If you’ve used coupons for any length of time, you’ve inevitably had one or more of the following scenarios happen to you:
- Went to the store to do a deal, found bare shelves.
- Followed an unadvertised tip on a coupon blog, but your store didn’t have it.
- Your cashier wouldn’t allow you to use the coupons indicated on a blog’s scenario.
- Your store didn’t have the tearpad coupons you were hoping for.
- Even after multiple visits with your raincheck, your store didn’t restock.
- One of your $1 coupons didn’t scan and you didn’t realize it until you got home and read your receipt.
Why is it that these little bumps in the road can really get our goat if we let them? In fact, I’ve spent more time fretting about the one $1 coupon that didn’t scan than the $3 splurge impulse item I just bought at the store. But which really cost me more money?
I fell into this trap recently on a POM deal at Safeway. Of course, the free POM was out of stock, so I got my raincheck like a dutiful little couponer. I ended up making about 3 phone calls and 2 extra trips to redeem that raincheck and I never got my POM! In the meantime, the coupons expired. Talk about a waste of time! I should have known better, but there’s this urge to get a screaming deal that I have to keep in check. If you’ve been couponing, you might know the feeling….. how badly you want to leave the store with a $0 on your receipt and a bag full o’ freebies so you can come home, take a photo, and share it on Facebook. Silly, when you really stop and think about it. All that being said, I still have to work to stop, and carefully weigh the question “is this deal worth chasing?” before I pop in the car.
As we all know, time is money. On the course of my coupon journey, I’ve learned that my time is at least as valuable as my money (and some days, more!). So when I’m considering chasing a deal, I try to assess the risk versus benefit. Yes, this might sound a bit like I’m making an investment and not going shopping, but hang with me a moment….
- Low Risk: based on experience the store should have plenty of stock, I have the coupons in hand, the transaction/scenario is straightforward, the store is within 3-5 miles driving radius. I may need to go to the store anyways for other items. The item is something my family regularly uses or needs.
- Medium Risk: fair chance that the store has the stock I want, I have most (if not all) of the coupons I need, I’ve done similar transactions/scenarios successfully before, the store is close enough to me or where I’m going today. I’ve had a mix of successful and failed trips at this store before. Our family would benefit somewhat from having the item.
- High Risk: deal reported as “unadvertised” or “your results may vary” on blogs, you need to gather the coupons from the store or other source that may not be reliable, store is inconveniently located to me. The item is hot, may be a money maker, and is something being shared across multiple national coupon blogs and forums. I’ve had prior disappointing trips at the store. The item isn’t something I’ve considered needing previously.
Now I don’t formally stop and go through this process every time I consider a deal, but these are definitely things I think about after many successful coupon shopping trips, and many wasted coupon shopping trips. By assessing risks and benefits and giving yourself permission to sit out deals when they don’t make sense, you could potentially spare yourself a lot of frustration and wasted time and gas.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you have a line you draw for yourself on deals you won’t pursue? Maybe it’s a certain store you avoid like the plague, a certain deal, or type of transaction? Do you set limits on yourself in other ways to guard your time while you snag up the deals?