Coupons are the ultimate frenemy

Don’t be confused by the title  I love me some coupons

But, as my mom points out over at Frugal Cool, they can quickly lead to unnecessary spending:


A good coupon can lead you to try a new brand or product.

Unless you get it free, it’s money you wouldn’t have otherwise spent. If you don’t like it, that’s money you doled out unnecessarily. If you do like it, you’ll be throwing more money the company’s way in the future.


Restaurant coupons are iffy

Unless it’s a place you usually eat at, restaurant coupons are dangerous. There are usually menu restrictions, you usually have to order a drink (I don’t drink a lot of soda) and all sorts of other factors add up to a bigger bill than you expect.

And even if you usually eat at that restaurant, coupons make it easier to spend. Sure, you would eventually eat at Joe’s Diner anyway. But since you have the coupon, you rationalize going sooner or more often.


Even small discounts are overly compelling.

Today I got an email from Red Robin saying I’d save $5 each time I spent $35 on a particular visit. I’m now thinking about Red Robin. Except we usually spend just under $35 with tip, so we’d have to spend more to save.

Yesterday, at a card shop, I saw a coupon for 50 cents off a booster pack. I started thinking about how we could “save” by each using a coupon. Except, we don’t buy booster packs. They’re $4.50 each, and, while you could pull something great, you could also get a bunch of mediocre cards you already have.

Still, I had to talk myself down from saving money by spending $8. On something we didn’t need or particularly want.

Which leads me to my last point:


Coupons are demoralizing.

Not the coupons themselves, mind you. But how easily you change your spending to use them.

Even if you are strong enough to avoid whatever temptation the coupon offers, it can be depressing just how much you wanted to take advantage of it and how quickly your brain started rationalizing.

All of that said, I’m still a lover of coupons.I’ve gotten plenty of cheap (or even free) stuff over the years.

What I’ve had to learn (over and over) is that coupons are only dangerous when you let the promise of savings shape your spending.

But I’m still thinking about Red Robin fries, dammit.


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