I remember walking through Costco with my mom when I was a kid. We spent plenty of time looking through all the savings, and then Mom looked at her list, looked at our calculations, and looked at her list again. Then she said, “Wow, we could save ourselves into bankruptcy here!”
That phrase has stuck with me. It whispers in the back of my mind every time I get an alert for a fantastic sale. You could buy this thing for half the normal price, the sale promises. You could buy this thing and you should think about all the money you’re not spending.
But spending money at a sale is not saving money. You might only be handing over 50% of the money you could have handed over, but you are still spending money.
I’m a big advocate of negotiation in all circumstances. Whether it’s been a house purchase, our car, a major appliance, a repair, or anything at all, I go in ready to negotiate. I haggle with the appliance guy at Best Buy. I coupon – not to the extreme, but I generally go armed with Retail Me Not codes. I absolutely think that when you shop, you should go in with the objective of getting the best deal you can.
However, when you’re on a budget, when you’re trying to save money and repair finances, there’s only one way to really do that.
We had some major expenditures in the past month, so Scott and I are joking that we’ve imposed our own Budget Control Act on our finances.
I actually like doing this, because it’s a good chance to really evaluate what we’re spending and see if there’s anything that could benefit from being cut back – bills, grocery habits, subscription services that are redundant. I realized just how much my Starbucks habit had gotten out of control. It’s very liberating to have cut that back and see money back in our accounts, money that can go toward paying off debt, into our investments, or into savings for future renovation plans.
I feel sometimes, though, that the Internet of Things can see into our bank accounts also and see that there is money coming up. Either that, or just being more money conscious in general has made it seem like I’m getting pinged with thousands of alerts for sales.
Just in my email right now, World Market is offering me savings on pastas, olives, meats, and spices, today only, REI Adventures wants me to plan an adventure somewhere around this amazing world of ours, Eden Brothers wants me to buy seeds for the garden. Even Yoast sent me an email about upgrading my SEO plugin to the paid version. Sales marketing is everywhere. Buy, buy, buy!
“No,” I tell the marketing. “I’m saving money.”
But think just how much you’ll save if you buy today, the marketing whispers back.
That’s the thing, though. It’s not saving if you’re spending money you wouldn’t have spent anyway! You have not “saved” the 50% you hypothetically could have spent. You spent the 50% you did and didn’t budget for it. If saving hypothetical money were a viable thing, I could save a ton of money by buying $100 shoes and telling myself that somewhere, in an alternate universe, they were really $200 so I saved $100. See how that doesn’t make sense?
Here’s the real deal. Sales only help you out when you were planning on buying a particular thing anyway and budgeted the money for it. So let’s say I budgeted $3,000 for the wood look tile I want for the downstairs. And while I’m thinking about buying it, Floor&Decor puts it on sale for 30% off. That’s $900 that I don’t have to spend, then. And if I put that $900 back in my savings account or into investments, I really have saved that $900!
So how can you avoid extra spending and say no to sales?
Ask yourself these three questions:
1. Is this an item you need at this particular point in time?
If you don’t need the item right now when it’s on sale and you can potentially wait until the next sale, wait. Sales try to loop you in with the false idea that this is The Only Time you will be able to purchase this item at such a great deal. Not true. If you can’t buy it at the upcoming Labor Day sales, then you can be sure it’ll probably be marked down at the Columbus Day sales, or the Back to School Part II sales, or the pre-Halloween Christmas sale, or…
You get the idea. If you don’t need the item or don’t need it right now, say NO.
2. Is this an item you have planned to purchase or are budgeting for?
If you’ve planned to purchase this item and have money budgeted for it, absolutely go for the sale. But if you don’t have the money or if this item hasn’t hit your radar, stop. Think long and hard about whether you actually need it or would have bought it anyway, if it weren’t on sale.
If it’s an impulse purchase just because of a sale, say NO.
3. Is this an item you will buy with cash or pay off immediately?
This one is a no brainer if you are dealing with debt. If it’s just one more thing that’s going to go on your credit card, absolutely say NO.
If you are working with a tight budget and it would take away from the things you need if you did use your cash for it, absolutely say NO.
Actually, this is just good practice in general. If you don’t have money saved for the item or you’re not going to pay it off quickly, you should say NO.
How do you guys say NO to sales when you’re trying not to spend money?