Smile Politely

The Least You Can Do: Coups For Troops

We’re all busy. Very busy. We can’t help but talk about just how busy we always are. For some people, that means an exciting and challenging career that occupies all of your time; you might have kids that make your life stressful and amazing at the same time. Or you might just have a DVR that is more than ninety percent full. But you have guilt. You don’t do enough for others. And you don’t have room in the budget for much in the way of charitable contributions, or the time to devote to a worthy cause. Or you have turned procrastination into an art form and will actually consider clearing ten percent off of that DVR as a major accomplishment of your day. The idea for this column is to give you some ideas on extremely easy and quick things that you can do to help others. Sometimes it will be to the benefit of a specific group, and sometimes it will be more about the royal, uh, all of us.

Coupons. I clip them. I get a Sunday paper basically just for coupons. As with many of my habits (from good to strange), I got into this because of my mom. I’m not the type who goes out of my way to get things solely because I have a coupon, but I like it when I can save money on something I’d be buying anyway. But what about all of those other coupons for products that I don’t need? I used to just wander around Target and leave coupons with the corresponding items in the hopes that someone would be able to take advantage. There’s always a coupon for diapers and those things are expensive as hell, so I figure someone will appreciate a couple of free bucks. But that was an imperfect system. I’d spend an hour seeding the store with coupons that might not even be used. And then I found out about Coups For Troops.

Little known fact: Military families overseas are able to use manufacturers’ coupons up to six months after their expiration dates. A very kind woman discovered this and decided to start a campaign to collect expired coupons and get them into the hands of military families abroad. Now you can visit the website and find myriad addresses of folks that will take your coupons and distribute them for you. So, with a little clipping time and a stamp or two, you can be doing something nice for military families that need all the help they can get. I just keep an envelope lying around, and on Sundays I clip every single coupon I can find and stuff ’em in there. If coupons I meant to use go unused past their expiration date, I throw those in there too. Whenever it gets full, I drop it in the mail and start a new one. Minimal effort, minimal time, and helps people: awesome.

(Note: The site will remind you that the coupons must be manufacturers’ coupons, since they will be used at commissaries on military bases. So those coupons that the cashier hands you with your receipt — that are supposed to be geared towards you, but always end up being for something that you wouldn’t ever use — are no good. If you’re feeling extra nice, just bring those back next time and stick them with the items. Someone will appreciate it.)

Check the site out for more information. You can even become a coupon hub if you want to get more involved. I’ve thought about setting up a local drop-off bin somewhere, so if anyone has a suggestion for a location, feel free to discuss below.

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