October 9, 2011

For Coupons’ Sake

I love a good deal. Often that means scouring the clearance rack, or buying in the off seasons. When shopping online, I also do a search first for discount and coupon codes. (You’d be surprised how many student discounts there are out there!) So you would think I would be a couponer too, right? Well, not so much.

I’ve shied away from coupons for a couple of reasons. We’re picky on what we eat, and I had an impression that most grocery coupons are for junk and processed food, not produce and meats. Then there’s the effort to reward ratio. Most coupons are for 50 to 75 cents off. I’ll be the first to admit every little dollar adds up, but If it takes me three hours to find five coupons I’d use, I really have to ask myself if it’s worth it.

Still, it’s hard to claim I’m frugal if there’s a saving avenue I know I’m ignoring. And I know there are good coupons out there. I’ve been using the 20% off one item coupon from Bed Bath and Beyond, and the 40-50% off for Michaels. In fact, I never go to either of those two stores without a coupon in hand! There are bound to be other good deals, for more than just pennies.

So this weekend I started couponing. To keep from getting overwhelmed, I through out any circular for a store we don’t visit. (Aside from saving time, multiple store visits will increase gas consumption.) I also throw away any coupons for products we’re not interested in. After all, the goal is to save on items we’d by anyway, not be persuaded into buying more stuff.

This week I used a target grocery coupon, $5 off a $50 purchase. That was nice, since target grocery does have a variety of healthy options. Interestingly, after using the coupon today, the register popped out a catalane coupon, $7 off a $75 purchase. Now, sure that could have been a coincidence, but I doubt it. Retailers use coupons to track customers. Given the timing, I bet the $7 coupon was an attempt to see if I would spend more money ($75 instead of $50) in pursuit of a bigger reward. Not convinced? In the same purchase I used a $1.50 off Starbucks Via coupon, and received a $3 off two Starbucks Vias. Another bigger reward for spending more.

A while ago I posted about online retailers estimating a customer’s worth, and setting prices accordingly. I didn’t like that phenomena because I wasn’t in control of the message I sent. I didn’t know which of my actions would result in lower prices, and which in higher prices. Here, however, if I stick to only using coupons, maybe I can convince the retailer data miners that I won’t shop at their stores without them. The trick will be not letting the coupons influence me into make purchases I wouldn’t have otherwise made.

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  1. […] often use coupons and loyalty cards to track their customers. I’ve noticed the coupons I use change as I use them. It does make sense; the discount is in exchange for being able to learn something about their […]

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