In my last blog post, I discussed The Learning Channel’s “Extreme Couponing” and some of the results from my analysis of the first season. For this post, I will be talking about some of the interviews I have conducted with couponers from the Hampton Roads area.
There were of course similarities: all between the ages of 26 and 37, all female, all white. Other than that, however, there a lot of differences. The couponers worked in different field, were both married and single, and had a range of salaries. The reasons they started couponing were different, but had a similar theme. Some event prompted them. None of these couponers had always couponed, or just picked it up as a habit. One had to put herself through graduate school, another left her job to become a stay at home mom and had to make up the difference in income. In one case, couponing started as a way to afford groceries.
What surprised me the most was the time they spent on it. Most spent around 1-2 hours a week. A WEEK. I spend more time on Facebook. And while these couponers aren’t saving 98% off every grocery bill, they are still saving 50-80% regularly. These couponers had other things going on in their lives. They have jobs, and kids, and in one case going back to school online. None of the interviewees expressed distress when asked if they could see themselves giving up couponing. It was an important activity in their life, but not something that defined them to an extreme level.
There were also some interesting inconsistencies in their beliefs about couponing; one couponer told me that couponing is a diverse activity, while another told me it’s mostly upper middle class white housewives. One said that it was a great way for poorer families to save money, while another explained that the poorest families can’t always afford the Sunday paper, let alone computers or printers to help maximize savings. While these couponers might be grouped together culturally, it was very obvious that these were different individuals with different attitudes and motivations.
It would certainly be easier to say, “Well, none of the reasons provided really fit with the idea of a consumer culture! Guess that doesn’t fit!” but unfortunately most people aren’t going to flat out say, “I coupon so I can have all this stuff!” They might say, “I wanted to maintain a certain lifestyle” or “It was a very exciting experience when I started”. These are things to think about while I write my final paper, where I am very excited to finally look at everything: the previous research on consumerism and decision making, the reality show, and the personal interviews.
For those who are wondering (both of you), I did attempt to coupon using various strategies. I did pretty well, until I realized I was buying things I didn’t need right then, and creating a stockpile in my parents house was not very welcomed. I’m still most proud of getting a 64 oz bottle of Ocean Spray juice for only $50. And for getting a free internet security suite from Staples.