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For many budget-savvy parents, loyalty programs can be a great way to save a few bucks.  Whether it’s points from the grocery store or the gas station, Air Miles or Gap Cash – everyone likes to feel like they’re getting a little something for nothing, especially when we can say “well I’m already buying it anyway…”

But do they just encourage us to spend more money when an incentive is dangled in front of us?  Personally, I feel victorious when I am able to hit my spend – but not go over.  For example, spend $50 and get 8000 bonus points – I can, on occasion, hit the nail on the head and hit $51.23 on that receipt.

More often though, it seems that I ‘try’ to hit that amount and lose track in my hurried shop and end up wondering how a stop for toilet paper and milk landed me at $87.09 (or more).  And has my husband wondering why I bought him 7 deodorants.  However, I can always explain it away with “points math”, usually incorporating the phrase “we actually MADE money on this shop”.

Of the serious point collectors, there are hoarders and spenders.  I always use my points right away!  I’m a sucker for instant gratification.  For some programs it is better to wait and some people like to save up their spending for the end of the year and holiday shopping – smart!

Points programs are useful when you don’t have to buy anything that you wouldn’t otherwise buy and when the points can accumulate quickly enough that it is rewarding!