The coupon-clipping fever has arrived at my house. I noticed the symptoms the other morning as I was sitting at the kitchen table pawing through the newspaper.
Before I could say, "Where's the sports section?" my wife, our two kids, and several pairs of scissors had taken over the table. Newspaper ruffled. Scissors snipped. Coupons went flying.
When one of the kids spotted a coupon for some sickeningly sweet foodstuff, he checked with his mother for approval. "Do we buy this stuff?" he asked.
If the answer was "yes," the delighted snipper dropped his prized coupon into a white paper sack.
If the answer was "no," the disappointed hunter went on the prowl through the pile of papers looking for another cents-off prize.
This was unusual behavior for my family. First of all, until the other morning I couldn't recall seeing that many functioning pairs of scissors in the same room. Usually we have to search the entire house just to find one working pair.
Secondly, until recently, our home was not a coupon-clipping household.
My wife and I had the usual reasons for abstention. We didn't have the time. We couldn't keep track of the coupons. We didn't use most of the items that the coupons offered discounts for. And instead of buying a name brand of an item and using a coupon, we just bought a cheaper store-brand of the item.
Then things changed.
Mainly, the kids became of scissor-bearing age. That meant that, instead of being a tedious responsibility, the work of cutting out the coupons could be delegated to our kids.
Kids enjoy cutting things. The other day, for instance, in an idle moment he shared with a stray pair of scissors, one of our sons sliced holes in his pajamas. When I asked him for an explanation, he said he just wanted to see what his leg looked like through holes in his pj's.
With this fondness for spur-of-the-moment slicing, it didn't take much effort to make coupon-clipping a form of entertainment at our house.
The kids also quickly learned to ask their mother, not me, which coupons were keepers.
I vetoed virtually every coupon that was set before me.
Like the ones for sickeningly sweet spaghetti sauce. When the kids presented a coupon knocking 25 cents off a jar of the stuff, I told them to throw the coupon in the trash.
"We don't allow that kind of sauce in this house," I told the tribe.
"In this house, we like our sauce made in a pan -- with a little pork, then with some tomatoes -- that cooks slowly, lovingly.
"That is real sauce. And this," I said, waving the coupon for the stuff from a factory, "this is just tomatoes and sugar." I started to toss the coupon in the wastebasket.
My wife snatched it from my hand. Sickeningly sweet spaghetti sauce, my wife reminded me, is the only kind of spaghetti sauce both of the kids will eat. And since we are going to end up buying a jar of the stuff, we might as well get it for a discount.
Moreover, she reminded me that some grocery stores are doubling the coupon's value. So instead of getting 25 cents off the price, we would get 50 cents off.
And so, the coupon that I had banished from the house ended up in the keeper file.
The kids, who ordinarily pay little attention to what my wife and I say, had listened intently to our coupon debate. They remembered all the major points my wife had scored.
They used them on her a short while later when they were arguing on behalf of the coupons linked to the fruit snacks shaped like a computer, and the cereal covered with brown goo, and the chips covered with bright orange dust.
So now instead of coupons for a few choice items, we have a bag bulging with tiny pieces of paper.
We have enough coupons to buy rivers of spaghetti sauce, storage depots of instant oatmeal and mountains of flavored chips.
We'll see which expires first, the date on the coupons or the enthusiasm of the clippers.
Toting scissors, kids take up battle to save money