a lounge chair and sat outside his room. I'm still watching the Jewish clan entering the room, trying to notice if any of them are finding the music bizarre or, on the other side, if they're waiting for him to enter the room. But they seem to pay him no mind and as for the Scottish dude, he stuck firmly to the pool area.

Vinny got up to get his camera just as the guy stopped playing. I watched bagpipe and player round the corner and disappear. I should have followed. All I can say is I'm fairly certain that he was not hired by the Jewish party. Maybe one of the other halls was rented for a Scottish wedding and he was tuning up around the pool? Good acoustics? Maybe he was just a tourist with an unusual hobby who thought no one would question him if he wore a strange outfit? Whatever his purpose, it was amusingly out of the ordinary and rather fun to observe.

This was the closest image I could find of a bagpipe player near a pool, and a possible lake background is hardly a pool. Just goes to show how rare a bagpipe player near a pool is. I attempted searching jewish bagpipe player first but there were no results.