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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Start Saving Part 9: When is a Deal NOT a Deal?

In this Start Saving series, I'm trying to share some of my experiences and advice with people who are new to the couponing world. If you missed the first 8 parts of this series, you can catch up by clicking one of the topic links below.


Have you ever gone shopping with a detailed plan of the spectacular deal you're going to get and then left the store wondering how you spent so much? The best plans can go awry if you're not careful and mindful of the dreaded B-word..... your budget!

Finding deals and snatching them up can become a bit of an addicting endeavor if you're not careful. I'm forever checking to see what percent of my total bill I've saved. But how often do we look at how much we've actually spent? I may walk out of CVS with $25.00 in Extra Care Bucks. Whoo-hoo! But what if I spent $57 to get those? I may have gotten some great deals, and that $57 of stuff may be worth $102. But if I've spent more than I intended to spend, I may need to stop and evaluate my habits. Am I after the best deal for the sake of the deal? Or am I looking for ways to trim out spending from week to week?

I just read a blog post about how bargain shoppers actually spend more overall than people who don't bargain shop. I can see how this could happen. It's the thrill of the hunt! When we find good deals, we want to stock up. But we don't need to stock up every single week just because the bargains are there.

My personal goal has been to lower our overall spending weekly. That doesn't mean that I don't splurge on a good stock-up sale once in a while. (You can see my latest Kroger stock-up photos HERE.) But I always make sure that we're paying cash for these purchases and that we have the extra cash available for them. I don't want to spend $99 at Kroger and come home to the realization that I spent part of the electric bill payment. So, for me, having a grocery budget amount in mind and sticking to it is important. My goals is simply to stay under the budget. That's reason to celebrate!

When is a deal not a deal?

I have a couple of friends who like to call me when they find great deals. They want to know if I want in on their finds. I'm usually quite impressed with what they find! But I may not jump in wholeheartedly. I know that they question this when it happens.... I'm the coupon lady after all! But sometimes a deal just isn't a deal.

For me, a deal isn't a deal if I'm not going to use the items that I'm considering purchasing. If I can get items free and I know someone who can use them, then that's one thing. But buying items at rock-bottom prices when I know we won't use them - and we don't know anyone else who would use them - is a waste of our money.

Many times clothes for our daughter fall into this category. People tell me about wonderful end-of-season clearance deals that I just have to check out. But they're usually for clothes that would fit Emma next year. My problem is that she goes through such amazing growth spurts that I don't know what size she'll be in next year. I can't even begin to guess. There was one year when she skipped up 3 sizes from one summer to the next. Had I guessed and bought clothes in the size I thought she would wear, I would have been stuck with a drawer full of midriff tops for her! I'm a bit jealous that they're able to plan ahead and stock up like this!! But that's not how I want to spend our money.

The other time a deal isn't a deal is when you don't have the extra cash to pay for it. We're very anti-credit card around here. Credit cards got us in trouble when we used them to pay for things like car repairs years ago. Then we found Dave Ramsey, and life has never been the same! Now we pay for things as we need them, not 30 days later.... or 10 years later in the form of sky-high credit card payments. Now, if I find a good deal and we don't have the extra cash to fund it, I pass up the deal. It's not worth being in credit card debt to get a deal.

The same holds true for rebate items. Sure, you may be able to get the total price of an item back as a rebate. But can you go 6-8 weeks without the money while you wait for the rebate to be processed? You have to pay for these items up front and be willing to wait for the check to come. So do rebates slowly, just a few items at a time, so that you can cycle the up-front money through and not pay so much out-of-pocket at once.

What about you? Do you fall prey to a good deal? Or do you limit yourself to just the best deals for your family, the things you know that you're going to use?


Lesley said...

Jennifer----excellent. Just found your blog today via SouthernSavers. Dave Ramsey's teachings have changed the way I spend money too! I am using the envelope system, as he teaches in FPU. AND----regarding your previous post about having a stockpile of toiletries, doesn't that sound like the "stores of choice food and oil" that are in the house of the wise man? (Proverbs 21:20) ;0) Way to go.

Jennifer said...

Lesley - Welcome!! I'm glad that you made your way here and found some things that helped. Feel free to click around and let me know if you have any questions. :)