Are you Competing or Cooperating?

cooperatingThe buzz around coupons these days is the practice of consumers lowering costs so drastically with price matching and coupons that they are able to create and maintain huge stockpiles of items paying very little money out of pocket. When I see this I think of the scarcity mentality. This term was coined by Stephen Covey in his best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He writes “People with a scarcity mentality tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. There is only so much; and if someone else has it, that means there will be less for me.”  The scarcity mindset is founded in destructive and unnecessary competition and over the years since the recession hit, some consumers have become caught up in this mindset as it relates to coupons and deals.

Beware of a scarcity mentality. It involves hoarding whatever we have, fearful that we won’t have enough to survive. The tragedy, however, is that what you cling to ends up rotting in your hands.

For a couponer, this can start by hoarding coupons and then over time shopping becomes a competitive match with the store and manufacturer by purchasing items just because they are low cost or free. Over time this becomes an identity (i.e. Coupon Queen, Discount Diva, Extreme Couponer) as winnings (stockpiles) go on display for all to see and admire and the feeling of having won dominates. Rarely does anyone share the true time commitment, family stress and hidden costs of storage, maintenance and waste or how the store or manufacturer had to absorb the loss.  It’s all about the consumer competing and winning whatever the cost.

When I started clipping coupons, this mentality never crossed my mind. I remember the sheer joy of saving $5, $10 or even $20 at the grocery store. Sadly, this level of savings by today’s standards is not impressive at all.  However, somewhere in my consciousness as a consumer I have always viewed coupons as gifts, not rights. Any company willing to print a coupon is essentially inviting anyone to lower their cost and can do so by following the guidelines on the coupon. I am thankful that a manufacturer of a product is willing to take from what would have been profit for them and in turn extend it to me. Coupons are essentially manufacturers or stores embracing what I now recognize as an abundance mentality. An abundance mentality basically means being of the mindset that there is plenty out there for everyone. In the words of Stephen Covey he writes “the Abundance Mentality, flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.”

As it relates to coupons, when consumers embrace an abundance mentality then competition is replaced with cooperation. Victory means success that brings mutually beneficial results to all involved. All parties involved feel good about the solutions, agreements, and decisions in win/win scenarios because they are mutually beneficial for everyone.

When I created the Couponizer over 10 years ago, I had no idea coupons would revolutionize for better and for worse the way people shop. My hope is that more consumers would see and understand the bigger picture and quietly go about saving $5, $10, $20 every week and be thankful. This steady, consistent savings done ethically adds up and will save you more than money!  Coupons will continue to evolve and there is no limit to the possibilities, options and creativity that they will bring if we as consumers embrace a spirit of cooperation over competition.