If it's not on sale, don't buy it

If you don’t need something, wait for a better price, Hamm writes.

Lynne Sladky/AP/File
In this Nov. 9, 2011, file photo, a tourist from Switzerland, looks at jewelry at a Michael Kors store while shopping at Dolphin Mall, in Miami. This week you can also snag a Michael Kors dress on deep discount.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

My son’s seventh birthday is coming up very soon. For most of the year, he has only asked for one thing – a Nintendo 3DS. As I’ve mentioned before, he saved up his money for six months to buy a used Nintendo DS, but a friend of his has a 3DS and he’s really asked for nothing else for months and months.

So, several months ago, Sarah and I decided to give him one as his sole birthday gift, as it is a fairly expensive item. (He doesn’t know this yet, so if you know our son, don’t let him in on the secret.) 

We didn’t just head out to the store to buy one. We waited patiently.

Over a period of six months, I watched for sales on the 3DS. I kept an eye on several internet sites and I reviewed the weekly flyers of big box retailers. My goal was simple – I was waiting on a sale that took at least 20% off of the new price of the item.

A few weeks ago, I hit the jackpot. We found a 3DS XL at about 35% off of retail, so we ordered it. It’s now sitting in a hidden place, waiting for his birthday.

The lesson here is simple: if you don’t need something, wait for a better price. If you wait just a few months, you have a good chance of finding the item on sale, which puts money directly in your pocket.

Most of the time, I have a list of a few things that are in that gray area between “want” and “need.” A new blender. A replacement phone. A good digital SLR camera.

For each of those items, I’ve already done extensive research and I know what I’m looking for in terms of both features and specific models. At this point, I’m pretty much ready to buy.

But I wait.

I don’t need these things immediately. I can survive without them, but they would be useful to have even in the short term.

Instead, I watch the weekly store flyers. I keep a careful eye on internet deal websites, such as Amazon’s Daily Deal. I’ll ask my friends on Facebook if they know of any deals on these items.

Usually, within a few months, I find a bargain. Usually, I’m looking for a sale that’s at least 20% off of the normal price. When I find it, I strike.

Patience directly saves me money. Often, it saves me quite a bit of money.

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. 

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