It’s a fact that you have to spend money to save money. You can’t save without getting out there and proving your dominance in the marketplace by finding the bargains and partaking of them. A potential pitfall in your commitment to saving, however, is spending more than is appropriate just because you have coupons for certain items.
How do you know if the practice of using coupons is really helping you save money? When you convince yourself that your couponing habits are insuring low prices on the items you’re purchasing, you may lose perspective on the actual amount of items you are buying and on the amount of money you are actually spending.
How can you avoid the “coupon trap?” That’s the phenomenon that can occur when you believe you are saving but you are, in reality, buying more than you should and spending more than you intend. How does this occur? When you are confronted with a store-full of products and the potential bargains represented by a pocketful of coupons, you face a dangerous combination of factors. While you think you are in control of what ends up in your shopping cart, you may become unduly influenced by your desire to save.
Here are some ideas to bear in mind when shopping to keep your focus on saving, not on spending:
- Don’t buy an item you don’t need just because you have a coupon for it. While the price of an item may be extremely cheap with a coupon, spending money on items you simply don’t need or won’t use is a waste of your money. Those little expenses on unnecessary items really add up in a short time, eating into your overall saving.
- Determine if the coupon truly makes the product a bargain. Even when you can save a cool buck on an item, does that really make it your most economical choice? If it’s your favorite brand, you’ll appreciate the savings but if you don’t have a preference, be certain to compare cost per unit, even taking into account the coupon’s value.
- Don’t buy in such quantity that you either forget that you have the items or they go to waste. Regularly take stock of what you already have on hand. Do you really need six more cans of tomato sauce or could you already feed a hungry army on what’s in your pantry? Be especially cautious with perishable items. If you are only going to throw away a significant portion of what you bought due to spoilage, it would have been wiser to pass on the purchase in the first place. Keep in mind that sales and coupons come around frequently – this is not the only chance you’ll get to take advantage of a good deal. It’s only a bargain when you’re using it – not when you’ve simply transferred it from the store’s shelf to your shelf.
- Take related expenses into account. If you need to make a special trip to a certain store or travel a long distance to redeem coupons, remember that your time, effort and gasoline have value too. Make sure it’s really worth going out of your way to realize the savings from coupons or you’re simply trading one cost for another.
The best way to regard coupons is that they represent an opportunity for savings. It is up to you and your prudent spending habits to take advantage of that opportunity or let it slide until the next opportunity comes along.