To Coupon or Not to Coupon, That is the Question

CouponingIn my household of four we are consumers but in the literal sense, we buy it and we consume it, so there is no hoarding going on here, not even toilet roll. I don’t hate coupons, but I do love to save money and I’m willing to make it worth my while to clip them. However, reflecting on my shopping experiences has given me pause to consider if it’s really necessary—whether the time and energy it takes is worth the savings.

There are so many resources available; entire books have been written on couponing to help one become a thrifty and savvy shopper. Me? When it comes to grocery shopping I like to stick to the simplicity of clipping coupons, browsing through the weekly flyer ads and striving to benefit from the in-store discounts that are offered. Buy one get one free is terrific, but lately it’s all becoming too complex. I typically end up going to three out of six grocery stores in my area. (Hey, don’t judge, this works for me!)

Here’s the thing: strategic planning is necessary and I’m on a budget. I have this neat phone app that helps me (a shopping list with bar scanner and the ability to take pictures as well as keep track of my spending), so once I’ve looked at the flyer ads, weeded through coupons, checked the expiration dates and created my shopping list, it’s off to the races. I want to take every advantage, and this weekend I had an epiphany—instead of fighting though the competitive traffic of other shoppers on a Saturday morning, I decide to go at 5am.

Wonderful! Hardly anybody in the store, so I’m thinking this shouldn’t take long. I’m strolling along, purse in arm, flyer and coupons in one hand and phone app in the other. In the meantime, I’m scouring the items in front of me (this gives multitasking a new definition). Hang on, this item isn’t on the flyer, it’s not on my list either, but it’s on sale and it’s too good of a deal to pass up, so it take’s me a minute to decide. Sold! Moving on, I compare prices, brands, fumble through coupons (now I need an app to manage my coupons), fiddle with the phone app, but soon grow tired of punching in the data. I try to make smart decisions while trying to stay on budget, but these discounts and sales are hard to pass up. Sod it! And forget the budget! I become overwhelmed by it all and to my horror, I’ve spent an hour and forty-five minutes and have yet to check out. And it’s only my first stop.

This does not bode well. What kind of an idiot (oh yeah, me) subjects herself to this pantomime? I can’t help but get angry with myself in allowing these sales and coupons to become lordship and manipulate me. I’m mentally drained and physically exhausted, and I’m over budget. And this pesky phone app, a completely objective device designed to make life easier, ends up being abandoned, not to mention what I’ve spent in gas hopping from one store to the other.

At the end of the day, after reviewing my receipts, I find to my dismay I could have saved another $4 because I overlooked some coupons. However, I did save about $66 dollars and that is an excellent deal. So yes! In my world of madness, couponing will continue until I can figure out a more practical way to shop.

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Reasons to Smile on the Most Depressing Day of the Year

Blue Monday

Happy Friday the 13th! While this day may be a bit of a mood downer for superstitious people and overzealous Friday the 13th movie fans, this coming Monday is poised to be the biggest downer of a day yet. According to a mental health charity, Monday, Janury 16, 2012, will be the most depressing day of the year.

Now this isn’t something the nonprofit just pulled out of their you-know-what — there’s actually a science behind choosing this day. The charity’s formula for calculating “Blue Monday” factors in weather conditions, current debt level (did you spend too much over the holidays, too?), time since Christmas, time since failing our New Year’s resolutions and a few others.

Each year, the date changes, although it always falls on a Monday in January. Last year, “Blue Monday” actually fell on my birthday…as did it in 2005 (how’s that for icing on your cake?).

This year, it actually falls on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, meaning that many people across the country actually have the day off to commemorate him, also meaning they’re probably not feeling as down as other Mondays in January (I wonder if the “Blue Monday” creators actually considered the holiday as a factor?)

Regardless, I wanted to give you all a few dollops of happiness in your drear by pointing out a few things us folks at marketing and PR agencies can do to feel happy today:

Use Your Company’s Communications Channels for Good vs. Evil
As I shared, it’s Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Read any of his moving speeches or biographies for instant inspiration. Use all your agencies’ channels for spreading unique content to share his message — your blogs, Twitter and Facebook pages, YouTube channels, etc. If you actually have the day off today, then go out and use it as a day of service. Nothing will boost your mood faster than helping others.

Sell a Harder-Sell Story
If you’re in PR, it’s a great day to reach out to media about your non-timely feature story ideas. Why? Less people will be contacting the press because they’re off work, meaning that reporter you’re planning to call might actually have time to hear your pitch in detail. Also, Valentine’s Day is now about a month away, so, if you haven’t already, think about how you can tie in the “holiday of love” to your clients.

Set Daily Resolutions to Replace Any Failed New Year’s Resolutions
As the “Blue Monday” equation factors in, many people have likely failed to keep up their New Year’s Resolutions by this Monday. Feel better on Monday — and during the rest of the week — by setting daily goals that also help you grow in your capabilities as a marketing professional and give you something you can cross off your list as “Accomplished!” at the end of the day. Spend 30 minutes today learning a new software, social network or app, and then think about how one of your clients may find it useful.

Take a Coworker to Lunch
Is there someone at your agency who you don’t know a lot about, or even what projects he or she is working on? Invite him or her to lunch to share what you’re working on, share some of your challenges and see if your coworker has any thoughts (and ask him or her to do the same). How does this make you feel happier? You made a deeper connection with a new person, you got your creative juices flowing and you likely got a new perspective on some of your current projects.

Have any other pick-me up ideas on Blue Monday? Please share them in the comments below.

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