I like to take any chance I am afforded to I-told-you-so my Washington DC brother-in-law. First, the guy went to West Point and served two tours in Iraq flying helicopters in the Army. He taught himself French or Italian or Swahili during the first tour using Rosetta Stone and now he attends grad school at Georgetown for a higher degree in international spying, or something like that. More than once when talking to my sister on the phone her husband was in the background playing video games, which John translates as, “Either he’s okay with making really bad grades, or his classes just aren’t hard enough.” He catches grammatical and spelling mistakes in my blog with more frequency than my mother and husband combined, but usually has the decency not to tell me until after I have finally corrected them myself. He’s probably good at crossword puzzles. My family likes to joke that we can’t figure out how Laura managed to marry such a smart man and in the same breath we’re all thanking God she did.
My middle sister is one of the most positive and loving humans I have managed to keep close to me in life. My baby sister and I attribute Laura’s lack of cynicism to the same thing inside her responsible for her SAT scores and disinterest in reading. Bless her heart, she’s just not wired to over-think things, or fully think things, as the case may be. Meanwhile, her genius husband is doing enough over-thinking for the both of them. The guy is usually a second away from labeling something he does not recognize (or fully understand) as a scam.
I got an email from Claire the other day about some ‘House Party?’ I deleted it though. I think it was scam.
No Laura, we are not getting the car inspected. I know for a fact that my car is not emitting some poisonous toxin into the atmosphere. I don’t need some grease monkey down at the Jiffy Lube to use a diagnostic test to tell me that for fifteen bucks. It’s a state-mandated tax scam.
Premium gas…full service gas stations…tipping limo and taxi drivers…the mega-church offering plate? HUGE scam.
Instant rebate? Total scam. There’s nothing instant about it. You might get your money back, after you hand over your right testicle and the big toenail of your firstborn child.
After explaining to him that we used two of those generic home improvement gift cards with complete success and no trouble whatsoever at Home Depot the other day his only comment was, “Count yourself lucky!”
But my current example: drug store rewards.
*NOTE: I realize my family is more than annoyed by any conversation revolving around my coupon psychosis, so I am apologizing in advance but warning you that if you choose to read on, none of you are allowed to pick on me for this. This brother-in-law seriously believes that when an item is advertized as “free after money back” it is an advertizing trick to get you to buy something you do not need, just because it is free. And, when any increment of money is printed at the register after a purchase, this is only a ploy to get customers to come back in to the store and buy something they do not need, just to use the so-called free money. Don’t even get him started on what it means if you forget about the coupon on your receipt and let it expire, or, God forbid, throw the thing away and never use it.
To some degree, I can agree that this is likely the intention of the drug store. But may I submit that the system can be manipulated in favor of the customer, and such “rewards” can become exactly that.
I’m not going into detail on the hows here, but in light of the year ending, and all this free time on my hands, I’ve been doing my second favorite thing in the world: number crunching.
If I was forced to explain exactly how these totals were calculated, I’m afraid I’d be admitting to belonging to a level of freak-dom that even I am ashamed to own up to. But in the absence of (dare I say it?) a real job, I have devoted myself to analyzing our family budget and honestly evaluating if my efforts have been worth it this year.
Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I do not have hoarders shelves built into my garage for the storing of my extreme-couponing booty, and even when certain deals are too good to pass up, if the item is something that we absolutely could not or would not use, I don’t give in and purchase it just because it is a good deal. I have, however, almost completely given up on shopping at Walmart and Sam’s Club, and have made drug store shopping my job on the side.
This year alone I spent exactly $137.19 at drug stores for a little over $1,200 worth of products. This number does not reflect the retail value of the products, but the sale prices, and the difference is all accounted for in coupons, rebates, and register rewards.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not boasting of my money savings in the same vein that people boast of promotions at work. By that token I’d basically be announcing that I have a degree from Baylor University that I’m using to make about $10 an hour, which is paid out in ziplock baggies and toilet paper. And I’m not trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking or shopping. In fact, the opposite is true, because secretly I fear that if more people were doing this the drug stores would catch on and my days of free contact solution and money making Herpes vitamins would be over.
I’m simply saying, drug store rewards are not a scam. A diagnosable addiction, for drug-free non-smokers like me, but not a scam.