With all the popularity of shows like TLC’s Extreme Couponing and websites like Thrifty Divas, a lot of people think that couponing is a new thing. To the contrary, couponing has been around for almost 125 years! That’s hard for even me to believe.
I little history for you, the first coupon was from the Coca-Cola company in 1887.
According to Wikipedia, “it is estimated that between 1894 and 1913 one in nine Americans had received a free Coca-Cola, for a total of 8,500,000 free drinks.”
In 1930 during the Great Depression, America saw a HUGE influx of coupon use. And as our country has continued to struggle economically throughout the past 10 years, this may have led to the popularity that couponing has become.
I thought it would be interesting to talk to someone who’s been doing it for much longer than I’ve been alive. I am absolutely fascinated with this veteran coupon user’s answer. She also happens to be one of my mom’s best friends. I remember being younger than 10 and going with her and my mom to Kroger when they would do double and triple coupons for a weekend. And it was as many coupons as you had! You don’t see that often now!
Being from the south, we call everything Mrs. So here are Mrs. Kae Tea’s answers to our couponing questions.
Q. How long have you been couponing?
A. I have been couponing since I married 43 years ago. My mother couponed as long as I can remember, so I guess I’m second generation. Until my dad died (he was a sports editor for the Tampa Tribune ) we got many papers every Sun. He would spend every Sunday afternoon watching sporting events and clipping all the coupons. They would keep what they wanted and send me the rest in a big manilla envelope every couple of weeks. In the early days many coupons had no expiration or they were good for 5 – 7 months. I still have some of those no expiration for products that no longer exist.
Q. Why did you start?
A. I started couponing because our funds were very limited. My husband was in the Navy when we first married, in Vietnam. We then worked laying pipelines and that is feast or famine. You really had to make your money last so you would have funds to get to the next job and set up your household. Moving around I became familiar with the store policies of the bigger supermarkets. During the many years of economic good times in the US, us couponers were looked down on–or considered cheap or strange. They sure didn’t want to get behind us in the check out–that’s still true today.
Q. What are some of the best deals you have gotten or are proud of?
A. I’ve gotten many good deals over the years. In the mid 80’s Howard Bros. Discount Centers went out of business and they had a triple coupon sale. I paid $50 for almost $200 worth of stuff. I spread it all out in the den floor. My daughter and her friends came in, but no one was very impressed. In 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit the coast one of the local churches became a large shelter. I provided over 30 people with toiletries and paper products in the shelter. I also used my stock pile of laundry products to wash 20-30 loads a day for the shelter.
Q. How much do you think you’ve saved in all your years of couponing?
A. I’m sure I’ve saved many thousands of dollars over the years. In the early days, the coupons were smaller but the cost of living and wages were also smaller. I actually almost lost my life over my coupons. My husband was working out of Jackson, MS on Highway 49 (the main route to Florida). I would go stay for four days a week and come home for three. I came in and sorted all my coupons, disposing of the expired ones, then went to run errands. After returning to the motel, I started looking for my coupons. I knew I put them in my Suburban. I retraced my steps and returned to all the places I had gone, but nothing. My husband came in and we went to dinner. When we turned into the restaurant I saw my coupons scattered in the median of highway 49. I dropped my husband off at the restaurant and drove back to where my coupons were. It was dark. I gathered up what I could and started back across the south bound side. This is when I tripped on my clogs and fell face down in the road. I looked up to see the traffic coming right for me, including several 18 wheelers and heard the brakes screeching. I got up and crossed the road. When I got back to the restaurant my husband said, “You look white as a ghost, like you’ve been in a fight and your eyes are buggy.” I had to examine my couponing priorities after that. I need to clarify that I had put the coupons on the Suburban roof and drove off. I pass that spot at least twice a year and relive that occurrence.
Q. What do you think about this new generation of couponers and all the extreme couponing that’s been going on?
A. I think the extreme couponing is fascinating to watch and I do understand their emotions. My experiences were on a much smaller basis. I was known in many stores as the coupon lady and some stores used me to train their checkers on coupons. These days coupons are in. When I was in Montgomery, Alabama recently, I saw many people with large sports card albums for their coupons. I saw them everywhere. This turn around has helped us get more and better coupons. Not too long ago discussions were going on about many places eliminating coupons for their products because the percentage of unused coupons was so large. This is definately not the case today.
Q. What do you like the best about couponing?
A. The best thing about couponing is of course the savings. Probably the worst is all the hours it takes to clip, sort and the organization of where to shop and what to buy. Computers make it all much easier than in the old days. You can get a coupon for almost anything on the internet and call up just about any store’s policies. I think the rush is just about the same, whether it is today or years ago—it’s a matter of setting a goal & accomplishing your goal.
Q. What advice would you give someone just starting to coupon?
A. As far as advice for today’s couponer I really don’t have any. I’m too much of neat freak for too much of a stash. I buy it if I can use it or know someone else who can–but I’m not really in to just buying to buy. Several friends save me the coupons they don’t want and I pass them on. I also try to gt the baby coupons to people with babies because those supplies are so expensive.
Q. Any final thoughts?
A. Couponing has really been a hobby for me—the extreme couponers seem like it is a full time job. I don’t want it to be work—girls just want to have fun!
Do you have a question for our veteran couponer? Let us know and we’ll see if she’ll answer some from our readers!
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