Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The evils of Groupon

Looking at my goals this year, I realize that I left something of vital importance off the list:

Balance the Budget

This goal has been on my list since we bought our house in 2008.  It has been there so long that I think I've forgotten that it is still a goal.  Budgeting is just something that I do.

I've succeeded at budgeting as our house has changed and grown.  The first joint budget my husband and I operated under was 1/5th of what we work with now.  Our basic needs were cared for with just a little extra fun money on the side.  As we finished school, found salaried positions and earned promotions, our income went from adequate to generous.  And, in a lot of ways, that has made budgeting much harder.  Before we asked where our money NEEDED to go each month.  Now we ask where we WANT it to go.

Which brings me to the evil that is Groupon.  Why is it evil, you ask?  I'm getting to that.

Having lived on a tight budget for years, I was thrilled when I could find a sale on something we would use.  I'd buy up a bunch of it and save it for later.  It was a great way to protect us from unexpected expenses.  I knew that I could lean on my pantry when a big car repair came up and the grocery money needed to be reallocated.  And I always had extra shampoo, socks, toothbrushes and hand towels I'd scored at clearance sales.  Finding a good deal had the double positive of saving me money in the long run AND supporting me when the money got tight.  I love sales.

Bring in the Groupon.  This is a sale on an item that you don't really NEED.  Nothing that Groupon peddles is a necessity.  Coupon to a fancy dinner, discounted movie tickets, car detailing, weekend getaways.  All these are nice things.  And the deals are great!  I'd love to take a weekend getaway with my husband to a B&B down by the ocean for $99.  Sign me up!

Here's the evil part.  A deal is only a deal if you use it.  That's right.  In order for the money to be well spent you have to use the good or service that you picked up.  I dare say that you need to use it and enjoy it.  For me to take that weekend getaway, I have to find care for my children.  I have to navigate to the destination.  I have to pay to eat the whole time I'm there.  And I have to recover from the trip when I get home.

And I have to make room for it in my budget.  Gone are the days of purchasing because the deal is just that good.  I could go broke stocking up on things that I don't need at all.  The money for these not really cheap items could be used to pay off my car early, or save up for my yearly vacation, or fund my retirement.  Following my second maternity leave without pay, we broke our budget.  This year I have to get it back on track.  I want us comfortable.  I want us prepared to deal with the crazy things life throws us.  That is what I'm doing when I balance the budget.

Taking advantage of good deals is part of that.  There are so MANY good deals on Groupon (and the 5 other like sites that email me daily) it is overwhelming.  Which one is the best deal?  Will there be a better deal tomorrow?  And when will I use it?  I don't want to miss out on all the money saving.  But I can opt out.  I can opt out of the coupon fad.  I know you can save money by spending money.  You can also save money by saving money.  At some point, it is too much and that is what I feel about Groupon these days.  Too much.

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