As a general rule, before making a purchase online, I search retailmenot (no, I’m not an
affiliate, I just love the site!) for any coupon codes I should be using.   I then also check Upromise for rebates towards college savings (because why WOULDN’T you want extra $$ going into your little one’s college account).  If all else fails, I check eBates for cash rebates.

All of this I can do relatively quickly and painlessly, and it adds up to quite a lot of savings over a year.

Runaway Couponing

However, today I clearly took it too far!  It started out simply enough, before hitting “Checkout” at a major office supply chain online, I searched for coupon codes.  Lo and behold, there was a $5 off $25 purchase offer, so I copied the code and entered it into the shopping cart.

And then the fun began.  Even though I was buying a total of $38 worth of stuff, only $22.99 was regularly-priced; everything else was on sale.  So, the coupon didn’t work, as the requirements (savings on regularly-priced items only) weren’t met.  Okay, fine, moving on, right?

Wrong.  Because this particular online retailer is very, very smart.  The error code that came up, letting me know I wasn’t eligible for this coupon code, said “Please add $2.01 to your cart to qualify.”  And so, little-old-logical-me went off hunting for an inexpensive item that we need anyway (think: Keurig coffee pods, more chalk for the little one…).

25 minutes later, after finding many, many items that fit the bill but were already on sale (and therefore didn’t meet the requirements), I looked up and realized HOW. MUCH. TIME. I had spent trying to save $5.

And then, of course, I headed over here to write this post about how ridiculous that was!  Apparently couponing, and frugality, is a slippery slope.  After all, saving money is a good thing – but not at the expense of sanity (hello, searching 4 pages of coffee pods to find one that ISN’T on sale), or productivity (hello, extra half an hour I’ll be spending on the computer tonight to catch up with other things I should have been doing).  And I realized that while we absolutely need to be mindful of our spending, wasting half an hour looking for something to save me $5 is wildly inefficient.

How Do We Reign It In?

So, this week, think about what you’re doing to save money, and the Return on Investment (ROI) of those activities.  Spending 10 minutes perusing the sale ad before going to the grocery store, thereby saving an average of $20 to $25 per trip?  Totally worth it (for me – I’m sure it’s different for you).  Spending half an hour to save $5? Probably not worth it.  Particularly on a day when there’s a TON going on (think yet another heart surgery for Don, and an ailing mother).

My personal ROI might change – some days, I might welcome the distraction of mindlessly searching for an extra item to add to my cart.  But on most days, for a working mom at least, my time is more valuable than that.

So, what are you doing to save money that really isn’t worth it?  Or, on the flip side, are you missing out on an easy way to save money that wouldn’t take very long, or could easily fit into your normal routine?

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