"Saving" by Using Expiring Coupons

Although this one is in-store only, probably a coupon similar
to this but valid online.
Last week, one of my co-workers was raving about a deal she received doing some online shopping.

Apparently, a month or so before, she bought some shirts online. When she received her items, she also received a $10 off coupon.

Not wanting to waste the coupon, she bought more shirts last week and was proud of her financial acumen.

I bought some shirts. Regular price was $80, but with the 25% off from the site and the $10 coupon, I'm only paying $50! Plus, I get free shipping! I saved $30!

I didn't want to burst her bubble. So I didn't. The other co-workers agreed it was a great deal, neglecting the fact that she already purchased shirts a month or so before. Assuming she needed the shirts then, she's not saving $30. She's actually just spending $50 more than she needed to by buying more shirts than she needed to.

Back in December, a well known Canadian retailer was giving out $50 gift cards if you spent $200 or more (before taxes) in their stores. The gift cards were only good for a week. Normally, a deal like this I wouldn't go out of my way to take advantage of. However, it just so happened the Henckels knives set wifey wanted was on sale for $199.99. To push us over the $200 limit, we purchased some holiday ribbon for 50 cents. We received our gift card and looked through the flyer to see what we could purchase with our $50. Unfortunately, the knives were the only thing we really wanted. As a result, we picked up some things that we didn't really need. A large mixing bowl, a scratch resistant cooking pan, a salad spinner, and a vegetable brush.

We've used the salad spinner quite a bit since then. Salads are a quick way to preparing the vegetables required as part of a balanced diet. The mixing bowl doubles as a salad bowl so we have a nice bowl to toss our salad. However, the cooking pan hasn't seen any use. We've kept it in storage since we brought it back home. The vegetable brush wifey uses quite frequently. Although, I wonder if there's any difference between this and a toothbrush. Overall, we spent about $5 taking the $50 gift card into account.

So did we save $50? Or did we spend $5.50? We were eating salads before we brought home a salad spinner. Sure the salad was a little wet and we had a hard time tossing the salad in the smaller bowls, but it was still doable. The $5.50 we spent was to make our salad making experience easier. However, this is still $5.50 more than we would have spent without the $50 gift card.

Some people would argue that the knives only cost $150 instead of $200 or say something like how you're essentially getting 25% off. Sadly, this is not correct. The gift card could only be used after that initial $200 purchase. So you need to actually spend a minimum of $250 to get the $50 off. I say minimum because I haven't factored in taxes. The gift card was given only on purchases of $200 before taxes. So we actually spent $226.55 ($200.49 + 13% tax) to get the $50 gift card. With the $55 follow up purchase, we spent $281.55 to get $50 off. That's a "discount" of 17.75%.

A couple of months before, another co-worker had a $2 manufacturer coupon for a name brand vitamin supplement. The coupon was expiring the next day, so she went to a popular national pharmacy to purchase the vitamins. The vitamins were $17 or so after tax. After the coupon, she paid around $15. She was happy she saved $2 on the vitamins because her and her husband take them daily.

Wifey and I also take this particular brand of vitamins. However, when we purchased these vitamins, they were on sale for $8 a 120 tablet bottle. Instead of just buying one bottle, we purchased 8! I'd have bought more, but the expiry date was September 2016. Assuming the average month is 30 days, for two people, 8 bottles would last 16 months! We bought these back in April, so the pills will be consumed by then.

So did my co-worker save $2? Or did she spend $6 more ($8 + 13% is about $9 a bottle) than she needed to? When she runs out, she will need to spent $17 a bottle if they aren't on sale that particular week.

Manufacturers and retailers are smart. They aren't giving away money. They know that you will try to take advantage of these coupons. Generally, this results in more money in their balance sheet.

When it comes of manufacturers coupons, I try to use them only when the items are on sale. Canada Dry was advertising a new ginger ale flavour.... Dark. As a result, there were coupons in the flyers we receive every Thursday. One coupon was $2 off if you purchase two 2L bottles. Normally, a 2L bottle can cost $2. Meaning you'd spend $1 a bottle if you used the coupon. However, I waited until pop was on sale for $1. This meant my coupon allowed me to take two 2L bottles for free (and not get into any legal trouble)!

Of course, when a coupon is expiring soon, I don't go out of my way to buy the item. Back in May, I had a $1 off coupon for mustard expiring on May 31, 2015. I checked out every aisle for the mustard. The cheapest I saw was $4.29. Sure, I could have picked one up and pay $3.29 for the mustard. But I know that when mustard goes on sale, it's $1.99. I'd have spent $1.30 more just to "save" $1. I threw out the coupon when I got home.

Don't get me wrong, saving money with coupons is a good thing. But using coupons for things when they aren't on sale, typically means spending more money than when the things go on sale.

Funny enough, wifey also had one of the $10 off coupons I detailed at the beginning of this post. She was happy at first, but when I asked her if she needed more shirts now that she just purchased shirts, she realized she didn't need any more.

She threw out the coupon.


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