Does Shopping for Deals Really Save You Money?


If you shop online a lot, you’re probably pretty deals-savvy. Maybe you try to keep up with couponing to keep your groceries from getting too pricey, too. Whatever deals you stay on the lookout for, you treat them as seriously as financial planning or investment opportunities. However, constant deal-hunting could be costing you more money than it’s saving.

How could that be? Well, think about it. When was the last time you used a coupon for an item you were already planning to buy? Often, people mistake the money that an item is reduced by for money that they are pocketing. However, even if an item is $100 off, you’re not “getting” $100 by buying it. You’re spending whatever the current sale price is. That might sound simple, but it’s an important distinction.

The Illusion of Saving

Let’s say you’re in the grocery store and you’ve got coupons you need to use before they expire. They’re for things you don’t normally get, but that’s okay because the sale price on these items is so good that you’d be foolish to pass up the deal. However, you get to the register, you find that between all of the items you bought that you don’t normally get and the groceries you need for the week, you’re spending double what you normally would.

Did the coupons actually save you money there? No, in reality, you spent more with the coupons than you would have if you’d just bought your normal weekly groceries.

So Coupons Are a Scam?

Coupons are still a great way to find deals, but you need to use them in a way that makes you actually save. If you find a great deal on an item you’re going to purchase anyway, then you absolutely should take it. Even if that means going to a different store than you normally do and doing your shopping there, it’s usually worth it if the saving is considerable.

However, letting coupons and deals steer your purchases, instead of steering where you purchase items, is the way to lose money through the illusion of saving. Remember: deals only save you money if they’re on items you planned to buy anyway.

This is why online deals are so attractive for people looking to save. You can check numerous stores against one another to find the best savings, instead of having to drive all over town. Just keep this advice in mind the next time you’re looking at crazy discounts and you’ll beat the illusion of savings, putting real money back in your pocket.