This is the time of year when one of my friends starts running around like a maniac trying to use up all of the coupons from her Entertainment Book. Most of the coupons expire in November, so we will spend the next month eating in all kinds of places and doing all sorts of activities just so she can use up that book. Most of these places are far enough away that the cost of gas to get there is more than the coupon is worth, not to mention the fact that we’re just not that interested in a lot of these places. (If we were, I think we would have gotten there by now.)
But my friend has a compulsion to use up that book. I’ve tried to explain that she doesn’t need to use every coupon in the book. All she has to do is use enough to earn back her purchase price and a little more and the book has accomplished its purpose. But, no. She has to use as much as possible. While I think it’s great that she wants to get her money’s worth out of the book, she needs to realize that, at this point, she’s spending much more than she’s saving. If she’d really wanted to visit these restaurants or do these activities, she would have done them eight months ago. Now that she’s just doing them to use up coupons, it’s a spending exercise rather than a saving exercise.
I see this a lot with coupons in general, not just those that come in the Entertainment Book. When it gets close to the end of the month, I can count on the fact that the stores and restaurants around town will be jammed with more couponers than usual, all trying to use up their coupons before they expire. They’re on a coupon binge. (I think retailers know this, too, because I’ve noticed that the sales flyers aren’t as great that last week of the month.) The problem is that if you’re using a coupon just to use it, you’re spending unnecessarily. Coupons are used to best advantage in three cases:
- When you can combine a coupon with a sale and/or other coupons to maximize your savings. This is the time to build your stockpile because you’re getting things at the lowest possible prices.
- When there is no sale but you need an item immediately, or you want something like a restaurant meal that never goes on sale. At least you’re saving something off of retail rather than paying full price.
- When there’s something like a restaurant, activity, or food item that you just want to try but aren’t sure if you’ll like it. If you hate it, at least you didn’t pay full price.
If you’re using a coupon just because it’s expiring and you’re not meeting one of these three conditions, chances are you’re wasting rather than saving money. If you’ve gotten to the last days of a coupons’ validity and there’s not a great sale or you don’t have a huge desire to eat out, ask yourself if you really need to use those coupons. If you haven’t spent the coupons by now, chances are you didn’t really want or need the items, or you didn’t really want to eat at the restaurant. Most coupons will come around again, so just wait until then. Maybe by then you’ll be in a position to use it to best advantage.
There’s nothing wrong with sorting through your coupons near the end of the month to make sure there wasn’t something fabulous that you forgot about or overlooked. It’s wise to make sure you aren’t missing out on something you really meant to use or do. It isn’t wise, however, to go on a coupon binge just because you think you need to use up every coupon in your stash before it expires.