My attention was attracted by a couple of recent articles about ways to save money on purchases. Where everyone forgets a bargain revealed that "[m]ore than a third of New Zealanders who buy coupons from group-buying websites forget to redeem them in time."

Group-buying websites include GrabOne and Treat Me where customers can pick up a service or product for a bargain price. I must confess I've bought from neither site but I always had the suspicion that some people, tempted by the promise of an irresistible bargain, would make purchases for goods or services they ultimately fail to redeem. What a waste of money.

The same article quoted a man who said that "80 per cent of their meals out were subsidised by coupons from either GrabOne or the Entertainment Book." Aah, the Entertainment Book. Now, this is a treasure I have yet to procure.

But, realising its purchase is related to fundraising efforts, I long ago decided that if someone tried to sell me one I'd happily give them the asking price in return for not having to take possession of the book in question.


Let me explain. When I eat out - and, yes, the Entertainment Book covers other activities as well - I'm usually really choosy about which establishment I visit. Depending on my mood and where I've been recently, I could crave a cheap and cheerful Malaysian eatery or a fancy restaurant supervised by a celebrity chef; I categorically would not choose an outlet purely on the basis of possessing a pre-purchased voucher guaranteeing discounts.

My aversion to the Entertainment Book began back in the 90s. Friends of ours, another couple, had bought one and so they asked if they could choose the venue for our dinner. We said that would be fine. At dinner we witnessed a little bit of discussion about what they'd order so that they accrued maximum benefit from the discount on offer.

Despite this, at the end of the evening when the two men went up to pay the bill our friend simply decided not to present the voucher concerned. I'm not sure if he was fed up with his outing being dictated to by an inanimate object or if he simply couldn't be bothered redeeming it or if he didn't want to appear cheap or if he didn't want to have to explain that the discount technically applied only to their half of bill rather than ours but he must have had his reasons - unless, of course, he'd just forgotten to bring along the right coupon.

As an introduction to the concept it looked like a pointless exercise. So the Entertainment Book directly influenced the choice of venue and also helped decide what meals should be ordered. That doesn't sound very entertaining to me. It strikes me as rather inflexible and regimented which surely is the opposite of what any great night out should be.

But obviously the concept works for some people. I understand that if it offers discounts at your favourite neighbourhood restaurant then you'll save heaps. I understand that if you're organised, flexible and happy to dine at whichever establishments are listed then you'll soon recoup your initial outlay. And I realise that if all your friends have bought into it then it becomes part of a shared bonding experience rather than a random inconvenience.

According to the side-bar accompanying the Herald on Sunday article Lifestyles hit by forced austerity consumers are increasingly depending on schemes such as the Entertainment Book and GrabOne to supplement their lifestyles in tough economic times. But surely that's a disturbing trend in light of research that revealed 36 per cent of survey respondents admitted to forgetting to redeem GrabOne coupons. Presumably there are also people, like our friend, who fail to get their money's worth from the Entertainment Book, too.

Spending money on something you don't really need or want just because it's discounted is counterintuitive. And failing to redeem the vouchers you've paid for is really poor form by anyone's standard. It's even worse when you've made the outlay under the illusion it will help you make ends meet.

Do you manage to redeem your GrabOne vouchers or do they represent money wasted? And how do you feel about the Entertainment Book? Is it really worth buying?