Updated on 06.05.14

Shop Patiently (15/365)

Trent Hamm

When we were first considering a move into our current home, my wife and I made a list of things that we wanted to have in our home that we just didn’t have room for in our small apartment. One of the big items on that list was a deep freezer.

We wanted one primarily because we often had offers of buying shares of venison or beef, where entire animals had been processed at a meat locker and the person was hoping to get back some of their investment by selling a quarter of the meat. Per pound, this was an incredible deal, but you would often have to deal with thirty or forty pounds (or more – sometimes much more) of wrapped and processed meat.

We also wanted to take advantage of specific sales at the grocery store. For example, if a store has a sale on flash-frozen vegetables, we’ll often stock up on them.

As we moved into our current home, we had money set aside for buying a deep freezer, an amount based on the prices we could easily find at the time. We knew some of the specific models we wanted that had a good “bang for the buck,” and we had the cash in hand. Time to buy, right?


Shop Patiently (15/365)

The thing was that we didn’t immediately need that deep freezer. Yes, we wanted one and it was clear that over the long run such a freezer would save us money, but we weren’t pinned up against the wall with regards to the purchase.

This distinction between want and need is a key one. It is incredibly easy for people to decide that something useful that they merely want is actually more of a need – something that they have to go out and purchase right away. I see it all the time with people in my social circle, and I even see it uncomfortably often in myself.

Holding back on those “wants that seem kind of like needs” is essential for saving money.

What are you holding back for? The sale. There are many ways where you can find that item that you’re looking for at a much lower price than what you’ll see at your local department store or appliance store.

All we did is sit on this idea of buying a deep freezer for about two months. We watched the ads from the local hardware and appliance stores, waiting for a great price on one of the models we wanted. Eventually, we found it on sale at about a 35% discount, saving us quite a bit of money.

Even better, during that period, a friend of ours came up with a used deep freezer that he offered to give to us. We were strongly considering taking the item, even though we were a bit concerned about the fan motor in it, but we went for the discounted one instead.

We didn’t lose anything by waiting, but we gained about the third of the cost of our deep freezer.

This type of story repeats itself time and time again when you’re making any major purchase. The price you find today is likely to be easily topped if you exhibit a little bit of patience, and considering that the items that you’d do this with aren’t really essential to your day-to-day life, there’s no real drawback to waiting.

What kind of threshold should you have for pulling the trigger? For me, I usually try to wait for a price that’s at least 20% lower than the lowest regular price I found when I was initially searching for the item.

How long should you wait? This is really up to you. What I typically do is wait until I notice a continuous stream of possible uses for the item I was considering buying. Whenever I notice a use, I bump my threshold for buying closer to the lowest regular price until it becomes clear that the item is nearly a “need” in terms of how we live our lives, then I’ll just go for the lowest-priced version I can find.

Patience is the key, and patience pays off time and time again.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book 365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

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  1. Steven says:

    I have a difficult time reading your articles due to your frequent usage of adverbs. Often I left with a feeling of “WTF is he trying to say?” and have to reread the sentence or paragraph over. Your writing would be much better if you eliminated most of the adverbs.

  2. Johanna says:

    This particular post would be much better if you eliminated most of the adverbs – and most of the other words too. “When you don’t need to make a purchase right away, wait for a few months to see if you can get the item on sale.” It’s a good idea, but does it really need any more explanation than that?

  3. Angie says:

    Now that you don’t eat meat, do you even need the deep freezer?

  4. krantcents says:

    This one of the reasons I like shopping online. I can use shopping bots to find the lowest price and shopping online has built in patience. I usually do my research online and then shop.

  5. Misha says:

    Angie, even if he still doesn’t, his wife and children do – and as another example of deep freezer use he gave he did give the example of “a store has a sale on flash-frozen vegetables” which they would want to stock up on.

    Also, at the time he bought the deep freezer he was still eating meat, so I don’t see how the fact that he doesn’t eat meat now invalidates the point of the post.

  6. Gretchen says:

    “Flash frozen vegetables” go on sale all the time.

    U’m not sure you can flesh out each day in this series to be a full post.
    I can only do research on appliances (I’m not in the market for) so many times.

  7. Jessica says:

    We got ours at a scratch n dent appliance store. Ours stays in the basement so I couldn’t care less if the outside of it is ugly. We saved 40% and got it without waiting.

  8. lurker carl says:

    As our household decreased in size, we got rid of the huge chest freezer. It was a PITA to reach the bottom, keep it organized and rotated – we always had a box of stuff we had to throw out at each defrosting interval. Now we use the freezer compartment of our fridge and eat up food on hand before buying more. Soooo much easier! Unless you have a big family to feed or a huge garden with fresh produce to process, a separate freezer is often costs more than it saves.

  9. Kate says:

    I agree with you lurker carl. I have cleaned out the freezers of many older people and the amount of food that gets thrown away because it is old or not labeled with date and the people can’t remember how long it has been there is terribly wasteful.

  10. kc says:

    “When you don’t need to make a purchase right away, wait for a few months to see if you can get the item on sale.” It’s a good idea, but does it really need any more explanation than that?

    Perhaps the site should be renamed “The Complicated Dollar”

  11. valleycat1 says:

    This seems to be another version of the 30-day rule discussed a week ago.

  12. valleycat1 says:

    Though on second thought, it’s better called wait until the item is on sale. Otherwise, shop patiently is just another way of stating the 30-day rule, except it could be more than 30 days.

  13. Bonnie says:

    Maybe I shouldn’t be at this point, but I am always shocked at how rude people are on this board. Simple manners have gone out the window in this world. Honestly, I think it is totally natural to enjoy some blog posts more than others, but to tear Trent apart over the ones that don’t click with you is rude and sad.

  14. Tracy says:


    Critical feedback isn’t bad manners. This is Trent’s job, it’s how he makes his living. It’s not a matter of not clicking – most people just ignore the ones that don’t click – the critical feedback is on the ones that are poorly written and/or give bad advice.

  15. Angie says:

    Calm down Misha. I wasn’t attacking anyone, just asking a simple question.

  16. Johanna says:

    Angie, Misha’s reply to you was calm as could be, and didn’t accuse you of attacking anyone.

  17. Angie says:

    Oh Johanna, you’re so one to talk. I love this blog!

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