Monday, December 2, 2013

Is It Worth It?

You’re strolling on the sidewalks of your neighborhood. You glance down and see a quarter. Do you pick it up?

I would.

Will it make a difference in my life, or yours?

Not mine.

I ran into a friend on Saturday morning. “Did you do the Black Friday shopping?” she asked.

“No, I don’t do it.” I continued my take on it, telling her, “One year, my mom, the kids and I did. Got a few things on sale, but then we got hungry and ate up half the savings on lunch at the mall. It’s not worth it to me unless I’m buying a big ticket item and getting a big saving… which I've never done.”

I don’t go to extreme means for a deal or a discount, but there’s still something about it that gives me a bit of temporary joy. Finding “forgotten about money” produces the same feeling, which is ironic since I didn't take care of the money in the first place.

Throughout the years, I've had sporadic phases of coupon clipping and gathering; and not just for the grocery store. The retailers send coupons in their catalogs or via email, and I dutifully place them in a small envelop with the store’s name scribbled on the front. I must have at least 20 of these envelopes now—held together with a rubber band—easily stored in my purse and ready to pull out at the register as I say to the store clerk, “Wait, I think I have a coupon for that.”

Sounds good… right? I’m saving money… right?

In my case, I think so; only because my shopping excursions are minimal. But how about the masses of you who salivate as you enter brightly lit stores like Home Depot, Sam’s Club, and Nordstrom’s? You've got your coupons or your “personal letter inviting you to the sale” in hand and you’re ready to conquer the economy.

I've often wondered how much we’re really saving. If I use coupons that make me buy three boxes of cereal instead of the one that I need for the week, I've paid less for the cereal (a deal), but my grocery bill is higher. Multiply this by all the other deals, and do this weekly. My grocery bill will always be higher, but I’m paying less for the food items, which do get eaten. Does it balance out? In the long run, am I saving?

Another factor in the money saving chase is time. It takes time to clip coupons, read email advertisements, browse circulars in the newspapers, drive to a store just to catch the sale, and to stand in the grocery store aisle comparing two items where one has a unit price in pounds and the other is in ounces. Sometimes I do it; mostly not. However, I respect those who do; be it from necessity or frugality. But, I’ll never understand the obvious thrill that people who camp in front of stores have.

Something I have taken the time to do recently, is to look at my receipts; especially the grocery receipt. I was charged $16 for sushi because the cashier rung up the man’s treats who was next in line. I caught it, told her, and she deducted it; but, it didn't work. When I got home, I had a feeling that I should look at the receipt and there it was. I called the store and they told me not to make a special trip to come back; just to bring it in on my next shopping trip… and I did.

It happened again. Same store, but his time, I noticed two exact charges for grapes—which have to be weighed for the cost. It’s not likely that I would have had two bunches that weigh exactly the same, so I knew it was an error. Besides, I rarely buy two bunches of grapes.

The point of these last two stories: If you care about $23 or even a dollar, check your receipts. If not… don’t sweat it.

As for shopping in general, I suppose we all handle our money and time in ways that we hope will benefit us.

It's the holiday season. Happy Shopping!

Are you a coupon person or a deal chaser? Were you out shopping on Black Friday or today, Cyber Monday?