Why some coupon schemes may actually lead to more spending

By Nina Steele 

Coupon deals can end up costing moreThe budget supermarket I shop at recently introduced a coupon scheme. Every month, I get the chance to ‘save’ £12 in total. I get a discount of £2 when my spending reaches £100 and then another discount of £10 if by the end of the month, I spend a total of £200. At first, I got so excited at the idea of saving £12 a month that I quickly changed my shopping habit. I started buying more. I did this for a few months. And then the reality that the coupon was making me spend more hit me!

Admittedly, the extra purchases were items that could be stored for later use. But even so. The fact that I was now buying more, made me think twice. Budget supermarkets are there to save us money. I went from spending on average £40 a week at this one store, to spending over £50, just so that I could hit my monthly coupon target. After weighing everything up, I decided to go back to my old shopping habit. That means I will now only be saving £2 a month, which is far more than what I get from my loyalty card at the mid-market supermarket I also shop at.

I am all for saving money, but not if that means dramatically changing my shopping habit in a way that suits the retailers, more than it suits me. I remember reading about people becoming addicted to coupons in the past. My own experience shows how easily this can happen.

Obviously, the coupon experience varies depending on family size. I suspect that for a household with children, the £200 a month target will not be an issue at all. So for those people, this coupon scheme would be more than welcome. But as I found out, for a family like ours, it became too much of an effort, every month, having to think about what extra items to buy in order to hit the target, without mentioning the gradual storage space issue.

I remember the very first time I was trying to hit my monthly target. I got to the checkout, only to find that I was still a few pounds out. It was my last shopping week before the deadline. I went home anyway. I thought that was that. Well, it wasn’t. The thought of passing up £10 in savings was making me feel uneasy. As much as I tried, I couldn’t shake that feeling off. In the end, I went back to make another purchase. After that day, I started to plan in advance, so as not to be caught out again.

It was all very exciting at first. And then a different type of unease started building up as I watched my spending go up. I have been extolling the values of budget supermarkets because they are a great way to save money, particularly in these uncertain times. Suddenly, I found myself acting in a way that was counter to everything I believed in. So, I am now going back to shopping the way I did before the coupon scheme was introduced. At least, I have learnt a valuable lesson.

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