Yesterday I went to the movies with one of my sons. He is a film buff and wanted to see a Ray Harryhausen movie on a big screen. Fortunately, a local cinema was offering a free screening 1974′s all too memorable Golden Voyage of Sinbad and we took advantage of that. Just as we left, a friend of my son’s arrived at the house and we invited him to join us.
Before the movie, I purchased a couple of pitchers of diet cola and three orders of popcorn. Normally, I do not indulge in popcorn because I know that it will clog my arteries, but I felt like I had to buy something to justify the free screening. By the time I was done, I had spent thirty dollars on food and drink. I did not mind spending the money because it supports a local non-profit cinema and I want the cinema to succeed. At the same time, thirty dollars for soda and popcorn for three seemed to be a bit excessive.
When I returned home, I noticed that halfoffdepot was offering instant-print gift certificates for a fifty percent discount. I could have purchased three before I left my house and saved fifteen dollars – half of what I spent.
While I recognize that most of my readers will question my decision to purchase popcorn and soda at a cinema, that was my decision and I don’t mind having made it. I do kick myself, for whatever that is worth, for having failed to check for discounts before I left my home. My excuse, if I have to come up with one, is that I have been extraordinarily busy at work this week and I just did not have the time. I know that is not much of an excuse, however, because we had been planning to see the movie for the past three weeks and I know that I could have checked out Half Off Depot, Groupon and other sites to look for discounts last weekend when I did have the time.
Planning for our every activity is not always possible. I, for one, would hate to lose out on spontaneous fun just because I was afraid of missing out on a discount. At the same time, I know that I can enjoy more activities if I do plan ahead and look for discounts ahead of time. Of course, even the thought of planning ahead requires planning and that can be an unwelcome chore even for the most diligent of frugalistas. When I do have the presence of mind to plan, here is what usually crosses my mind.
What Discounts Do I Already Have in my Back Pocket? Before I look for new discounts, I look for the discounts that I have already earned or claimed. Most cinemas, for example, offer reward programs. Everyone in my household has a reward card for each of our local cinemas. As a result, I usually have at least one coupon for a free movie ticket stored in my coupon folder. I make sure that everyone in the house knows when the coupons expire and that the coupons get used before they do expire. After all, there is no reason to look for other entertainment when a free ticket to an air conditioned cinema is on hand.
What Discounts Can I Purchase? I have already mentioned Half Off Depot and Groupon. I check those sites every day if I have a spare minute or two. I know the places at which I regularly shop and will snap up discount vouchers any time I see them available. There are also opportunities to purchase discount vouchers through the American Automobile Association and through many employers.
What Discounts Does Each Vendor Offer? If I am going to a movie, I know that matinees will be less expensive. If I am going to dine out, I look for the discounts that restaurants offer on certain days.
What if I Can’t Find a Discount? There is not always a discount available. If that is the case, I ask myself whether I really cannot select a different event or restaurant. If I have my heart set on a particular experience, finding a discount is a nice perk but the lack of a deal won’t deter me from an experience that I want to have.
How much do you think about discounts before you head out for the day? Do you try to anticipate everything that you will do so that you can bring every possible discount coupon with you or do you take a more relaxed approach? How much does the opportunity to get a discount influence your purchasing patterns?