Editor's Letter: On inflation, coupons and tag sales


Published: 9/21/2018 12:06:57 PM

Hello, friends,

Something I love about great writers is that you never quite know where they’re going to take you or what you’re going to learn. Such is the case with Naomi Shulman’s cover story, which made me laugh —  an honest-to-goodness, stress-relieving laugh — each time I read it. Her piece encompasses unexpected themes as well as a brief history of the rise and fall of coupons, taking us back to The Great Recession.

In the decade since then, housing, healthcare and education costs have all risen. Wages have not. Economists call this wage stagnation. I call it going broke by working.

Or as the writer and humorist Sam Ewing once quipped, “Inflation is when you pay fifteen dollars for the ten-dollar haircut you used to get for five dollars when you had hair.”

My six-year-old has just discovered money — “Mom, what can I buy for five quarters?” she asked last night. For a while, she had no need for money, having discovered that at tag sales, people (often kind-hearted grandparents) were more than happy to gift her things — Beanie Babies, ceramic horse figurines, plastic necklaces — for the pleasure of doing so. She is a very appreciative gift recipient.

 But those days are gone, apparently. This feels like one of these critical moments in the life of a parent that I would like to right. I would like, for instance, to instill her with a sense of abundance. My dream is that she will have a casual confidence on both sides of the supply and demand equation that enables her to shrug and think: “Oh, money? I can always make more.”  

 For now, she’s eager to exercise her agency and spend the quarters she’s unearthed around the house. And I’m spouting platitudes, like, “You know, buying things is a very small part of a well-lived life.” Either way, she’s quickly cottoned on to the fact that coupons or no, her quarters seem to go much further at tag sales.

Maybe we’ll see you, too, browsing by the side of the road?



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