The following guest post is from Jason of FrugalDad.com. Jason writes about frugal living, family finances, and other related topics at his blog.
With the holiday shopping season in full swing I am reminded of how often people rush out to buy something just because it is on sale. I admit, I enjoy saving money as much as anyone, but I’ve caught myself falling into the trap of buying something just because it is a great deal.
A few months ago a friend called me about a tool chest that had been incorrectly priced at a local Sears store. Sears was honoring the price because people were flocking to the store with sales ad in hand. I thanked him for the heads up, but pointed out that I did not need a tool chest. My garage was already crowded, and what few tools I have are comfortably stored away in toolboxes and other organizers. His response was predictable, “I don’t really need it either, but it is half price!”
Save 100% By Avoiding Sales Altogether
I was lucky in the sense that my friend called to give me a heads up and I wasn’t already in the store, where impulse decisions often lead to the purchase of things we don’t really need. In the past, I was the world’s worst at picking up stuff I didn’t need just because it had a yellow tag, or a big “SALE” sign above it. Marketers must have loved me!
If you have a habit of seeking out sales, or giving in to tempting in-store sales, I encourage you to consider Trent’s ten-second rule, something I have applied in my own life with great success. Simply stop and count to ten before tossing the item in your shopping cart. Usually, by the count of seven or eight, I have a pretty good idea whether or not I actually need the item. Most of the time it goes back on the shelf, regardless of the cost. The way I look at it, items put back on the shelf save me 100%, and no store can match that sale price.
The Same Rules Apply to Free Items
People often rationalize the accumulation of stuff because it was given to them for free. However, I would argue that stuff is not really “free.” After all, clutter is money. The more stuff you have the more you have to spend maintaining, protecting, and storing it. There are also opportunity costs to consider. Again using my own example, if my garage wasn’t so cluttered I could store used fitness equipment there and cancel my gym membership. At $30 a month, that clutter is costing me the opportunity to save $360 per year!
To make matters worse, a quick inventory of my garage reveals much of the stuff was handed down, or picked up for next to nothing at yard sales. Save the few items with sentimental value, I could probably toss seventy-five percent of its contents and not miss a thing. Time to do some early spring cleaning!
The next time you are faced with temptation to add to your already growing collection, ask yourself if you really need the item. Take price out of the equation, regardless of how good a deal it might be. If it turns out you really do need the item, and it is available at a great price, take advantage of the sale with cash and enjoy.