Last week I was standing around with a group of friends and one of them brought up my blog and asked some critical questions about my having PF as such a huge hobby, so we were chatting about those concepts. (It’s so fun to have my IRL friends know about this blog. I love connecting with them over this unusual but revealing topic.) An acquaintance that didn’t know about EPF walked up to us and my friend started talking up my blog to him. (What an ego boost!) The acquaintance asked what I blog about and I said personal finance.
I laughed out loud while saying, “No, no!,” shaking my head, and waiving my hand from side to side.
Oops. Open mouth, insert foot.
I then apologized and said, “No, we don’t coupon. But it’s not necessarily a waste of time, it just depends on your shopping habits.”
Double oops. Second foot’s turn.
He didn’t say anything further to me about PF.
I try not to shut people down around the subject of money. Before I started blogging about PF I had ideas about how money should be handled, and blogging has simultaneously helped me crystallize those ideas and exposed me to communities of people who have very different ideas, much more so than what I encounter IRL. So I strive to be respectful of diverse positions on PF while getting my views across. (For example, in my post on joint finances from last week I tried to talk up joint finances while avoiding bashing other money management systems.)
The interesting thing about the coupon question specifically is that it’s one I’ve slightly shifted positions on because of the influence of the PF blogosphere. Had this acquaintance asked me if we coupon two years ago, I would still have said no but I wouldn’t have laughed.
I have tried grocery couponing in the past. Not in an extreme or particularly coordinated way, just dabbling. I subscribed to Coupon Mom and while I clipped occasionally online I never went so far as to order a Sunday paper for the coupons. Last year, I tried for several months to reduce our grocery costs by keeping a price book, paying attention to sale cycles and shopping at ALDI, which was an abject failure. For our style of eating (low-processed, generic, high-volume), coupons are fairly irrelevant and Costco offers great value. So about a year ago I gave up on complex, time-consuming strategies to reduce our grocery spending and just try to keep an eye on our budget, delay purchases when possible, shop at Costco regularly, and avoid waste.
Some people like to coupon and are very successful in reducing their spending. But I think you have to be quite careful about the value you’re getting for your time. This is the point on which the PF blogosphere has most influenced me: shifting my thinking from ‘spend less’ to ‘earn more.’
As a dual grad student household, we are kept at a low salary level without the possibility of receiving anything more than cost-of-living raises and are not allowed to hold outside jobs. In that situation, it makes sense to focus on reducing expenses, which we have done successfully.
But with the influences of all the industrious PF bloggers I read and our impending graduations, my mindset has shifted to how to earn more sometimes instead of spending less always. Cutting coupons in particular is a stereotypical example of a time-consuming activity that produces a small spending reduction in comparison with what could be earned if the coupon-cutter spent the time freelancing or working on a side business. (Whether or not that person actually has or would start a side hustle is a legitimate question, of course.) It also really came out of left field – no one I’ve told about EPF in the past has asked about couponing.
Even with all those thoughts swirling in my head when this acquaintance asked me if I coupon, I think the core reason that I laughed was that I imagined him picturing EPF to be a stereotypical couponing (mommy, though he knows I am not a mother) blog with the giveaways and the bright colors and graphics and absolute lack of interesting-to-me content. I don’t follow (you can’t even use the word ‘read,’ can you?) those types of blogs and I didn’t want him to have the idea that mine was like that. So when I laughed and denied it, I was moreover denying being a coupon blogger than I was the practice of couponing.
Of course, my acquaintance didn’t understand the furor his question provoked in my mind. He just saw me laughing at his question and dismissing the practice he inquired about. Since I don’t know him well, I’m not sure if his family coupons. Maybe it is a big hobby for them or a method by which they make their budget balance. I feel terrible that I may have shut down future conversations with him about PF by my careless reaction. In the future, I need to be more sensitive to the possible opinions and practices of people I don’t know well to keep from discouraging them.
Do the people you interact with IRL have very different attitudes about money than your or your blogger friends do? Have you ever laughed at a financial practice and did you regret it?
photo from Free Digital Photos