Coupon Queen

You know those loyalty cards you get offered… everywhere?

PetCo, Ulta, Borders, FroYo places… little punch cards where every time you get something, you get a punch and when you get the final punch, you get something free. Or if you’re a member, you get 10% off.

Or you know those silly paper coupons? Buy one get one free deals? $3 off whatever.

Or the brochure or weekly ads you get that say “10% off 6 bottles of wine!”

Or the emails you get saying 25% off purchases over $50!

It’s so easy to get these things. To sign on or up for them. It doesn’t hurt anyone, right? In fact, knowing when sales are happening can be helpful, right?

That is true. But let’s see if we can take this habit of signing up for membership cards, loyalty cards and email newsletters and use it to our advantage and make sure that marketing isn’t getting the best of us– and our wallets.

Loyalty cards. I went in to get an icy treat earlier this summer and was offered a loyalty card upon purchase. Before answering, I thought to myself: how often to I come to this place to get froyo? The answer was: this is the first time, and I’m not too impressed, so I don’t plan on coming back. So I said no. And I haven’t regretted it. On the other hand, one of the places I work at offers a loyalty card so that when you purchase 5 meal-deals, you get your sixth for free– this is a great value, especially for customers that come in twice a week. I think a wise rule-of-thumb is: How often do I come here? If the answer is weekly, or at least a couple times a month, a no-cost loyalty card won’t hurt. The only inconvenience is making sure you have it on you when you go shopping.

Membership cards. I secretly love these things. Especially the little keychain cards. These have the same rule of thumb as loyalty cards– “how often do I come here?” I have a card for PetCo and it saved me $15 last time I went and stocked up on kitty accessories. Again, having them on you is a priority for their usefulness, but oftentimes your phone number can be used to gain the benefits of your membership card if you left it at home. I suggest saying yes to free membership cards of places you visit often and places you know you want to shop at. For example, I said yes to the membership card at a local jewelry and accessory store not because I go there weekly, or even monthly, but I know that when I do want new pretty shiny things, I’ll be going there– so why not reap some auto-benefits that cost me nothing?

I think free loyalty/membership things are good to have in moderation. You don’t need to say yes to everything– but saying yes to places you’d shop even if there wasn’t a benefits program will only save you money.

Looking out for deals is smart. Seeking out excuses to buy more is not smart. When you go grocery shopping, there are always deals– you just may be oblivious to them. Next time you walk in, pause and look for the weeklies or coupons. Here’s the catch: don’t buy things you don’t actually need just because they’re on sale or there’s a special deal on them. At my local grocery store, there’s a coupon for “Buy a 12-pack of Diet Coke, get 1 NYC Nail Polish for Free!” I don’t drink Diet Coke, and the nail polish is only $.99 anyways. Just get the polish; the coupon is a trick to get you to spend more. Now, if you drink Diet Coke, and it was on your list anyways, why not swing by and get the nail polish? Look for deals and specials on things you were already planning on getting. Another way to benefit from coupons and weekly ads is taking advantage of deals on things that are dream or wish items. Special, exotic chocolate bars on sale for 1/2 price sound like a nice treat to me, even if you weren’t planning on getting chocolate.

Emails. These are the most dangerous offenders of retail marketing there is. Browsing your favorite store–clothing, accessory, whatever– you’ll be prompted to sign up for emails telling you about special deals. Beware. Doing this will make you want to buy the things. Retail will always have sales. They have a calendar stocked full of them. These emails will tempt you will special, limited-time offers, but more often than not, they’ll be having another similar sale, soon. Now, if you’re in the market for new shoes and it’s in your budget, and you get an email from your favorite shoe store saying it’s buy one, get one half off, before you go crazy and come home with four pairs of new shoes, think to yourself– do I need two pairs right now or do I just want them? There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of a deal that was made specifically for you to buy more merchandise, but being informed makes you more responsible. Just remember–you can always unsubscribe to the store’s email, and when you need to buy something, visit the website and see if there are any deals going on.

If you feel like it’s silly not to take advantage of every deal there is, you might be Honey Boo Boo Child’s mom.

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