Are You Really Saving Money?

Dumb Ways to Save Money

Are you really saving money when you're "saving money?"

When it comes to saving money, most families have their favorite ways to save. It can be shopping at warehouse clubs such as (in the United States) Sam's Club or Costco); using coupons; frequenting thrift shops or local resale shops; or using classified ads like Craigslist.

A while back, blogger Sarah Gilbert wrote an intriguing piece on WalletPop entitled "Stupid things people do in the hopes of saving money."

That was definitelty a provocative title and it certainly got my attention. I expected to see a list of crazy things - like camping out all night outside a store before Black Friday.

But I was surprised. The 9 items listed were all common occurrences that happen all the time to well-meaning families everywhere. How do I know that? Uh . . . Personal experience. They are really common, and my family is guilty of several of them. Here are what I think are the top five most likely to affect you and your family budget.

  • Having a warehouse club membership
  • Using coupons
  • Buy one, get one (BOGO) offers
  • Taking advantage of "free shipping" offers based on a minimum purchase
  • Buying throwaway items

Now, in and of themselves, none of these are particularly sinister. It really comes down to remembering which is the horse and which is the cart. Finding ways to get a discount on an item you really want, need, and will use is being a savvy consumer. Buying something you weren't planning on in the first place simply because you're getting a "deal" on it or because you can "save" money is, and no offense intended, a financially dumb move.

In all of these cases, the argument is that you are more likely to spend more than you would have otherwise. I can definitely see it happening even if it's not quite as bad as the WalletPop author would make you think. What about you? Do you see yourself in these habits? Are you teaching your kids money habits that help them use these money savers to their advantage?