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Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

The danger of using coupons

Although coupons can be a very good way to stretch your budget; coupons can also cause your budget to get out of control too. Coupons can cause you to purchase far more than you would normally buy. If you are not careful, you will find yourself buying shampoos you don't like, deodorants you would otherwise not dream of purchasing, far too many packages of hot dogs or mustard, and several bottles of detergent when you realy only need one. (You think I needed 7 bottles of tide? I'll explain why I bought these later.)

How can coupon usage cause your budget woes?

(I will be using the word "you" instead of "a person" in this post to help me keep my thoughts on the comment instead of the grammar.)

In my opinion it's a combination of events that cause someone to over spend using coupons. So let me explain the events. First, there is the economy and the constant media attention of how things are going downhill fast. We all watch the news and read the paper. We hear how more and more people are struggling to stay in their homes. We hear how people are loosing jobs. We hear how the costs of utilities are going up what seems like everyday. We hear how the price of gas is going up which means grocery prices will also be going up. You know the reports I mean. You see or hear them everyday.

You get the news that some of your family members, or friends, or neighbors have lost their job too. It's hitting close to home now. Pretty soon you start to wonder..... will I be the next person to loose my income? A spark of panic starts in your thoughts. How will I support my family if I loose my job? Maybe its a stay at home mom wondering if her husband will loose his job. Maybe it's a senior worrying about how they will manage on Social Security if the prices keep going up and up. Maybe it's a parent thinking what will happen if the kids and grand kids can't afford to live on their own anymore. What ever the reason.... you start to wonder if you will be the next person hit hard by the economy.

So you tell yourself to start finding ways to "get ready just in case." You think to yourself.... hmm, maybe I should start using coupons to stretch my budget. So you start studying the coupon inserts and sales ads from the paper. That's when you realize that some stores will give your money back in register receipt money IF you buy certain products. Drug stores are the ones doing this most these days. Hmm.... a light bulb moment clicks.... if I buy this deodorant instead of my normal brand I can get my money back. I can use the register receipt money to buy more free stuff next week. Hey! This is great! If I do this over and over again every week I can get lots and lots of free stuff from the drug stores.

Next you tell yourself to look for more of these coupon deals in other store ads. You see a grocery ad with a certain mustard on sale 10 for $10. The ad tells us the normal price is $2.99 each. Why don't they just say $1 each instead of 10 for $10? It's a mind game. They are trying to get you to buy 10 instead of just the one you would normally buy. To help them convince you to buy all 10; they also put coupons in the paper making the price at the register only 50 cents each instead of a dollar. So you tell yourself... hey, this is great! I can get $2.99 mustard for only 50 cents. You ask yourself..... Why not? Nothing wrong with a good bargain is there? You find several people to give you their coupon inserts so you have 10 of the coupons for mustard and you purchase all 10 bottles.

Next, you get a big mental pat on the back from the store. How? By the register receipt. It always tells you just how much you saved by buying all 10 bottles of mustard. It's right there at the top of the receipt where you can't miss it. They highlight it with stars so you can't possibly miss the mental pat on the back. Between the sale price and your coupons.... you saved $24.90. Wow! This is great! You spent only $5 and got $29.90 worth of mustard. Never mind that in your normal budget you would have spent only $2.99 instead of $5.

What if someone asks you "What will you do with all that mustard?" Still high on the fact you saved $24.90; you tell them you are stockpiling groceries.... just in case. Your mind is thinking "Hey if I do this on all my groceries, I can save a ton of money". The advertisers have won. You are hooked into the buy, buy, buy,..... buy the amount we tell you to buy strategy.

Your next session with your sale ads and coupon inserts have you searching for more bargains. As many as you can find! So you can save even more money. Lots of money! Hmm... you find hot dogs that normally cost $2.25 can be bought for only 25 cents a pack if you use coupons. Hmm... hot dogs to go with the mustard is not bad. This week you got smart.... you bought 10 news papers instead of one so you have 10 sets of coupon inserts. Potentially you will save $20 on those hot dogs. Never mind that you don't eat more than two packs of hot dogs a year..... you are saving money! You also find toothpaste normally selling for $2.50 on sale for $1.99. You find a coupon for $1 off. So, if you buy 10 tubes of toothpaste you can save $15.10! Never mind that its a brand you wouldn't use without the coupon savings. Over the next few months you find bargain after bargain using the coupon strategy. You buy as many as you can get! You're saving tons and tons of money. You somehow forget to account for the cost of all those newspapers you are buying.

Hmm.... after a few months of stockpiling groceries you get a really big mental pat on the back as you stand and look at all the stuff you've stockpiled..... saving you all that money. Why heck, you've even gotten it down pat by now. You can go to the store and buy $200 or $300 worth of groceries for only $20 or $30! You have enough groceries stockpiled that you could live several months without an income. You could even survive through a disaster like a flood or a tornado or even a power outage. (Just a thought for you to ponder.... what if the disaster wipes out your stockpile?)

Hmm.... as you stand and gaze at your smart money saving stockpile you might start to ask yourself..... why are there still 9 bottles of mustard on the shelves? Are they ready to expire? Why is the freezer still full of hot dogs? Is that freezer burn you see on the hot dogs? Why do you still have so many toothpastes, toothbrushes, and deodorants not being used? Here is where reality sets in..... you have a ton of stuff you will never use. This is the danger of using coupons. You have been lulled into buying for the sake of saving money..... not for simply stretching the grocery budget.

Advertising companies get paid millions of dollars to come up with strategies to part you from your hard earned dollars. The combination of sales and coupons are making millions for the manufacturers during these hard economic times. The advertising companies are professionals at what they do. You are an amature trying to hold onto your money but they are smarter than you at the money game. You can't outsmart the professionals at their own game.

These days the advertisers have other people helping them part you from your money..... coupon sorting sites. The sites that will search out the bargains in the sales ads for you and tell you exactly how much money you can save using coupons. Don't get me wrong, there are advantages to using these sites as well as dangers. You need to fully understand the best way to use these sites for you to truly gain from them.

You might think my purchase of 7 bottles of laundry detergent a bit excessive. (or I wash clothes alot) Not at all. I was going to the store anyway and I had the coupons so I bought 2 for a neighbor, 3 for my daughter, and 2 for myself. I use my coupons only to stretch my budget. I stockpile only the products I would normally buy and use. My stockpile of items are things that I will use before they expire.

Yes, I could buy a cart full of groceries for only a few pennies. I used coupons for many, many years and did the cart full game on more than one occasion. Yes, yes, I know I had given up coupon use a few months ago. I went back to using coupons a couple of weeks ago. The reason is that I have a group of young people wanting to learn about coupons. I agreed to start working with coupons again for awhile so these people can learn by example. I may continue to use them and I may not. It depends on my budget in a few weeks.

I would continue on writing this post but I believe it will be better if I wait until tomorrow and do another post. Tomorrow I can take pictures of each step as I work out my strategy for the best use of my coupons. Right now I need to get into the kitchen and put away the food I bought Friday. The reason I bought 7 bottles of tide is.... 2 for my neighbor, 3 for my daughter, and 2 for myself. I really shouldn't have bought the tide and stuck with a cheaper brand.... but I indulge myself now and then.

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