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In Hard Times: Coupons or Culture?

September 23, 2008

Martha and I sometimes speculate on what might happen in hard times. Would people hang out on the porch more? Go fishing just down the road more?

Or would they look for 2-for-1 coupons for bus-rides to the casino...

There are 2 roads here, 2 options for hard times.

One shows you the creative, cultural options you might have been overlooking---that have no relation to consumerism. Once you don't have (extra) money the whole world opens up.

One lets you do the same old crap for less.

In hard times, will you plant a garden? (10 square feet can grow a LOT.) Or will you just use more coupons at the grocery store?

Ha...if you start using coupons, you'll find out what the coupons are FOR. There are the loss-leaders for milk'n'burger, sure, but are there coupons for apples or potatoes? Or good corn meal or flour? Maybe so. My impression is that coupons are for crap. Pre-made mixes and packages and such. But what do I know. For all I know, we qualify for WIC or foodstamps, but who has time for that?

As Jack told me, "When I come to town, 75 cents don't mean a gol-darn thing."

(That is, since we're not spending much in the first place---not overbooked or overreached---we don't mind just buying our apples straight up, or picking them---we don't need to go gleaning for coupons to help us out. Why, I found a lovely apple on a nearby dirt road the other day, and I realized there's a healthy wild apple tree growing right there, with a decent little crop waiting for me. Spots don't bother me.)

Or, if you use a coupon for a restaurant or other biz, do you know the owner? My impression is that coupons go with faceless corporations or various attempts to lure you into something. If you know the owner and think they're charging a fair price, why would you want to pay them less?

Coupons do sometimes allow two-tier economies to exist in the same market. I remember being a ski bum. A lift ticket might be $50 at the gate. At a local grocery store it was $25. The customers can then segregate themselves by economic class---there's a place at the table for everyone---well, the Middle and Upper Middle, anyway. But I have no idea how it all played out. I'm just guessing that those with money paid full and those with tighter pursestrings stopped by the grocery. I paid for skiing maybe a handful of times out of hundreds of outings, so I don't count. I never have. OYB has always been for those who don't even register.

I suppose we used to go to matinees. I go to used bookstores. Thrift shops. That's all part of the two-tier economy. They're a form of coupon.

Maybe the main point is that in hard times, do you first look to education and to creativity as a way to deal? Or do you just do what a different kind of ad tells you to do.

And when shouldn't education and creativity lead you, anyway?

And what are hard times?

Maybe we'll find out! Or, maybe it'll be like Granny Brown says, "Son, there weren't no depression, we always lived that way. There's too much fun to be had---quit your cryin' and your fussin'."

If it comes to coupons, let it!

But what leads?

And will OYB's "Guide to Life in Hard Times" ever beat out a half-price bus to the casino?

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