I grew up in a middle class New York City Jewish family where I was taught from an early age to "never pay retail" or, at the very least, "never pay full price." My parents and extended family were extraordinary bargain hunters who taught me early how to spot quality goods versus junk and how to use coupons. Before there were tons of outlets and discount stores like Century 21, Filene's Basement, and Daffy's we all went to Loehmann's; and in those days they took the tags out of the clothing so you wouldn't know what line you were buying. You had to learn to see what was good.
We would also drive to outlets, make special trips out to Pennsylvania and New Jersey for the "no sales tax on clothing" incentive, and shop at any discount warehouse, area (think NYC's Orchard Street or Canal Street) or flea market we could find. By the time I graduated high school I had my own coupon organizational system and would even buy multiple newspapers if there were good coupons that week.
When I met my husband, he thought my couponing and sale following habits were a bit extreme, but stopped questioning me when he saw that we routinely saved 25-75% every week on our grocery bills and our annual holiday gift shopping. It never occurred to me that my couponing habit was that rare, that interesting, or was something that needed any kind of justification, let alone religious justification.
I always figured that manufacturers printed the coupons because they were generally charging too much for the products from the beginning, and that coupons were like a refund that I simply had to take a few moments to cut and use. Since most people do not bother using the coupons, the companies do not lose money on them. But I always wondered, if you would pick a quarter up off the street, what would stop you from using a 25¢ coupon (that typically is doubled to 50¢) that is given to you for nothing? It's not like you're stealing the money.
Then I watched a few episodes of TLC's Extreme Couponing, where it seems that 9 out of 10 subjects clearly self-identify as Christian or Christ followers, and actually justify their money saving habits using quotes from the New Testament. "God wants us to stay home with our families and since I cannot work I thank God for providing me with couponing as my way of providing for my family and giving back to the community." One day I did a Google search for "Christian Couponing" and my jaw dropped when I saw that there were approximately 981,000 results.
There are many blogs and websites devoted to sharing the Christian couponing message and different deals. There is Dave from Creative Christian Couponing, who catalogs every shopping trip with what he bought, where, what coupons he used, and how much he saved. Then we have Amanda from Simple Saving Savvy, who simply wants to share the joys of saving money and giving back to the community. And then there is the largest Christian couponing website, with the largest collection of coupons aggregated from just about every retail site on the web, Kelly Hancock's Faithful Provisions.
Like many successful websites and blogs, Faithful Provisions has spawned a Facebook page with over 16,000 likes, a Twitter following of over 4500, and a book, Saving Savvy. And it was this book that drew me further into the world of extreme Christian couponing, a world that makes me wonder if there are Christians who are against couponing? Is there really such a need to religiously justify saving money?
Kelly Hancock's background story reads like many in today's economy, if you take out the references to God and Christ. She and her husband both had great [God-given] jobs when she decided [was called by God] to resign from her Fortune 500 company position and raise their child full time [as God willed]. This cut their income enough that she needed to save money in expenses to make up the difference, and so she started [was inspired by God] to clip coupons. Then her husband was laid off while she was pregnant with baby number two, thus necessitating even more money saving in the form of extreme couponing. [Clearly this was God's call as she was put in this position.]
"Founded on the principles of Luke 12:24, Faithful Provisions is dedicated to showing individuals and families how to save money by encouraging, equipping and empowering good stewardship."
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! ” — Luke 12:22-24
But I didn't know her background when I first opened the digital review copy of this book, so I was a bit taken aback by the Biblical references and justifications offered up in every chapter. The book really is so informative and useful that I found the overt religious message really off-putting, but not enough that I stopped reading.
Hancock knows her stuff and is ridiculously well organized and inspirational, with a very clear writing style. This is her job and she is really good at it, to the point of being able to support her immediate family, as well as entire extended family with paper products, cleaning products, and food while at the same time donating thousands of dollars worth of goods to charities.
The book is worth a read for the kitchen organization and shopping organization tips alone, let alone the links to almost every good coupon site imaginable. I just wish she would publish a separate non-Christian edition of her book and website that gave all the information without the constant barrage of religious speech.
Please note, I have been able to "coupon" successfully for years without any religious justification whatsoever. It is possible!