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Are coupons a waste of time?

Dear Dave,

Is it worth the time and effort to use coupons, or are they just a waste of time and a ploy to get you to buy things?

–Tammy

Dear Tammy,

Coupons are definitely a ploy to entice you to buy something you may not have purchased otherwise. But that doesn’t mean they’re bad things. The practical and sensible application of coupons can definitely help you save money.

The main things to watch out for when using coupons are overbuying and spending your money on things you don’t really need. Seriously, you don’t need to hit Sam’s or Costco and walk out with 9 gallons of mustard. I’ve even heard of people buying things they know they don’t like just because it was on sale or they had a coupon. I mean, how dumb is that?

I guess there is a time factor involved in collecting coupons, especially if you still like to clip them from the newspapers or flyers that come in the mail. Plenty of folks still do that every week. I think online coupons are a lot easier to search for and save though. There’s a company I love called eMeals that will work with you to plan recipes and also give you information on coupons and sales in your area to make the meals.

I’m definitely not anti-coupon, but at the same time couponing alone won’t change your family tree. It’s like any other tool. If used in a smart way, it can help you save money. And that’s not a bad thing.

–Dave 

Birthday money is a last resort

Dear Dave,

What’s the best way to save or use money given to a baby as a birthday present?

Ron

Dear Ron,

I think it depends on your financial situation along with your plans and goals. If you’re at a place where you can’t afford necessities, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using birthday money for food, diapers or clothes. That’s not a fun answer, but sometimes you have to do whatever it takes to properly care for your family.

If money isn’t a big issue though, you’re left with figuring out a plan. In our case, we invested lots of it toward their college funds. Then we taught them to save for other things themselves. For instance, we didn’t buy any of our kids their first cars. But we did agree to match whatever they saved when it came to this purchase.

There’s also nothing wrong with just setting up a simple savings account and watching it grow. As they get older, you can involve them in the process and begin to teach them about the three uses for money: spending, saving and giving. And if you start something like this when they’re really little, chances are they’ll already have a nice pile of money already stashed away when they become old enough for those teachable moments.

The point is to have a plan. Once you have a definite idea in mind, it’s a lot easier to achieve the goal!

–Dave

Dave Ramsey is the author of four New York Times best-selling books: "Financial Peace," "More Than Enough," "The Total Money Makeover and EntreLeadership." The  Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 5 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

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