Why I Don’t Groupon

News about how the deal-of-the-day coupon movement is losing steam made me think about why I was never on the train.

I’m sure people who know I write about saving money are probably asking, “Why wouldn’t you be all over coupons by e-mail?” So here’s the deal.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine suggested I get the Whole Foods coupon on LivingSocial. It was $10 off $20 of groceries. We have a “Whole Paycheck” within walking distance and, while I try to avoid it, sometimes I need to get some European bread for hubby, or fruit that doesn’t taste like soap.

So I decided for the first time to register at one of these daily deals sites and pay for the coupon. I thought I would get the coupon instantly, but I had to wait a day for it to arrive. I figured out how to print and fold it, and then I was worried I’d forget to use it, so I went as soon as possible to Whole Foods.

I bought a few more things than I planned because I had to buy over $20 in order to get the discount. There was a little bit of trouble at the register, but in the end, I got my $10 off.

I saved 50% at a high-end grocery store for food that my family and I enjoyed.  Still I’m going to unsubscribe, and this is why.

1.  Deals are Mental Clutter

Yes, I like to live a frugally, but I also like to live simply. I love to find the good things in life that are free, to figure out how to save money without pulling out my wallet, to turn off the noise of marketing and listen to my inner needs.

Because I purchased one deal, I am now receiving deals all the time. Every day I am tempted by the thrill of a bargain and a new purchase or experience. When the e-mail arrives, I have to stop what I’m doing and think about whether I want that deal or not. If so, I might have to coordinate with my husband, find a sitter, or do some research to figure out if it’s the right place and a good price.

Life is very hard to keep simple. I see that more and more as I become a working mom and a homeowner. To me, $10 or $20 is not worth the cost in inner peace.

One thing I can do to simplify is to silence advertising. When I need something, I’ll look for a good deal. But even if I can’t find one, I know that I will have saved more money in the end by buying less.

2.  I Don’t Need More Stuff

Keeping our house uncluttered is a constant battle. Even though we have seriously purged our things many times over the past ten years (and especially with each move), I still feel like we have too much Stuff.

I wish I were more minimalist, like Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, who thinks very, very hard before bringing anything into his house.  Because each new thing requires finding somewhere to put it, taking care of it, cleaning it, organizing it. And when you don’t want it anymore, there is finding it a new home (giving it away, selling it, disposing of it in the right way).

Each object costs me a bit of time and simplicity.

3.  A Deal Isn’t a Deal If It Invites Me to Spend Money

Most groupons don’t have to do with stuff.  They are deals for health club memberships, spa packages, hotel stays, yoga classes. But they usually cost a lot more money, and to me, they are luxuries.

Because a Groupon is worth more money than a grocery coupon, it becomes something valuable that has to be cared for. I have to make sure I use it in a certain amount of time. I have to deal with the guilt if it wasn’t the service I expected (but I am locked into), or worse, if I forget to use it before it expires.

My friend Paola still laughs about how she bought a daily deal for an ice cream shop near her, and she kept forgetting to use it.  On the expiration date, her kids were happily involved in another activity, but she grabbed them and shoved them into the car, yelling, “We have to go get ice cream right now!

I can totally see myself in that scenario, so call me cuckoo, but I’m going to continue to duck the radar. As long as I can, I’m not going to get a smartphone. I’m not going to sign up for cable. I’m not going to get my daily deals by e-mail.

These are some ways that I keep my inner life quiet. Because believe me, my outer life is anything but!

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  • Kate Z October 6, 2011, 11:09 am

    Thank you for this post! I get a million of these in my inbox and half the time I practically feel guilty for ignoring them — I keep thinking that if I were more organized I’d pay attention and take advantage of the great deals. I’m very happy for this perspective — now I feel like I’ll be able to just let them pass me by without worrying about what I’m missing!

  • Alison October 6, 2011, 8:04 am

    I have only printed off two coupons after having been a member for 3 months. The best deal was to our favorite restaurant for breakfast where we always spend about $45 dollar since it is all local and organic food. We can only afford to go there about 3x a year so getting $40 for $20 was perfect. The other was to a coffee shop that is my splurge on those “I have to have a latte or I will die” days. $5 for $10 in product. I just couldn’t pass those up.

    However, I am flooded with coupons for products and services I don’t use, and the trip deals just don’t apply to my family. But I scan my email inbox so fast I don’t feel like it is a waste of time to get those few awesome deals.

  • Cara October 5, 2011, 2:44 pm

    I feel the same way about coupons etc. One thing I really like to do when shopping online is search “(enter business here) coupon codes”. I’m a teacher and I ordered several art prints from allposters.com a couple days ago. Once all my items were in my cart I searched for allposters coupon codes and within one minute found a code that saved me 25% off my order total which came to $50.00 in savings. I’ve done this with several other online purchases in the past and while I don’t always find a coupon code I’ve found it’s really quick and easy and doesn’t create and clutter in my life.

    • Amy October 5, 2011, 2:48 pm

      Hi Cara,

      Thanks for pointing out online coupon codes! I so agree — they are helpful, fast and easy, and don’t create any clutter.

      It’s amazing how many deals you can find by opening a new browser window and searching for “coupon code” and the store name.

      The great thing is: YOU make the decision about when and what to buy. And if you get so lucky to get a discount on something you would have bought anyway, then yippee!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts,

  • Reid October 5, 2011, 12:00 pm

    I so appreciate all of this post, but especially the part about “mental clutter.” You help me see these “deals” for what they are. It’s the same with coupons–as you note, you put someone else in the driver’s seat about what or if you want to buy something. And with the decision to do the deal comes a bunch of baggage about what to get, how much to spend, when to go. It’s kind of a drag! I’ve got a Living Social coupon hanging around for a mani-pedi; I bought it at a low moment when I wanted a treat. Later, I regretted it (and I haven’t even used it yet). I let the good price tell me to get a manicure, when I don’t get or want manicures at all (I don’t polish my fingernails because they chip too easily and then look nasty). And I’ve even become pretty lax about getting pedicures–I’ve grown to like the color of my natural nails. So: hoodwinked! Thanks for clarifying my thinking on this–you’re right that we spend too much time consumed by the messages of marketers instead of getting in touch with what works for us and makes us feel good.

    • Amy October 5, 2011, 1:32 pm

      Hi Reid,

      I like how you put it: coupons make you “put someone else in the driver’s seat about what or if you want to buy something.” And your example of the mani-pedi is perfect. Deals encourage us to make impulse buys, which are not necessarily what we really want, or need. (p.s. I go for the natural look too!)

      But… since you’ve already paid for it, I encourage you to ask for some “you” time, and get out of the house for some pampering. Look at it this way: if you don’t, you’re losing money!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts,

  • Jen @ Jen Spends October 5, 2011, 11:58 am

    I have purchased my fair share of those deals, and some of them were helpful. But now I have a new “cross that bridge when I get there” mentality that is giving me a lot more peace. I have to remind myself now and then to take a step back and look at the big picture. For example, a local shop was unloading their stock of my favorite car seat at very good prices. I was tempted to pay $150 for a seat I don’t need in anticipation of future babies I may have. The truth was, though, that $150 didn’t fit into my monthly budget and there’s no knowing when I’ll actually need that extra seat. I’ll buy it when I need it. I will probably not get the same great deal, but by keeping my budget on track I’ll be in a better position to pay for it down the road. So, instead of buying the seat I told my friends about the deal and called it a day. I’m applying that thought process to every deal I see now. It’s hard sometimes, but I really feel that it is helping me manage my money and save.

    • Amy October 5, 2011, 1:35 pm

      Hi Jen,

      I like your “cross that bridge when I get there” policy. Deals give us a sense of urgency, but then we are often stuck stockpiling things. The problem with stockpiling is that our tastes and needs change. Heck, even car seat laws change! And so do prices. You might even find a better deal when you need that new car seat. And in the meantime, you can keep your basement less cluttered.

      I also appreciate the word “peace.” I know it’s been said a million times, but peace of mind is worth more than gold.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts,