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The Simple Dollar

Why sales don't save you money

All too often, big sales and steep coupons entice shoppers to buy things they don't need.  

By Guest blogger / October 6, 2013

A consumer exits a store with a sale sign posted in the windows in Philadelphia.

Matt Rourke/AP/File

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Every week, I get several flyers in the mail advertising sales at local department stores, specialty stores, and other businesses.

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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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I leaf through them on occasion and sometimes I do see something that’s got a pretty impressive price on it, something I know is about half of what it would normally cost.

Extreme couponers like to call items like that “loss leaders.” I just see a big discount.

Does this cause me to hop in the vehicle and head to the store? Not really.

Does this cause me to make an immediate addition to my shopping list? Nope, guess again.

Unless it just so happens to be something I’m already shopping for or something I’m dead certain I can immediately re-sell at a profit, all it does is cause me to turn the page.

The reality of the matter is that big sales really don’t save you money if you’re buying things that you don’t need and wouldn’t buy anyway. You’re just spending your hard-earned cash on stuff that you wouldn’t buy if it wasn’t a big “bargain.”

If it’s an item you wouldn’t consider having in your home with a $100 price tag on it, why does that perspective suddenly change if that price tag is reduced to $80. It’s still the same item that you don’t really want and you definitely don’t need.

It doesn’t matter what the price of the item is. There are only two reasons you should buy an item: you need it (or want it and it’s a planned splurge) or you can directly re-sell the item for a profit.

Sure, sometimes a sale will actually fulfill one of those things. I often use loss leaders at the grocery store as part of my planning for the week because food is something my family needs. Once in a while, I’ll see a sale on something that was already on a shopping list or a gift planning list – if that happens, it’s a cause worth celebrating. On occasion, I’ll use a strong loss leader to stock up on a perishable item that my family uses quite a lot of, like toothpaste.

Aside from that, flyers and sales just entice me to buy stuff that I don’t need.

I’m smarter than that about my money. Sales are just another way for companies to lift money out of my pockets; they’re just using the idea of a “bargain” to do it this time around.

It’s not a bargain if you didn’t want it or need it before you saw the sale sticker.

The post Sales (Usually) Don’t Save You Money appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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