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Published February 27, 2014, 04:18 PM

Money Savin' Mama: Be cautious when ‘saving’ equals more spending

A sale sign lured me from the mall’s wide corridors last October. Everything in the children’s clothing store was $16.99 or less, it promised.

By: Sherri Richards, INFORUM

A sale sign lured me from the mall’s wide corridors last October. Everything in the children’s clothing store was $16.99 or less, it promised.

I don’t normally shop at Gymboree, its regular prices out of my wallet’s comfort zone. But beneath that sign were tulle-lined holiday dresses, regularly priced around $60 each.

The saleswoman confirmed the dresses were included in the inventory-clearing sale. I bought three – one for my daughter, Eve, and early Christmas presents for two nieces – paying less total than one would have cost.

I stayed within my gift-giving budget for the girls, and bought Eve a new outfit for not much more than I usually pay for a used dress.

And, because I spent more than $50, I received bonus “Gymbucks” for $25 off a future $50 purchase, valid from the end of January into early February.

So a few weeks ago, I wandered back into the land of kiddy chic. Happily, many of its racks were on clearance, discounted 30 percent to 60 percent.

I picked out itty-bitty shirts and pants as a gift for my newborn nephew, a skirt and top for Eve, and an adorable hat for one of my nieces.

With the clearance prices and the $25 coupon, my bill came to $32.18, a far cry from the $125 the original price tags totaled.

I celebrated my money-saving prowess, but warily.

Because, had I really saved any money at all?

It’s a dangerous trap to think you’ve saved money when in reality, you spent.

It’s an issue I struggle with as I see frugal blogs touting ways to score major discounts on tank tops, kids’ toys and toiletries.

Yes, you’re paying much less than the suggested retail price. This is great when they’re items you need or gifts you’d be buying anyway.

But did you have that money in your budget to spend for those items? Did you need those tank tops or toys or toiletries?

I found myself falling into a similar scheme a few weeks later. Several friends have had good luck purchasing items from Zulily.com, a daily deal site geared toward moms. A Facebook ad lured me into the “shopping destination.”

There, I found a discounted pair of My Little Pony pajamas, a perfect birthday present for Eve. Several pairs of shoes caught my eye, and I took a chance on a pair of black wedges, as my current go-to black flats each have a hole in the sole.

At the checkout, I hesitated, realizing the shipping costs would eat away at my savings, but after some quick calculations, clicked buy.

A congratulatory note for my first purchase popped on the screen, along with an offer of free shipping on any additional purchases made through the weekend.

Free shipping? Well, I should probably take advantage of that …

I started to scan the site for more “deals.”

And then I stopped.

None of these deals would mean more money in my bank account.

They’d just mean stuff I don’t need at my doorstep.

That’s no deal.

Sherri Richards is a thrifty mom of two and employee of The Forum. She can be reached at srichards@forumcomm.com