You're Not Saving Money If... have to spend more than you intended to, or more often, in order to save. 

My husband and I buy the "Show & Save" coupon book every year.  

The benefits of buying this book far outweigh its $20 cost for the following reasons:

  • The money we spend to purchase the book is quickly paid back as we use coupons for products & services we use regularly and that we would have purchased, coupon or no coupon. Products and services include:
    • Meals at favourite restaurants (there are many BOGO and other discount offers)
    • Entertainment services (museums, sports, & other activities)
    • Grocery discounts for various grocery stores we shop at
    • Dry cleaning, hair cut, oil change and other basic service discounts
  • There are dozens of coupons for places and things we have yet to experience but that have been on "our list" for a while and this coupon book is a good reminder of some options we can consider.
  • We support a student's efforts to fundraise.
  • We save hundreds of dollars throughout the year by making good use of what it has to offer.

The above statement that the benefits outweighing the cost only holds true because we don't change our spending behaviour as a result of purchasing the coupon book. We may spend in different places, but we ensure we don't:

  1. Spend more than we would have otherwise.
  2. Spend on things we wouldn't have purchased without the coupon (unless they are less expensive substitutes for a planned expense).
  3. Spend more often because we don't want to pass up the "deals". 

So, how does our behaviour change as a result of having the book?

Here's what we ordered at one of the restaurants we've visited so far. Date night is usually $50 and this meal cost us $42 (including tip & taxes). It was fun to try a new place and save on date night!

Here's what we ordered at one of the restaurants we've visited so far. Date night is usually $50 and this meal cost us $42 (including tip & taxes). It was fun to try a new place and save on date night!

  • We'll try a new restaurant we've been wanting to try during one of our bi-weekly "date nights". We keep to the amount we would've spent at our regular places in mind and try to spend less.* 
  • We'll substitute a planned activity for one in the book, as long as it's no more expensive than what we were planning on spending.
  • We'll plan our grocery shopping around a coupon and make sure we're sticking to what we would usually buy.
  • When we're going out to make a planned product or service purchase, we'll check the coupon book to see if there's a way to make it more economical.

We see the book as an enabler, not as a vehicle to fuel spending.

So far we've been successful in using the book to curb our spending to the tune of $80 after about 6 weeks of use, an average savings of $16 per establishment.

Yes. My shooting needs some work. Practice makes perfect...but at least we got a 50% break on the cost of this session.

The 5 visits included:

  • Two outings to practice archery, each at a different shooting range.
  • Three date nights:
    • Local sports bar
    • Mexican restaurant
    • Downtown eatery

Annualized, the above would mean about $700 in savings, but only by continuing on with our vigilant use of this useful tool. So far so good, as long as we stick to our guns. And, based on realizing what this means, I think I'll start to track it throughout the year and move the savings right into, well, savings ;).

What about you? Do you use coupon books? If so, how do you make sure your coupon book of choice doesn't start to fuel spending in ways that aren't in line with your good spending habits?

*The coupon book usually ends up saving us between 20% and 50% of that cost because we pay attention to how to maximize the discount. Woot woot!