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?

31 comments:

Abby said...

I don't coupon clip. Like you, I figure in the time factor. Plus, I find that coupons are often for things I wouldn't normally buy anyway.

We do have memberships at a local sporting goods store and at REI that give percentage "dividend checks", but that's because we tend to buy those items anyway.

Back in the early SAHM days, we were crazy frugal. But it was more in a do-without mode rather than a get-it-cheap one.

And good for you for checking those receipts! Stuff happens!

Hilary said...

Not at all. I get what I need when I need it. If I happen to acquire a really decent coupon for something I already intended to buy, then I'll try to put it to use. Otherwise, I just don't care to put the time into looking for great deals.

My SO tends to see something on sale that he never had any intention of buying and buys it because it's a great price! No, it's however much you're spending more than you would have spent if you hadn't seen the sale.

Mari said...

I would pick up a quarter and throw it in my change jar. I also use coupons, but not as much as I should. Now I guess I better check my receipts too!

Judy Thomas said...

I hate shopping.

joeh said...

Coupons are evil!

Yes I would pick up the quarter. I leave pennies though.

Shelly said...

I stay far, far away from stores on Black Friday. I do love a good deal, but I won't go to extremes to get it. I'm so glad you caught those errors- makes me realize I need to start checking my receipts!

Barb said...

I don't like to shop. At all. I do the necessities - I buy food. My husband and I don't exchange gifts - we have each other, which is more of gift than either of us could ever wish for. It frees me somehow. I do like to buy a thing I happen to see sometimes in passing when it reminds me of someone. Then I really enjoy giving that gift. My best friend often sends me small items that I know she bought especially for me "just because." None of this shopping involves deals. I am terrible for the economy! I definitely pick up coins I find at my feet - my ,mother believed they bring good luck. You can't ever spend them, of course. Happy season to you, Anita.

Tabor said...

I check my credit card bill with a close eye to make sure it has not been mis-used, but I do NOT check my grocery receipts and now I will. I pick up money on the street because I think it litters!

Peaches Ledwidge said...

I've been charged twice for the same item. I also pay attention to items on sale so that I pay the lower price.

Lonely Rivers said...

My pet peeve: stores that offer points and rewards. I would rather they just lowered their prices. I would pick up money on the street and give it to the next homeless person I see. I have heard that found money does more good when you surprise another with it. I never checked my grocery receipts until there was an astonishing total and I learned that I had been charged $15.00 for a tomato!

Weekend-Windup said...

I too use coupons in shopping things, but need to be careful. Need to check the items what we have bought before leaving from the shop.

yonca said...

No,I am not a coupon person. I do look for good deals but Black Friday/ Cyber Monday, waking up crazy early for shopping is not my thing. Sometimes, online shopping is the best.. also, good for saving Money;)xx

SuziCate said...

Occasionally, I remember my grocery store coupons; mostly I'm lucky if I even remember my list! I know people who do the big coupon thing and save tons of money, but I really don't have that kind of time nor do I want to visit more than one store. I've had times at the grocery store where I've gotten home and an entire bag was not placed in my cart. I've also had instances where I've been overcharged (probably more often than I've noticed). The times I've taken a big notice were when I was charged $80 for a red pepper, over a hundred for a meat thermometer, and #1200 for a bouquet of roses! Needless to say, I got a big laugh and did not pay such a price for said item!

Kat said...

I feel much the same as you. I don't do Black Friday because I find it pointless unless there is some huge sale on a big ticket item. BUT seeing as how we don't buy big ticket items at Christmas it is all null and void anyway.
I do clip an occasional coupon but only for stuff I'm already buying so I have minimal coupons. I don't like the buy 4 get one free thing. It just feels too much like hoarding or something. ;)

And yes, I will ALWAYS pick up change on the ground (if my kids don't get to it first). I have a change jar at home and it is surprising how that change adds up.

Farheena Rizwan said...

We don't have the sales you mention in India. You are right about the receipts though. I have saved a lot of money by checking receipts and it happens at restaurants as we'll.

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I went out once on Black Friday to get a sewing machine at a good price. But I don't like the crowds and now I sometimes don't even read the ads. And sadly, I clip coupons and then find them months after they have expired. Sigh.

Farida Rizwan said...

The above comment was from me Anita. I did not notice that my daughter had logged in.

shadowrun300 said...

I would pick up the quarter, but that's where the buck stops. heehee
I don't clip coupons, and although I love a good deal, I do not go out of my way to get it.
Like you, I check my receipts if I 'feel' something is wrong. Like the time I was charged $15 for a bag of apples! Of course, I didn't realize it til I got home. After a big debate with my hubby, he convinced me it wasn't worth it to go back to the store. Something about the cost of gas, blah, blah, blah. (I wanted to go back just on principle.)

Linda Hensley said...

Nope, don't do it. I never remember the coupon at the store. It sits on my counter accusing me of waste and negligence until I throw it away after its expiration date. I buy real food like fruits and vegetables, and they never have coupons for that anyway. Someone told me that heads up pennies are good luck, tails up bad luck so I pick up the heads up pennies and turn over the tails up so someone else can have good luck too. I figure quarters are good luck however superstitious people might be so I pick up any loose quarters :)

Rebecca S. said...

A Very Timely Post. You know, our Canadian retailers are working hard this year to keep the dollars in Canada, so now, we have Black Friday sales as well. I personally feel a bit invaded by this mass consumerism. We already have Boxing Day sales (day after Christmas) and I've been avoiding those for years. I am sympathetic to the retailers, but really, I am not one to line up for a good deal unless it's something I honestly need.Even then, I have rarely done it. I consult the flyers for the stores I frequent, and buy items on sale if I already use them. I've always thought, if you buy more, you just end up consuming more, which is something I really try to avoid.

Linda said...

I do clip coupons occasionally, just for things that I need, and sometimes use them even when the item is already on special, enabling me to get a better saving. I don't do the Black Friday thing, though, because I try to avoid crowds and the sometimes violent reactions of people that go with it.

It seems that you and I share something in common. My parents separated when I was 9 years old.

Great post, thank you so much for sharing.

Mage said...

Rarely do I clip coupons. Never do I go do Black Friday. After all my years of no money and penny pinching, I'm not a big spender on presents at all. I'm sure the grandkids wish I was.

Mage said...

Look, you stirred everyone up with this.

Thanks for the note. Here the formal Christianity has changed and some of us now see things with a different eye. I was raised Episcopalian as were my kids....thanks to my mother. I have trouble believing the dogma as does my husband who was raised in Pakistan. My eldest daughter has found an Episcopal church that she likes, and I lean t'word Buddhism.

Munir said...

Working in Customer Service has given me an outlook that will never change. Now I do not buy anything unless I desperately need it or it is seventy five percent off Clearance. That does not happen on Black Friday or Cyber Monday either. I do believe in shopping local on Small business Saturday though even if I don't need that one item I buy.
I do use coupons only on the things that I use. Same thing with grocery sales items.
So I am some one who has the common shopping habits like you:)

Haddock said...

I too have wondered about this : In the long run, are we saving?
Are we buying things that we don't want?

Wisewebwoman said...

Rarely do I go to sales. I secretly wish sales would come to me. But only stuff I need. Like avocadoes or cheeses on special, ship to me please after I push that button.

yes, I'd pick up the quarter and use it for something good, don't know what....

I like your blog.

XO
WWW

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Jenny Woolf said...

Ha, yes, so true. I usually look at my receipts and often I find that there is a mistake. The question is what do you do when it is an error in your own favour? I usually decide on the basis of how near i am to the till. If I am right by it, I point out that kind of mistake. But I don't make a special trip back.

Have a great Christmas!

Mage said...

And a wonderful happy holiday to you with all your pennnies in a row. :)

Mage said...

Happy new year dear you. Why not call your blog "Beyond...." Hugs.

Morgan said...

I used to check receipts more often but haven't for a while. Good reminder!

Also, I totally agree about going shopping for a deal (whether Black Friday or another sale) and ending up spending more on food and gas to get that deal. You have to really be determined and go in with a plan to actually save enough money to make it worth it.