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A coupon and Pareto walk into a bar…

10% off!!1! #

My grocery store hands me some coupons after every purchase. 50 cents here, 10% there.

I thought I am so smart for seeing the manipulation: 1) “Please come back to our store” and 2) “Why don’t you try something that you usually don’t buy?” Well, you not gonna have any luck with me: 1) I always come to you anyway and 2) “Fresh baked goods” and similar categories don’t interest me in the slightest. I only use the coupons of products I am getting anyway. So I just save a little on the side.

Wait, where is the problem? #

Just the other day got a coupon for “10% of comestics and cleaning supplies”, so I stockpiled a bit. Only things I am actually going to use. My savings: 2.63€.

And the costs? Real costs: none. But, there were the activities that went along with redeeming that coupon:

  1. At home I thought about which products and approx. how many would make sense.
  2. I had to make sure to visit that particular branch before the coupons expiry date.
  3. I needed to remind myself to grab the coupon from it’s compartment in the car.
  4. While in the store I was looking for more matching products and making sure that the conditions of the coupon were met.
  5. I needed to remind myself to hand over the coupon at checkout.
  6. I need to evaluate the new coupon I am presented with afterwards.

Does this sound like a chill shopping trip, where I just mindlessly wander the store and dump the contents of my shopping list into the cart?

Is it worth it to cram random unimportant tasks into my brain, just to save 2.63€?

That is a clear example of low ROI optimization and is definitely located in the 80% (the less effective part, which provides just 20% of results) of the 80/20 formula.

Savings mindset #

How do you become rich? By reducing your costs? Sure, you need to control your costs, but solely through austerity you can’t become rich. Only less poor.

You need to create value and increase your income. In most cases that will be the much more effective leaver.

If we assume you aren’t living lavishly, then reducing your costs by 300€ is much harder than earning another 300€ extra. At a certain point cutting costs will lead to (harsh) reductions in quality of life.

Back to the coupons. What are the programming you on? Poor people mindset.

You are posing to your brain the question: “How can I keep more of what little money I have?” instead of asking “How can I create more value for the world?”

Does this even make a difference? #

I’m not gonna stand here and pronounce that ignoring coupons will turn your life around. But it’s the small things, the small decisions added on top of each other, which over time can have a big impact.

The little extra relaxation, with which you leave the supermarket. The few more moments of awareness, that provide you with a little satisfaction. The little less, that your brain concentrates on having Little.

I have made up my mind. No more coupons from now on. They are going directly into the trash, without being considered.

Comprehension questions & Action steps #

  • Explain in your own words: Why are coupons costing you more than you are saving with them?
  • How are coupons related to the Pareto-principle?
  • Can you find examples from your own life, where you are engaging in activities that on the surface look like a good deal, but that are secretly costing your?
  • Come to a decision about how you are going to approach coupons and similar deals in the future.