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Breaking the “Saving Money” Myth

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The Saving Money Myth

“For Sale” Does Not Mean Actual Savings

Now, most of you are smart enough to see through all of the holes in my sales pitch above, but if not, please send me a check for $100 if you plan to continue reading this post. Now, most people are aware that they are being sold when watching commercials and view advertisements. And I even believe that being sold something is a good thing. If you are sold something well, you purchase something that fits your needs and meets your price expectations. You exchange your money for their product or service and both parties walk away feeling good about the transaction.

BUT, far too many times are customers swayed by those big, red “SALE” signs and convince themselves that they NEED TO BUY this product or service RIGHT NOW because they are saving money by making the purchase. I have definitely done this on more than one occasion and still find myself drawn to the sale section of most department and clothing stores just to see if there’s a deal I can’t pass up. The reality of the matter is that you will not be saving any money if you start turning your wants into your needs. When you start justifying a purchase solely based on the amount of money you will save and not on whether you really need this item right now, you are actually losing money, not saving it.

Three Questions to Ask When Making a Purchase

When you are going to make a purchase of any amount, you should go through the below questions to ensure that don’t make any unnecessary purchases:

  1. Would I have purchased the product anyway? Your “deal” is not really saving you any money if you were not going to purchase the product in the first place. My wife has this awesome power of making money appear out of thin air. She is amazing at finding great deals on items and can come to me with a proposition. “Hey, this item is normally $100, but it’s o sale for $20! I can make you $80 if I buy this today!” To which I reply “But we don’t need it and we wouldn’t have bought it anyway. How about we opt for the 100% off plan and not buy it at all.” ๐Ÿ™‚
  2. Can I find this product cheaper somewhere else? Before making any purchase (especially anything over $20) you will need to do some research to see if you can find a better deal elsewhere. Luckily, we have the internet at our fingertips and can research any purchase before making a decision. And for those of you with smart phones, you can do it on the spot.
  3. Is it in the budget? When making any purchase, this question should always be asked. I put this question last because I want to encourage you to go through the above questions first. There are definitely ways to get a purchase into your budget if you find this purchase can take priority over another category in your budget.

Disclaimer: You should NEVER borrow from your emergency fund to make a purchase or put the purchase on your credit card because you will “pay it off later.”

Purchase Example

Take our reader who wants to buy a truck. They have set aside $800 for their purchase so far, but they have really been wanting a Dyson vacuum. Their current vacuum has horrible suction and they have two dogs who shed what seems like a pound of hair a week on their floor. They have done some research on the Dyson vacuum they want, compared prices at different locations and have found the best deal at a department store with a special sale.

They can re-prioritize their truck money and count the cost of borrowing $250 from the fund to make this purchase. They can decide that it is worth waiting two more months to purchase the truck because they have a more immediate need for this vacuum and it’s the best deal they have ever seen on the item.

They realize that the item is not technically in their monthly budget, but they can purchase the item because they have decided to re-prioritize their savings (be careful you don’t do this often or you will deplete your savings funds). Since they would have bought this vacuum anyway at a $600 price point, this is a real savings.

Follow These Steps To Experience REAL Savings

If you follow the above steps when making a purchase, you will save real money that you would have spent regardless. You will stop yourself from wasting money on an impulse buy just because you love huge signs that say “70% OFF, EVERYTHING MUST GO!!!” Do not pass up great deals, just make sure that they are a great deal for you by answering “Yes” to the above questions.

Comments: Do you find yourself buying things because it’s SUCH A GREAT DEAL? Do you purchase on-sale items, even though you don’t need them? Let’s hear some stories about a recent purchase that you have made that MAYBE was not such a great deal after all. Feel free to throw some ideas to me on Twitter as well by clicking the little “T’  in the upper right corner or finding me @iHeartBudgets ๐Ÿ™‚

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
Heโ€™s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

47 thoughts on “Breaking the “Saving Money” Myth”

  1. I used to be one of those people who would buy two of an item because if I bought 2 and they were half of, I was really only buying one. And of course, I would never use what I bought. Now I follow those guidelines above–especially the question of “would I have bought it if WASN’t on sale?” Because chances are the answer is no, and I’ll pass on it.

    Reply
    • Sounds like progress! I know that millions of dollars a day are spent on marketing to make those “SALE” sections so attractive, but having a quick checkpoint like the 3 questions I listed helps to cut down on impulse spending. Like I said, I think buying something should be a great experience with no regrets, but buying something on impulse will have you feeling great for exactly 26 hours 23 minutes and 4 seconds, and then you’ll wonder why exactly you “needed” that item so badly…

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  2. Ryan’s favorite thing to say is ” you save even more money if you don’t buy it” and that usually runs through my head when getting ready to possibly purchase something I really don’t need.

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  3. I have to admit…those big yellow and red stickers at the grocery store have fooled me in the past! I get excited, look closely and realize they’re “on sale” for 0.02 less than they usually cost? Seriously?! I would ask how stupid do the grocers think we are…but obviously it fools enough people, since they keep doing it! At my grocery store anyway.

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    • I know, right?! I’m a sucker for those yellow tags at the grocery store! But at least I now read the “original” vs the “sale” price before purchasing. I used to just feel good that I bought “on sale”. Also, it seems like 90% of everything is always on sale, so why not just sell it at that price? Maybe because we want to feel like we saved money, even if we didn’t. A lot of psychology going on there…. Hmmm….good insight ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. This is the reason why we IGNORE all the Black Friday and the other sales. We don’t need anything in particular right now, so, as you said it, buying it 80% off is still losing money, if I never had the need to in the first place ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  5. It’s great to keep your eyes on how much out of pocket you spend instead of how much you save. It’s a constant refrain in my life because I’m a couponer and I just about never pay full price for anything. But I also don’t buy anything I don’t need. Like Holly, I rarely go shopping unless it’s for groceries, so that helps!

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  6. Knowing your prices through research if you are looking to purchase a specific item can help you determine a good deal or not straight away. Reading into the details helps too, warranties, returns policies etc. Is it possible to price match the product from a more reputable vendor? Buying larger items on impulse could certainly leave you with less of a bargain than you think.

    Reply
    • In today’s world, there’s not excuse for not researching almost EVERY purchase. And a nice side effect of research is that the NOISE of advertising is suddenly muted. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Good call, Mr. CBB!

      Reply
  7. Definitely a great reminder post for the looming Christmas season that is starting to take over the stores! I love me a good sale but over the years I’ve learned its best to really look at how much I’m saving by buying three of something that I potentially won’t bother to use or like.

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  8. I am a sucker for sales… I’m trying to wrap my head around the fact that simply because something is on sale doesn’t make it a great deal, and simply because something is a great deal doesn’t mean I should buy it, and simply because I can buy it doesn’t mean I have to buy it RIGHT NOW. What can I say, it’s a work in progress.

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  9. Your three rules are a great system. I always ask myself if I really need a product anyway and sometimes I’ll even wait a couple days if I know the sale won’t end tomorrow. That way if I still decide it is a good deal after a couple of days I feel much more comfortable that it wasn’t the sale influencing me.

    Reply
    • For us, that’s the nice thing about having our budget always handy. We can make a decision based on our actual spending vs. what we THINK we have. But anything that’s a significant purchase, we definitely wait and talk it over first.

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  10. Couldn’t agree more. I’ve been pretty lucky in that I’ve never really been drawn into the savings on something I never wanted in the first place. My weakness tends to be knowing I want something and automatically being drawn to the more expensive version with features I didn’t even know existed.

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  11. when it comes to sale clothing, I still shop only the clearance racks but I only buy things I truly need (like work tops for instance). Sometimes I might come across a great deal on a less-needed item, like a sundress but if I have a budget in mind of what I can spend, I can walk away.

    I also use the “per use” view to justify spending. A $30 coat isn’t a great deal if I only wear it once!

    Reply
    • You will enjoy NOT sitting in front of that beautiful TV, trust me. I am a sucker for electronics as well, but have very few, because I’m way too busy for that stuff ๐Ÿ™‚

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  12. I used to do that all the time as a teenager, especially for clothes. I’d buy something just because it was on sale, even though I didn’t need it. Then again we shopped as an activity and so coming home with sale items was better than coming home with full-priced items.

    Reply
    • Yeah, shopping as entertainment is dangerous, but most teenagers and 20-somethings do that at some point. Especially when living at home with very few expenses and no big goals. Been there, done that, dropped $600 on mall food.

      Reply
  13. I’m not a crazy sale shopper. Many of my family members buy shit they don’t need because they got “such a great deal”. If you spend money on something you never use, that wasn’t a deal!

    I’m more emotional than rational in most respects, but I’m pretty good with shopping. If I don’t need it or really want it, it isn’t coming home with me!

    Reply
  14. I usually plan ahead of time every time I want to purchase something. I try not to be an impulsive buyer because I usually shop around looking for the best deals without actually compromising the quality.

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  16. Who doesn’t like a good bargain or offer? I have certainly bought stuff even when I didn’t particularly require them simply because they were on offer. Case in point, a clothes store around where I live has a 20% off sale on all items, I have stocked up on some items ๐Ÿ™‚ I will make it a point of getting rid of some older ones though to balance.
    Was it money well spent? yes I no. I went out of the budget but I see potential savings in the long run (or not!)

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  17. I used to fall for this scheme ALL THE TIME! It works because it touches on people’s need for “instant gratification”. Granted, there ARE some great deals to be had, but the easiest and most visible “savings” probably aren’t the way to go.

    Reply

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