Are You Spending More Just to Get a Discount?

black-friday1-300x225Please enjoy this guest post from Ben Luthi.  Ben is a personal finance blogger who does his thing over at The Wealth Gospel. He’s passionate about helping people to stop thinking about personal finance according to the template society has created, and to find their true potential and align their behaviors with it. His favorite food is chips and salsa and his spirit animal is Warren Buffett.

I love a good discount. In fact, I can’t remember the last time my wife and I went out to eat without some form of a discount, whether it was through a Living Social or Groupon deal, a gift card, or a restaurant special. But when I scroll through online deals or go through mail ads, I can’t help but think, “There’s a whole lot of useless crap on here.”

When normally-rational human beings see discounts, their first thought isn’t, “Do I need this?” Rather, it’s usually more along the lines of, “OMG OMG OMG! I’ve always needed a Thighmaster! I better buy it now so I don’t have to pay full price later!” The only problem is that you’re a dude and you have no business owning a Thighmaster.

Junk is Junk…Even When It’s On Sale

I’m sure you’ve done it. Maybe not with a Thighmaster, but there has probably been a time in your life where you’ve fallen for the trick. Whether or not you need it is absolutely irrelevant, because it’s freaking 75% off! And really, that’s all it is. A big trick. Retailers don’t give discounts because they think you’re great. All they want to do is drive traffic into their stores, so they’ll slap a discount on a few items and then wait for all the suckers to come in. Oh, and a few other things that just so happen to be in the same aisle. And they do it all in the name of “customer appreciation.” That way you feel like they care about you and not your money. They also like to try to get you to think that you have to buy it now or else the deal will go away and you’re never going to be happy. Ever. Again. Case in point: Black Friday. But in all honesty, most of that crap you and your loved ones don’t need anyway and a lot of it is going to be on sale again at some point in the future.

Two years ago was my first—and my last—Black Friday experience. My mom and sisters love doing Black Friday shopping every year and convinced my wife to join them. I wasn’t planning on going, and my wife knew better to push me on it because I hate shopping to begin with. But a few minutes before they left, I realized that with school and work, my wife and I didn’t get to spend a lot of time together, so I thought she would really appreciate it if I went.

Let me just say the brownie points definitely weren’t worth it. In fact, I was a big butt the whole night because of how ridiculous it all was, so I probably didn’t get any brownie points anyway.

We first went to Target, where we found a line snaked back and forth around the back of the store. I didn’t bring a warm enough coat, and I drank too much water before we left. I was seriously contemplating wetting myself just for the few seconds of warmth. After an hour of waiting, they finally opened the doors. And we spent another hour in the cold before we finally made it inside.

As soon as we got in, I bolted for the bathroom while my wife, sisters and mom split up with their battle plans. After joining up with them, I started searching the aisles and shelves for something I could really use. And I found nothing. Where are all the deals I saw in the newspaper? Oh yeah, all that stuff was gone within the first 2.6 seconds after they opened the place. But look at all the other stuff! After a total of four hours in the store, three and a half of those hours spent waiting in line to get to a cashier, I made out with a Country Christmas CD for my wife, which I paid full price for. After Target, Wal-Mart was a blur and I was so annoyed by that point that I just sat down on a bench and waited for everyone to finish.

So what is it? Are discounts good or bad? Well, that depends on how you use them. To me, it’s a lot like a credit card. Credit card companies don’t give you that money because they like you. In fact, they keep the minimum payments low to lull you into a false sense of security, making you focus on the small payment rather than on the fact that you’re spending more to begin with. But if you use credit cards the right way, you can enjoy the benefits of rewards points and other perks at the expense of the credit card company without paying them a penny of interest. Now who’s the fool?

The same goes for discounts. If you only use discounts on things you actually need or will realistically use, it’s a great way to live frugally and save that extra cash for something more important. But when discounts are tricking you into spending more because you’re focusing more on the discount than on how much you’re spending, you’re in trouble.

When it comes to online deals like Groupon and Living Social, the best way I have found to cut down on my spending was to unsubscribe from their emails. That way I can go search if I want, but I don’t need the daily solicitation. I also generally try to avoid big sales or discount circulars unless I actually feel like I need it. Does that mean I miss out on deals every now and then? Yeah. I hear about some things too late and kick myself. But I’d rather miss out on a deal now and then than spend all my money buying more crap than I need.

Are you planning to hit the stores on Black Friday?  Have you ever bought something you didn’t need just because it was on sale?

Want to be a part of some cool giveaways? Become a VIP Club Insider today!

Comments

  1. Oh man! Seems like there are less painful ways to earn brownie points! That’s kind of how I feel about Black Friday. The only people who will get the really amazing deals like a $3 toaster are the ones who stand in line for hours (or DAYS) waiting. My time is worth more to me than that! I’ll buy a toaster some other day, thanks!
    Dee @ Color Me Frugal recently posted..7 ways to (happily!) contain your standard of livingMy Profile

  2. Last month I had an impulsive buying because I saw on the website that it was 75% off. So I purchased the stuff but I was a little disappointed because of the quality of the audio and the battery life.
    Clarisse @MakeMoney Your Way recently posted..How does Currency Trading WorkMy Profile

  3. If I get a gift card this weekend (belated b-day present I asked for), I might hit up an outlet or two on the way home from the airport on black Friday. I’m on the hunt for a new swimsuit and wouldn’t mind getting one at the crazy discounts the outlets offer on black Friday. But this is a need at this point – buying more just because it’s on sale drives me nuts!
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..He Said She Said: Financial BullyingMy Profile

  4. It’s not exactly discounts for me, but I’ve fallen into this kind of trap with credit card rewards. I’ll know I get 5% on certain spending for a month, and for some reason that makes me want to spend more. It doesn’t make any logical sense, but our brains are very strange sometimes.
    Matt Becker recently posted..Disability Insurance: Why Almost Everyone Needs ItMy Profile

    • Agreed! Someone I know did something similar when they were moving. They talked about getting their moving expenses deducted from their income tax, so they spent an extra night at a hotel. Soooo you’re willing to spend an extra $150 just so you can get a tiny tax deduction that you may not qualify for anyway because you don’t have enough other itemized deductions? Strange indeed!
      Ben @ The Wealth Gospel recently posted..Utah Road Trip!My Profile

  5. I’m sure I have bought things I don’t need in the past simply because they were on sale. Nothing specific comes to mind, but I’m sure if I thought long enough I’d easily come up with examples. I went out last year for Black Friday shopping and got a few very specific deals. I was actually just looking at my post from last year and I’m still happy with my purchases, as I have put them all to good use and probably saved $100-$200 by going on Black Friday instead of other times. Yes, they were doorbusters, but if you are going for one thing it shouldn’t be too hard to get in and out (probably depends on the store, though).
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..The Weekly Quick Hits RoundupMy Profile

  6. Being a (former!) over-spender, I’ve always been cautious with those sales tricks of ‘buy three, get one for free!’. Oddly enough, if I don’t need three of something, I’m not going to buy it – except it’s books or socks, because you can never have enough socks. And as for Black Friday: unless I would absolutely NEED something, I’d try to take advantage. But I usually don’t participate, and I won’t this year either.
    Little Miss Money recently posted..Day 38 – And Then I Pretty Much ‘Oh Wow’-ed The Entire Day.My Profile

  7. Deals are the way companies get people to buy the things they weren’t going to buy in the first place. Rarely are deals on the items in demand.

    It can be tough to pass up an incredible deal. I go to slickdeals online all the time and I have to resist the urge to pick up some random gadget each time.

    The sooner we can all develop the habit to stop, breathe, and analyze when in the position of spending, the sooner we will start saving more and being in less debt.

    The Warrior
    NetWorthWarrior.com
    The Warrior recently posted..30 Financial Lessons I’ve Learned in 30 YearsMy Profile

  8. Since I’m a financial coach, I get to hear tons of personal finances stories. When I’m looking over bank statements with clients and we start talking about expenses, one of the big comments is always “oh, well I bought that on sale so it’s cool”.

    When someone says that to me, I always go to this example: “If the item was 75% off of $100 but you wouldn’t have purchased it otherwise, you’re still spending $25. That’s still a bad deal if you ask me”. Like you said, junk is junk, even when it’s on sale.

    The same thing holds true with taxes. Everyone is always talking about spending money to get tax deductions. Well, if you’re buying something for $100 just to get a deduction, you’re still going to end up spending more money than you’re saving. If it’s something that you need, I can certainly understand it. But if you’re spending money just to save a percentage, that’s just stupid.

  9. Oh I’m so happy to see this post! lol

    Not related to Black Friday, but every year I’m always frustrated by the number of people who clamor over the “free turkey” deals at grocery stores. It’s not really free if you have to force yourself to spend $150 on a bunch of other stuff you don’t need! :P

  10. We used to go nuts on Black Friday, but those days are long gone and it just give me a headache now. We may shop a bit just because we’ll be in the city for Thanksgiving and we have no stores where we live, but we won’t be lined up in the cold. I’m thinking around 10AM and only if there isn’t huge crowds.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..The Emergency Fund Has Taken a HitMy Profile

  11. No way to Black Friday. Never done it and never want to try, ever. When I first signed up for Groupon I got an email about 75% off for a comforter. My husband and I had a queen sized bed and we only had throws and full size comforters. I wanted a comforter to fit the bed so we picked one out. It ended up being pretty cheaply made and hubby prefers his throw blankets instead so it barely gets used. Instead of jumping at the deal, I could have searched online for a nice comforter for a similar price.
    Kasey @ Debt Perception recently posted..Entertainment ExpensesMy Profile

  12. I’m very guilty of buying clothes that either don’t fit right, don’t look right, or are just bad purchases because they were on sale. I almost fell into that trap yesterday with a “buy 2 get 1 free” deal on basic shirts – they were all sheer and didn’t fit right but get one free!! Thankfully I walked away, this time…
    Amanda recently posted..My Debt Story (and 100th Post!)My Profile

  13. I must admit there have been a few occasions in which I’ve gotten t-shirts and tank tops just because they were $9.99 or less. Most of the time I use discounts to buy things I need.

    I know a lot of Canadians enjoy going down to the states to partake in Black Friday Sales. I’m not a big fan of shopping or crowds so I tend to stay away from that and stay local. I used to do a lot cross border shopping with my parents as a kid though.
    MakintheBacon recently posted..Playing Video Games for a LivingMy Profile

  14. You hit the nail on the head Ben. Most retailers use all sorts of gimmicks to try and trick us into thinking they’re allowing us to save all sorts of money, when in fact we’re spending more. We get to see it from the other side as we work in advertising and they use these gimmicks all the time. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it in the past, but not really any more. As for going out on Black Friday – I’d rather get a frontal lobotomy. ;)
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..My Retirement Dream: to Keep Working!My Profile

  15. I totally agree about unsubscribing to lists. It just takes that temptation away. And I always think when you are ready to actually purchase something, you will find a discount somewhere. No, I don’t plan on shopping on black friday.
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..Re-Commit to Your Financial GoalsMy Profile

  16. I don’t do Black Friday in-stores anymore– Amazon has everything I need on sale in one place, and I don’t have to fight the weather or strangers to get it!
    Terry @EasyFinancialTips recently posted..5 New Year’s Money Resolutions Everyone Should MakeMy Profile

  17. I generally buy a bit more to get free shipping but not because it is heavily discounted. I try to stock up on something I’ll need later, although I often end up with a year worth of XYZ and sometimes throw some away when I move house.
    Pauline recently posted..European trip update: Sevilla and MoroccoMy Profile

    • Yeah, I don’t see a problem with spending a little more on something you’re actually going to use. But that does become a problem when things end up expiring or it just gets wasted. My wife’s grandparents have a whole storage area full of expired food because they keep buying food at Costco “because it’s cheaper”, but with the two of them, they can’t eat even half of it before it goes bad.
      Ben @ The Wealth Gospel recently posted..A Plea for Donations for Typhoon Haiyan VictimsMy Profile

  18. I don’t think we’re doing any Black Friday shopping this year.

    I mentioned a couple things I was hoping would be on sale at Joann Fabrics and my husband asked what the regular price was. I know him well enough to know that he was calculating the price discount and figuring that gas to make a trip into town (we live in the boonies) would not be worth the savings, when I could stop by and buy the items at regular price when I’m already going to be in town. Or better yet, maybe the deal will be online too!
    Stephanie @ Six Figures Under recently posted..Daring to Disclose DebtMy Profile

  19. I always ask myself if I really need something when it’s on a great sale. I try not to fall for the advertising gimmicks! I generally only look for things on sale that I’ve previously determined I need. I will hold out on a purchase to see if it will go on sale within a few weeks. I feel much better scoring a great deal on something meaningful than I do purchasing a random thing I found browsing the clearance rack. If you’re saying, “oh I’ll find a use for it,” you’re probably lying to yourself.
    E.M. recently posted..What To Think About When RelocatingMy Profile

  20. Yeah, it’s the crap and the time wasted buying the crap!
    kelly @stayingonbudget recently posted..Weekend Reading #11My Profile

  21. You have to wonder what the true cost analysis is when you factor in the time those people spend camping out. Sure, something might be heavily discounted and save you 200 dollars. Then you spend a day camping out by the store to make sure you get the item. That would break down to $8.33 an hour. I’m pretty sure you could have gotten a better return on your time by doing something else.

    The other thought is the really cheap items might be of poor quality. A $98 32″ TV is not a deal if it dies within a year and I have to pay full price for a quality one anyways.
    Micro recently posted..Saving Money on Software Part 1: Open Source SoftwareMy Profile

  22. My biggest pet peeve is the BOGO deal, buy 1, get 1 for 50% off. I have never seen one of those where I actually needed or could use the 2nd one but I always say “I should probably get the 2nd, heck, it is 50% off.” But fortunately I always talk myself out of it.
    Kyle @ Rather-Be-Shopping.com recently posted..My Shark Tank Hero: Entrepreneur Julie Busha of SlawsaMy Profile

  23. I used to be lulled into crazy deals on clothing items like coats and shoes. But then you realize, if you only wear that coat once, you paid $20 to wear it once! Nothing is wasting more money.
    Tara @ Streets Ahead Living recently posted..Some ways to make extra cash for the holiday shoppingMy Profile

  24. I totally know where you’re coming from when you doubt discounts for their true value. Lots of people hunt for good monetary value and not always functional value. A friend of mine went to a warehouse retailer and bought a small carton of crisp at 40% off. But what an unhealthy purchase that was.
    fehmeen recently posted..What is a 401(k) – A Simple DefinitionMy Profile

  25. Whenever I get one of those ValuePack coupon booklets in the mail, this topic is pretty much all I can think about.

    All of the coupons in there would be things that are “nice” to have, but are things that I don’t buy in my required daily life. By “saving” money, you are really just being promoted to spend more money in the first place.
    Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey recently posted..Reader Profile – Dojo from Dojo BlogMy Profile

  26. We have ignored the BF sales (many stores had it one week before in my country – don’t ask me, don’t know why) and saved a lot of money. I’d rather shop when I NEED something and look for a good deal, than to waste money just because some useless junk is on sale.
    dojo recently posted..Home based business: how flexible are you when it comes to working during weekends?My Profile

  27. It’s one of the beauties of marketing also the weakness of human mind. The “Spend this much $$$ to save this much” trickery just makes you spend even more on things that you don’t really need.
    Jay@MoneyRebound recently posted..How to get the most from your SuperannuationMy Profile

  28. This is funny, because my fiance is always saying this about my dad’s spending habits. “He’s always spending a lot of money on stuff that’s on “sale” that he doesn’t need”. He’s right, often many people will spend a lot to save a little on something they would never otherwise buy.
    Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter recently posted..Why Physical Fitness is ImportantMy Profile

  29. When I was younger and had just started to earn on my own, I am really guilty with this. I used to shop around even for those things that are not useful to me because of the discount I can get. But right now, I am wiser in choosing which discounts I can really save up.
    Felix Lee recently posted..Help with Setting up a BusinessMy Profile

  30. What’s upwards cool website! Male. Wonderful. Excellent. I will search for your web site and make nourishes likewise? My business is grateful to search out numerous handy info below while in the release, we’d like determine further methods this specific consider, thank you for discussing.

  31. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to visit this potent page. There is plenty of valuable details listed on this web-site. I have learned quite a few things. It is too much to absorb at once, thus I definitely will return to view more. Are you perhaps interested in the outdoors, camping or fishing? If so please click this link

Trackbacks

  1. […] necessary to go apesh*t  to score a deal on it? Only a small percentage of people get deals and as Ben from the Wealthy Gospel put it, the rest of it is junk. Junk that we don’t need and could probably do […]

  2. […] week I wrote about my first—and last—Black Friday experience. Little did I know…how much I love my wife. We’ve spent a LOT of time together in the […]

  3. […] Thanksgiving, or even starting their online deals the day after Halloween. If you’re like me, this is driving you absolutely crazy. But at the same time, I don’t blame them. Macy’s CEO said it best, “This year […]

Speak Your Mind

*

CommentLuv badge