I hope you've had time to digest the previous six lessons over the last few days. And I appreciate everyone who has left comments and questions on these posts – they've helped me determine what needs further addressing as we move through the month.
Today I want to tackle a topic that is worth considering: how do you know if a deal is worth doing?
By asking yourself this question before you gather your coupons and get into the car, you will begin to consider the bigger picture of what you're trying to accomplish as a Savvy Shopper.
When I started couponing, I was overwhelmed by the amount of deals I was finding on a near-daily basis. Free NyQuil at Walgreens? I'm so there. Possible unadvertised Beechnut baby food on clearance at Target? I'm outta here. Make a $7 profit on Bayer aspirin at Rite Aid? Get the kids in the car NOW.
It's not a question if making $7 on Bayer is a deal, the question is…is this a good deal for me?
As I've spend a year on my coupon journey, I have learned restraint is a good thing. Here are some of the questions I ask myself before deciding whether or not to pursue a deal:
1. Is this an item I could use? Sure, everyone talks about getting stuff for free to donate, and this is a wonderful way to be generous. But that is not the driving force behind my shopping trips. It's to feed my family. If I happen to find an extra freebie or two along the way, great. Other than that, I've learned to scrutinize every purchase. Let's consider Rite Aid a moment, shall we? Rite Aid is notorious for having many items free-after-rebate that you have not a clue in the world what they are. Anyone remember the free anti-itch monkey butt powder from last month? Or the urinary health drink from a couple weeks ago? Sure, you could make a buck on these items, but are you REALLY making a buck? You probably lost more than that driving to the store and paying sales tax. And then you have to tactfully find someone that wants butt powder in the first place. DOH! So make sure those freebies matter to you.
2. Will this item be good to have around? This question is one I generally ask of food items with questionable nutritional content. For instance, Safeway had a spectacular deal on Pop-Tarts late last winter. Great! Stock up, right? Maybe not…I suffered enormous guilt in the mornings that followed that sale as my son repeatedly asked for the high-fat, high-sugar pastries. Needless to say, I now feel NO guilt in letting my Pop-Tart coupons expire.
3. Do I have money in my budget for this deal? I bet you could find a great deal on something for $1 today. And tomorrow, and the day after that. You get enough of those $1-something deals and you've put a decent dent into your grocery budget for the month. Also please consider the amount of time and gas spent on driving to all those stores. Don't negate your savings by spending more money.
4. Is this deal really worth my time? This is something I've pondered more and more lately. As a stay-at-home mom of two, it's just not always convenient to dress the kids and get out to the car (yeah, some days we're in PJs for awhile…right now 2 out of 3 of us are still in PJs…and I'm not saying which!). Yesterday's Quaker deal was worth it to me. If I know the deal will save me time or money later – and I'm not just talking $1, yes, I'll do it. But if it's a freebie that comes around frequently or for an item I may not use, I'll wait it out and save the gas.
5. Am I doing this deal because it's important, or do I just want to shop, use a coupon, etc.? This last question is a real soul-searcher for me. If I just need a good excuse to get out of the house, I could go for a walk, to the library, or the gym. It's important to question your motives. And I strive to do this all the time. Just last month I mentioned to my husband that I had some good coupons about to expire and wanted to head out and use them. He then asked, "do we need these items, or do you just want to use the coupons?" OUCH. He was right, and we both knew it.
I'm going to end today's lesson by reminding you that manufacturers issue coupons in hopes to get you to select their brand, try it, and become loyal to it. To remain a Savvy Shopper, you must be immune to these tactics. Buy products because you use and like. Don't be afraid to let "good" high value coupons expire if you don't have the money to buy them – even after sales and coupons. And don't worry about sitting out a deal if you really just need to spend an evening at home relaxing with your family.
Trust me, there will always be another deal to debate about doing tomorrow.
Photo credit David Siquiera