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The Simple Dollar

You're buying an item, not a price tag.

No matter how lucrative a deal might seem, if an item isn't be useful for you, it's not worth buying, Hamm says.

By Guest blogger / July 11, 2013

Discount signs are displayed in a clothing store window in Strasbourg during the first day of summer sales in France last month. If an item isn't useful to you, it's not a deal — no matter how low its price is, Hamm says.

Vincent Kessler/Reuters/File

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Not too long ago, a person I know showed me a very nice bag they had purchased. It was actually a really nice bag – sized almost perfectly for carrying about six board games and structured with aluminum bars to help keep its shape, yet also folding down wonderfully for storage.

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The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two. Our busy lives are crazy enough without having to compare five hundred mutual funds – we just want simple ways to manage our finances and save a little money.

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This person was very proud of the deal they had received for this bag – in fact, the deal was so good that my friend had purchased two of the bags.

When I asked this person more about the purchase, particularly what they planned to do with the bag, the friend just stammered a bit and then, seemingly on the spur of the moment, offered to give me one of them.

While I did appreciate this, the abrupt offer seemed odd, so I dropped the subject.

After replaying the conversation a few times, though, I came to a pretty simple conclusion: the person had simply bought the bags because they seemed like a killer deal, not because they had any particular use for the bag.

The person seemed proud of the deal, not the item itself.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ll be one of the first people you know to be proud of finding a good deal on an item. The difference is that I simply won’t spend money on an item unless I’m very sure of its use.

If an item doesn’t have a use for you, it’s not a “deal,” no matter how low the price is.

It doesn’t even matter if the item is free. Remember, even free items have costs – you have to store them, which requires space, and you have to take the time to move them around. Those are costs of everything you acquire.

If you want to achieve financial success, there’s a much better approach to acquiring things. Don’t acquire anything unless you have already identified a specific need in your life and that item fulfills that need.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be spontaneous to some extent. There are times when I’m going out and about where I check my budget and simply give myself permission to spend some money freely. Even then, I’m thinking about the purchases in terms of what will actually add value to my life and generally don’t spend my money on things that won’t add value.

In other words, I almost always figure out what I’m going to buy before I go to a retailer – and I stick with that list.

A deal isn’t a deal if you’re getting something that isn’t useful to you in any way. When that happens, you’re giving away your hard-earned cash for something that has no value to you, and that’s a financial mistake.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on www.thesimpledollar.com.

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