Spend Money to Save Money? No Thanks

by Vered DeLeeuw · 9 comments

Sometimes, spending money to save money works. It worked for my husband, who recently became an AAA member and then proceeded to enjoy discounts when booking travel – discounts that have already paid back the membership and then some.

It can work when you’re serious about couponing and are buying the Sunday paper mostly for the coupons, or when you invest in energy or water saving tools such as a low-flow shower head.

I’m sure there are other cases where you can spend money in order to ultimately save more than you had spent, but this is not one of them:

coach invitation

While the offer from Coach is to get a 33% discount, no doubt a nice discount, the catch is that I must spend at least $300 to get that discount. So, essentially, the offer translates to, “Come to our store and spend $200 on something that you absolutely don’t need.”

Um, I think I’ll pass.

Now, if I needed a handbag right now, that would have been an intriguing offer for me. But I don’t need a handbag, and as these offers are always very limited in time, the idea is not to give you a nice discount when you’ll eventually need to buy something. Rather, the idea is to get you to the store and get you spending NOW.

David’s Note: Some people may even end up spending more EVEN IF they happen to be shopping for a handbag. For example, let’s say I’m shopping for a handbag for my wife, and my budget is $150. Now, I see this invitation on the kitchen counter, and I jump in joy because the timing was perfect. 33% off for a Coach bag! I head to the store and buy that $300 bag, and with the discount, pay only $200. I leave happy, but I totally forget that I just spent $50 more than I thought I would have…

Look. Especially when it comes to fashion, you often get what you pay for because higher priced items tend to be trendier, made with higher quality material and with higher quality workmanship. But on the other hand, spending $200 isn’t the same as $150 either. What you end up deciding is completely at your discretion, but do make a conscious choice by deciding whether it’s worth your hard earned money.

This offer is a powerful example because of the amounts we’re talking here ($300 is a lot of money), but there are lots of other cases where brands try to lure you into spending on something you don’t need with the promise of a discount or a gift. One example is the gift card I received from Bloomingdale’s during my birthday month. My excitement at a $100 gift card quickly turned into disappointment when I read the fine print: “Valid toward almost any fine jewelry purchase of $500 or more on your Bloomingdale’s card.”

Another example is the “Gift with Purchase” offered by cosmetics brands. For years I was a sucker for these offers – colorful cosmetics bags filled with tiny samples of makeup, lotions and potions – it doesn’t get much better than that! BUT to get the gift you usually need to spend $35 on products that you don’t necessarily need, and of course, even if you do have a product of that company that you would buy anyway, you almost always have to buy 2 to actually qualify for the gift, since one is just under the minimum purchase required, so you end up paying well over the minimum needed to get the gift.

Then, when you open the gift, you realize that all the samples are the wrong color or completely wrong for your complexion, and you end up tossing most of them. Some deal, huh?

As a recovering shopaholic, I’m hardly immune to these sales tactics. In fact I find them extremely alluring, so much so that I actually considered, albeit briefly, the offer from Coach. But I am determined to stop falling for these pitches, and I am proud to say that it’s been a while since I have – at least a year.

How do you feel about the concept of spending money to save money?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • April says:

    I get the Sunday paper and an All You subscription for the sake of the coupons. Coupon and sale matching really helps save money later. Also buying something that is a of good quality at a yard sale even if you don’t need it at the time but will need it for sure in the future can really save you money. I got a pair of very nice (read like new not even sure they were worn) black walking shoes for only .50 last weekend that are in wide. Did I really need them yet no, but it sure beats paying $30 plus for a pair later when my current ones wear out.

  • Donna says:

    Spending money just to get a discount is no discount. I am more into the the rule of three. Do not spend money unless it satisfies or fulfills 3 benefits and/or needs.

  • KM says:

    On things like CFL bulbs, solar panels, sales of nonperishable items, or other things that I know I will use are fine to spend money on if it pays off later. Those sales where you have to spend a certain amount are not for me though – I never spend that much on clothing. I have been thinking lately about investing in some nice clothes that will last a long time too, but I have yet to find a balance between a good price and good quality. It’s so difficult to get out of the “that’s too expensive” mindset! Even if I can afford it, it doesn’t mean I want to.

  • Shaun @ Smart Family Finance says:

    Equally dangerous is free stuff, say a gift card, accompanied by a visit by a door-to-door salesman. I’ve only barely managed to escape making large, thousand dollar purchases, that I don’t need for only a $20 gift card.

    They wouldn’t offer free money if they weren’t good at converting those opportunities into sales.

  • Ginger says:

    I’m ok with spending money to save money, if that means over all I save money. For example, stocking up on something on sale at the grocery store so I don’t have to buy it at full price or buying good quality clothes that I will wear for years. I have certain clothes I have owned for 12 years, and I am only 26.

    • geneva coupon says:

      so did these clothes look age appropriate at 12 and 26?? don’t think so.

      • April says:

        I am of the belief that if the item fits and is suitable for the occassion what does it matter. A person can like what they like at any age. I am 26 also and most of my clothing probably originated out of a kids or juniors section. There is nothing wrong with being young at heart.

  • Patty says:

    For the most part I agree. Reading the stipulations before you go to a sale is common sense.

    I would also like to submit this as well. I use to buy (pre-husband) sale clothing at the local department store. The fashions were by in large suit components from a lesser brand. It might have even been the house brand. After a year or so of wearing frequently, the item was cosigned to someone else. My husband wanted to know why I didn’t keep things long term. I explained, fashion, suitability of the job, worn out, resoled etc. He said if you buy quality items they last a lifetime and you don’t have to buy so often, and don’t necessarily have to look at the lowest cost item. At about that time he introduced me to LLBean and I knew about Landsend. I had bought Landsend, but though LL Bean too expensive. Eventually I did start buying from both vendors. I don’t work where I use to work, but I look presentable, my clothing is classic, and while I might have actually paid more for it, I can count on it for the long haul. (we are talking years here not months, classic white shirt I love you.)

    The purses that you mentioned might fall into this catagory. If a purse is going to last you 4 or 5 years the investment might be wise. If you are just carrying that purse for a “season” you might have a qualm about spending that kind of money. (then again you might be in an income where this doesn’t matter) But you can resale the purse and get some of the funds back for another purse or item of your desire.

    So a sale might in fact work for you. Me, I am still looking for a sleek, multi-functional purse and I would love to spend under $100 dollars! (I think I have found 2 options)


    • geneva coupon says:

      so does this mean your husband would buy a suit for himself and expect it to last a lifetime? betcha he doesn’t but he expects you to?

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