Sticking with this theme of coupon traps to avoid in the name of frugal living, many people are programmed to use a coupon whenever it enables them to obtain an item super cheap or, better still, free. It’s a knee-jerk reaction, the end result of which is random acquisition of unnecessary, and possibly unhelpful, stuff. The scenario unfolds something like this: Cost conscious customer sees store add offering a buy one get one free sale on, let’s say, a package of cookies. Customer remembers that he just happens to have filed away a coupon for that same brand of cookies. Immediately, he jumps to the conclusion – why wouldn’t I buy these cookies; they only cost me seventy-five cents per package after the coupon? And so the customer winds up with eighty cookies, sitting in the kitchen that just have to be eaten. Absent that coupon, the cookies would have never entered the house, and those thousands of empty calories would never have entered his body.
There are, of course, a couple of problems with this scenario. First, when you really think it through, all the coupon did was cause you to spend money you would not have otherwise. That great deal, for all intents and purposes, has just put you a buck and a half in the hole. Worse than that, it has prompted you to buy, not one, but two packages of junk food just waiting to expand your waistline.
The problem of bulging waistlines is not the only reason to resist this phenomenon of coupon-induced unnecessary consumption. Buying unnecessary stuff, even at great prices, adds up. It increases total spending, accumulates clutter, and promotes overconsumption, whether dietary or otherwise.
I remember a few years back falling prey to one of those ads for a set of ten Bic pens for an incredibly low price. I realized it was a clear “leader item,” intended to bring people into the store. But how could I not come to need those pens at some future point, I reasoned. So I bought four packs and placed them on the bookshelf next to my recliner. Today, three years later, I haven’t used a single one of the pens. I have no idea if any would work if I tried. In short, I let a special offer induce me to visit a store and blow some pocket change, all for the privilege of allowing four packages of unused pens to add to the clutter beside my chair.
Practical frugal living, you see, is about more than saving money. It’s about avoiding unnecessary consumption in general. It’s about perspective and realizing that even a very cheap item, indeed, even a free item, can be a poor acquisition in the end. Don’t let coupons induce you to lose money, no matter how small in amount, for no good reason.