This article, Four Stages of a Frugal Zealot, is an article people mention to me all the time when I meet them in the grocery store or after a public speaking engagement. I wrote it in March 2010, but dusted it off and am sharing it again in May 2011. I think it’s timeless.
Reflecting on my
almost four more than five years as an intense frugal zealot, I see four stages of zealot-osity that I passed through. I’m sharing them with you, in hopes that those new to using coupons can know what’s to come and old-timers…ahem…long-timers to hunting deals can relate and laugh.
First, exuberant deal-hunting. This is the first time you learn how-to never pay for toothpaste again. You’ll want to run to every store, get in on every deal, buy 10,000 tubes of toothpaste when you see it’s only $0.02. Chasing deals is a thrill, becomes a hobby and is a ton of fun. Keep your wits about you though, because stage 2 is coming. Why didn’t someone tell you about this exciting world sooner? Oh, and did I mention you might just dream about coupons?
Stage two is exhaustion. You start to realize that toothpaste goes on sale once per month for $0.02 (made up example, it isn’t really on sale for $0.02) and so you aren’t in a rush to grab 10,000 tubes, or even 10 tubes, every time you see it at that price. In fact, your pantry is full and cupboards are stocked, so you take some time off. You might quit rushing to see the Sunday paper first thing in the morning and some deals even pass you by (*gasp*). You feel like you’re on well-deserved and much-needed vacation from the part-time job of finding the best deal.
Then you arrive at stage three, which is balance. You come back to wanting a deal and reading the shopping lists after a few weeks off. You’re different now though. You are willing to let some of the deals go. There is always another sale, always another coupon, always another deal and if you miss this one, you’ll get in on it next time and you won’t lose any sleep about it. Basically, you figure out a healthy and manageable way to integrate coupons into your life. You’ve learned the skills you need to get your shopping lists together quickly and to roll with the punches when things don’t go as planned.
Finally, you pay it forward. After you can comfortably find the deals, use the coupons without having your stress-level skyrocket and you’ve learned the tricks of the trade, then you’re ready to teach and inspire others to do the same. Watean is that for me, but I know many of you are paying it forward in your own ways. You hold classes to teach your friends how to use Watean, you lead coupon sessions at church, you give food away to those in need or you meet your best friend at the store on her first couponing trip. You’ve established enough of your own personal system that you can teach others in ways they deeply appreciate. Like anything good in life, you just can’t keep it to yourself.
Your turn: Do you identify with any of these stages? Are there other stages you went or are going through?