Finances & Money

Beware when trying to find deals

I’m tired of buying and spending, and I’ve found a sure-fire way to tempt yourself into spending. A coworker of mine loves to scan online deal sites for anything from electronics to pellet guns for his kids. But rather than scanning for stuff he needs, he just window shops till he lands on something that looks good to buy.

It’s very similar to walking through the grocery store without a specific shopping list (especially when you haven’t eaten dinner). We do this quite often and I find my cart full of wafer cookies and generic cocoa krispies. (Luckily we usually just use the hand basket, not the whole cart, so we can limit it to only what I can carry).

A few times he’s sent me links to a deal and I’ve been very tempted to buy. But then I step back and tell myself “I never knew I needed this until he told me about it. Therefore, I don’t really need it”.

My wife can attest that I whined for 2 years about getting a flat screen TV. I wrote about my decision between getting a TV as a graduation present or paying down debt, and in the end I paid down debt. But what I didn’t tell you was that I did go out on Black Friday to a place called the Mosby Center in Virginia and got a 46″ Sony Bravia for half-price (under $800) as an early present. We were just scoping out the place after hearing about it from friends, and I “couldn’t pass up the deal”. I don’t regret the purchase because I worked hard for those 2+ years in grad school, and while some people reward themselves with an expensive vacation or even a new car, I got a TV.

While that wasn’t a good example of why NOT to browse deal sites, necessarily, it was an example of an impulse purchase. I knew that the Sony Bravia was a good LCD TV, but I knew nothing about this model, and I also knew the risk of buying at Mosby. See, they get most of their stuff as overstock or returned items from Costco (among other places), so you don’t know if the TV you’re buying was someone else’s dud or the floor model that was on 24 hours a day. So far, almost a year later and the TV has shown no problems (knock on wood).

But it’s browsing these deal sites that leads to impulse purchasing. Buying a navigation device for your car when your old one is fine (or you don’t travel much). Buying a Bluray player when you don’t watch DVDs. Buying an espresso maker when you only normally drink it once a year. It’s the same as walking down the aisle when you’re hungry and throwing a bag of pork rinds in your cart (oh, is that just me?). Or, in my case, walking through a car lot. Dear God help me when I’m near a car salesman!

So how do you handle deal shopping? Do you ignore them as best as you can, do you track only what you know you want/need and ignore the rest, or do you fall into the trap and impulse buy like most of us?

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I’m not a big shopper, but when I do need something, I tend to go to a couple of stores and check out their sale racks before I make a decision. I like that way best and rarely get stressed out from making shopping decisions.

  • Since my wife and I have pared down spending to almost the bare minimum, shopping isn’t much of an issue. That being said, when we needed new i-pods (sad that I said need and i-pod in the same sentence), the decision was just a matter of seeing if there were any available discounts based on being a teacher or anything else.

    We keep telling ourselves that we are doing things the right way. We spend plenty of money on those things that are really important to us. If we don’t need it or didn’t think we needed it before, there is no deal good enough to make us need it later.

  • Although I make my living writing about frugality, I can be as easily tempted by bright shiny objects as anyone else. Before I buy something I run it through my four basic questions:
    * Do I really need this?
    * If I get it, will my life be significantly improved?
    * If I don’t get it, will my life be substantially diminished?
    * Do I already have something that will suffice?
    Usually it keeps me from buying things I don’t really NEED, although I have to say that a bag of flavored potato chips sometimes makes it through anyway. 😉
    Note: When I *do* decide to buy something, I also decide to enjoy the heck out of it.

  • I completely agree. I wrote about this a long time ago on Budgets are Sexy, but who cares if you save $500 on a tv if you spend $2,000 on it? I think “what you spend” is much more important than “how much you save.”

    I have a list of different items on my wish list. Only when the prices get absurdly low or when I earmark funds for them do I pull the trigger.

  • yup, $1000 worth of good deals is a $1000 worth of good deals you didn’t necessarily need or will ever use.

    @Daniel, the glass half empty vice half full analogy doesn’t really fit when you are talking in absolute number terms. They are the same. The analogy only works in terms of your assessment of “value”.

    in the end it comes down to need versus want. In either case, buy quality, but get the best price you can for that quality.

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