Coupons and Sales Are Costing You Money and Time…Let Us Explain

Are you a couponer or someone who looks for sales? While there is nothing wrong with this and in the past there may have been a time doing these things saved you time and money, but we would argue companies have gotten so good at promoting sales and getting us to buy that in most cases you are not saving much time or money. There are so many options these days too that focusing strictly on coupons or finding the best deal may actually be costing you. Let us dive in and explain this possibly controversial opinion.

Are You Really Saving Money?- This is probably the most obvious but missed point about coupons and sales. Companies are smart and do not want to lose money. Sometimes there really is a good deal or sale to get you in the door or to try a product. If that is the case then go for it!
There are other times though when it is a small savings or maybe you had to buy more to get the savings, but you would not have made that purchase for that anyways.
Some places mark up the prices to offer a discount or promote that it is on sale. There are so many sales now that it is nearly impossible to keep track. This leads us to our next point to address this first concern.

When everything is on sale, is it really a sale?
Photo by Tamanna Rumee on Unsplash

Buy Only What YOU Want & Need, Not What a Store or Sale Says You Should- This is how you should approach any sale or coupon. If you were not going to buy it anyway, do not have a need for it, or had that price in mind or budgeted already, then you don’t need a sale or coupon to decide for you.
Changing your mindset to this way means instead of always looking for a good deal or coupon, by buying what you need you are focusing on quality and actual use case. Sure you may use that item you got a great deal on one day, but you could have also used that money on something you could have used even more now.

For How Much Money You Save, How Much Time Are You Spending Finding Those Sales?- Just as much the money side of whether or not a sale or coupon is worth it, the time you put into finding and looking for those sales/coupons is also important to consider. If you spend an hour (this may seem high, but if you time yourself you may be surprised just how much time researching takes you) looking for a sale or coupon and your time is worth $15 (hopefully it is worth higher!), but you found a $15 off coupon for something let’s say you did have planned to buy, well you just broke even! It may seem like you saved more and you may even be able to argue it was worth it because now you saved that hour instead of having to work, but either way, you spent time you could have been doing something else just to maybe break even. Make sure whatever you are buying or researching is worth it!

If a sale is already there for something you want or is an instant discount that works better in your favor. In using the same example before let’s say you spent that same hour but you saved $30 and your time was worth $15. That is a good return on your time and money! If it is equal or less to how much your time is worth, you are losing money or breaking even in most cases.

Companies have all kinds of tricks, techniques, and tactics to get you to purchase. You may think you are strong enough to resist or will not fall for it, but this is also what credit card companies rely on as well. Our willpower is weak if we do not have a plan and good self-discipline.

Sales Make Things More Confusing and Require More Energy/Time- This is where sales and coupons are different nowadays compared to in the past. Companies have gotten so good in their process and routines for them that they are purposely designed to confuse the shopper. They actually make shopping harder requiring more energy and time to even know if you are getting a good deal or sale. Below are two personal examples that we are sure many could relate to.

Buying a Wireless Charging Stand- I was looking for one for the new phone I got and on eBay saw something about a sale for certified used products. Since I was not sure which one I wanted yet, I waited. Good for me since I did not impulse buy, but bad for me when I decided that was the one I wanted but now it was $8 more because the sale ended. It went from $22 to $30. Just going from the $20 range to the $30 range was hard to take, but the fact that I “missed out” and was spending more meant I needed to look to see if I could find it cheaper! I then proceeded to spend at least 30-60 minutes looking to see if I could find a better deal when in reality I knew this was the one I wanted and that my patience waiting was good, but now I just negated that by spending more time to save just a few dollars. I had buyer’s remorse and I did not even buy anything!

Nintendo 15% off coupon- Nintendo sent me a coupon for my birthday for 15% off a purchase. I do play our Switch now and then but I would not call myself a gamer and there was nothing that I really wanted or had the money or time to play. That didn’t matter though because I had 15% off! I started to think about what is something I could buy with it? What about a game my son and I could play together? What about a game I had been wanting even though I know I will not have time to play it?

I then started looking spending time and energy on something that I knew was basically a dead end. I then started to stress and spend mental energy thinking about what I should do. The best part is that even if I went crazy and bought a $50 or $60 game, I would only be saving $9 tops. My time is worth more than $9 so I should have just let the coupon go and when I had some time or money for games, buy the game I really wanted. Instead, I wasted 30-60 minutes with nothing to show for it.

Black Friday is a perfect example of a sale that means almost nothing anymore. The sale goes all month and we even have Black Friday in July. In the past, the best deals were only for the 3 days. Sure it made for a crazy weekend, but the deals meant something.
Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

Summary- It is amazing how we can get so sucked into searching and researching to find the best deals and prices. This can be beneficial if done right and we are not saying all sales or coupons are bad. Another personal example is Audible just had their best deal ever (their words, not ours, and as a longtime member/listener of audible, it really was!) and I purchased 12 credits and a year subscription. The cost per book on that deal was so good that the other sales/deals they run would only be equal or higher. I spent just a few minutes deciding on it and made the purchase.


What we are trying to say is don’t think just because you are saving money that it actually is the right purchase for you or be aware of how much time/energy you are putting into the sale/deal that you could be spending somewhere else with possibly a better return on your time and money.


We hope this got you thinking differently about how to shop with sales and coupons!

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