Paycheck Chronicles

Discount Books: Worth The Money?


This is a very popular time of year for the sale of different brands of discount books.  Someone, usually a non-profit, will be selling a book that is full of coupons for businesses in your (general) area.  I often hear people discussing whether these books are a good value.

For purposes of conversation, I'm going to talk about the Entertainment book because it is pretty widely available and I have used them for many years.  An Entertainment book costs between $35 and $45 at full price, though you can regularly find discounts, particularly as the year progresses.  A book becomes valid on November 1st of the preceding year (so a 2011 book will be valid on 1 November 2010) and the coupons and offers are good until October 31st of the year on the book.  I have no idea why they run the years that way - do you?

There are three ways to obtain discounts when you purchase an Entertainment book.  First, the book itself is packed with coupons for all sorts of things.  Over the years, I've enjoyed half-price dry cleaning, lots of buy-one-get-one free meals at restaurants, $5 off purchases at a favorite grocery store, and free games of bowling and miniature golf.  In addition to the book coupons, there is an Entertainment card that is used at nicer restaurants - great for a special occasion.  Also, once you register your card online, you have access to even more discounts and new coupons that aren't in the book.

In addition to using the book in your local area, there are national travel discounts listed in the Entertainment book.  I regularly check the Entertainment book prices when comparing hotel or car rental prices.  While the Entertainment book prices aren't always the best, they sometimes beat the USAA discount prices or the Web specials.

Each type of discount book has its own good features and you'll need to check out a book before you decide if it is a good buy for you.  If you live far from the city for which it is published, it might not be such a benefit.  On the flip side, some people purchase discount books for a place that they vacation.  If you spend a week in one place, and eat in restaurants and visit attractions, you are likely to find a discount book valuable.

In my experience, the Entertainment book has been a sound investment.  My family and friends expect to hear me say, "Let's see what's in the book," if we are headed out for a meal or entertainment.  I believe that I have always more than saved the cost of the book.  What is your opinion?

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