One of the more common fund raisers for youth groups around here is the “Entertainment” book. It’s essentially a rather thick book of coupons (the Des Moines area one we have has about 300 pages) with a lot of “buy one, get one free” offers – and some straight-up discounts – on items from local businesses. For us, the book cost $20 and most of the coupons last through the following November.
At first glance through the book, it seems like a spectacularly good deal. Not only is your $20 helping out a local youth group or civic organization, you also get an enormous book of coupons for items from a lot of local businesses and chain stores. For me, the real value comes in the coupons for buckets of balls at a local driving range – you can buy one and get a bucket for free. This means that my $4 or $5, which would normally buy a single bucket of balls and thus provide me about an hour’s worth of entertainment suddenly becomes two hours’ worth, or else it lets me go bash some balls around with a friend for free (assuming of course my pal buys a bucket).
There are two reasons why a book of such coupons might not pay off – here they are along with strategies for overcoming them.
The first possibility is that you’ll end up spending more because you have the coupons. One good way to fend off this possibility is to go through the entire book of coupons soon after you get it, pull out all of the coupons that you’re pretty sure you’ll use, then get rid of the book so you’re not tempted to use some of those other “coupons” to spend money you shouldn’t be spending. I went through our book and pulled out somewhere around 50 coupons, then I proceeded to give the book to friends to pull out more coupons that they might use – I didn’t even want the temptation to “buy one, get one free” at a local coffee shop.
Another possibility is you might forget all about the book. The best way to do this is to keep the book out in a place where you’ll often see it. We do this by keeping the coupons we already pulled out in our coupon box, which we go through so often that we regularly see the ones we decided to keep. I also keep about three of them in my wallet at all times – almost always, I’ll carry one around to bat a bucket of balls at a driving range.
Here’s the bottom line on such books: if you look at it as a way to participate in a group’s fund raiser, it’s definitely worthwhile. I’d much rather have one of these books that could potentially save me some money rather than an overpriced item out of a catalogue that I don’t want at all. From a strictly frugal standpoint, it’s questionable as to whether it saves money – for example, I’m more likely to go out and whack away at a bucket of balls for $3 than for $6, but would I have gone anyway without the coupon? Still, if an “Entertainment” book is an option for you as a fundraising purchase, it’s likely a much better option than some of the other overpriced things you could be asked to buy.