Don’t Give in to The Deal

People love to chase a deal. Big box stores know it. Discount department stores know it. But nothing does a budget in faster when you’re trying to save money than being suckered in by a great deal.

If you wouldn’t buy a product because you don’t normally use it, buying that product just because it goes on sale is a total waste of money. Ditto the fools who are so coupon crazy they switch to the couponed product from the similar generic or store-brand even when there’s no real savings.

A deal is buying the set of towels for your sister’s birthday on sale at 70% off. A deal is picking up a new book you’ve been dying to read for half price. A deal is getting something you really need or want at a significant savings, and being able to pay for it in cash.

People who can’t pass up a good sale even if it’s on something they don’t want, need or even particularly like aren’t smart bargain buyers, they’re compulsive shoppers. Scoring deals helps them to ease their insecurities and feel more competent and in control. And they rationalize their purchases as something good they are doing for themselves or their families.

The next time you find yourself sidling up to the cash register with a bargain in hand, ask yourself:

Do I need it?

How will I pay for it?

What will I do with it?

What would happen if I waited?

Better yet, keep a list of the things you need and want. If you find a bargain and the item is on your list, you can buy it. If not, walk away.

In a culture that worships shopping, it’s only natural that the “bargain” be the Holy Grail. But if you find yourself being suckered into to buying stuff just because “it’s a great deal”, you’re definitely not as smart as you think you are. If you’ve saved so much money with all your bargain shopping, show me the money!


Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade wants YOU! Join to get smarter about your money and help others get smarter about theirs. Isn’t it time we eliminated financial illiteracy? Come find me on Google+ and on Twitter.

Twitter Google+ 

30 Responses to “Don’t Give in to The Deal”

  1. I agree, it’s only a bargain if you were going to buy the product anyways.

  2. We’re religious in our use of lists. We do a weekly list for groceries and it’s tied to our meal plan for that week. We do a running list for other items for the household and its members so this covers different parts of our budget – household maintenance, pets, clothing, personal care, etc.

    This way, if we do find something on sale before we must purchase the item (eg, last bit of toothpaste in the tube), then we have saved from what we planned to spend.

    My husband was reviewing our list last night and this keeps our communication open and then we can discuss (without fighting in the store!) whether / when we truly need something.

    We know someone who buys their gas routinely at Costco and loves the savings per litre. But this same person charges it to a credit card on which they carry a balance. So where’s the savings??

  3. That’s why I don’t read flyers, use coupons, go to the shopping centre unless I need something specific, or use credit. Why be tempting into spending by sales signs and promos when your money can be put to much better use?

  4. I can easily be swayed by a great deal if I really like the product and I know my weakness. To deal with this, I shop with a list and don’t do unnecessary shopping unless there is a need. My list is further divided between wants and needs for all categories while wants must be justified with adequate savings.

  5. avatar periwinkle Says:
    January 11, 2013 at 9:20 am

    lol…my husband has been saying for years: “It’s not a sale if you don’t need it”.

    We know quite a few people who could benefit from taking that statement to heart. By following that golden rule, we’re not slaves to “the deals” that Gail speaks of above.

  6. Haha I should send this to my dad. We have a joke in the family because he is always buy random stuff “because it was on sale!”.

  7. As one who hates to shop, the only thing I ever gave into a lot was fabric, as an avid quilter…… I pay for everything cash, put all my fabric in one place, and this week it all gets sorted by colour etc, to see what’s there and what I can use to make tops, wall hangings, gifts etc, to use up my stash….. I need no more, I’ll buy no more! This one is a no brainer for me, but I know lots of people with hundreds of pairs of shoes…. I figure I only have two feet…. :) Love your columns, and waiting for the new book to go on sale!

  8. I am so thankful right now that we live in a condo. More than even, when I see a good deal, I now have to ask myself “where will I put this?” or “what will I get rid of to have this?” More often then not I don’t buy any more.

  9. Amen Gail!!

  10. I don’t normally look at flyers for this reason but I am toying with the idea of basing our weekly meal plan on the grocery store sales…maybe that will cut down our grocery bill…instead of setting the meal plan and heading out to buy the ingredients, sale or not. It might also help with creativity at supper time. I tend to get into a meal-idea-funk :S

  11. I agree Gail. My favorite coupons have always been the $3.00 off the entire purchase or the 20% off any one item.

    I’m looking forward to meeting you this weekend. Have a safe flight to Edmonton.

  12. In a side note, how come you’re skipping over Saskatchewan for your book tour? Disappointed!

  13. avatar Marilynne Says:
    January 11, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    I agree with all of the above comments. I try to by only what I need – well 80% of the time -, use coupons for the products I normally buy, and yes try to shop from the flyer deals. AND I try not to use my credit cards …today I go and pay the balance off and will tuck them away for awhile. Right now the only thing I need is a new pair of walking shoes – soon. Will look for a sale. It all makes sense.

  14. My husband always says in response to it’s on sale: “Isn’t everything for sale?”

  15. My downfall is groceries.

    I only look at the grocery flyers, but it’s so hard not to add all those goodies that are on “sale” onto the groceries list. After all, we all need to eat right? They sure make all that food look so scrumptious. I mean coke/pepsi 2 for $1? Who could beat that? Of course we don’t need it hitting our wallet or waistband.

  16. I hardly ever hit the malls. But now I’ve gotten addicted to a local online swap and sell site on facebook. All of those, “I wish I had…” suddenly become more attainable at second hand prices in “excellent used condition”… and if I post “looking for”, like magic, people respond… it’s dangerous; because, of course, the thinking is “look at all the money and time I’ve saved…”, when in reality, I’d normally do without unless it became a) urgent, or b) a great deal happened to surface. I wouldn’t be buying all of these great “deals” typically at once. 😛

  17. I still like the x-amount off or a certain % off; some great deals are to be had if I keep my math skills at the front of my brain. Otherwise I end up thinking how awesome x-purchase would be and I don’t stop to do the rest of the smart, Gail-like thinking…and we all know, that’s NOT the way to get a great deal.
    Love the blog today Gail; I was just thinking I might need some new things this weekend. You’ve made me re-think that, and I find myself considering other tasks which really do require my attention. Thanks for saving me. Again!

  18. It’s amazing sometimes how impeccable your timing is – I’m quite into coupons lately but I had made the same observation recently, that I might be buying things I don’t need because of my “deals!” I track everything, and the “ancillary” items added up to a cost of $30 in the last month (and a pattern to it too – all of it was on air fresheners of some type!), so it could be worse… but still a very good thing for me to keep in mind! When it’s just a buck or two per item, it seems like small potatoes, but when you tally it up that number is exponentially bigger. This was the same reasoning behind my decision to stop buying coffee at the drive-thru.

    Great advice as always Gail!

  19. I love the advice in Gail’s book that you should “set aside” the savings that you “saved” somewhere where you actually KEEP THE MONEY :)

  20. I love your suggestion of making a list of your needs and using it almost like a “permission” list if you do happen to find a great deal on one of those items:)
    Not on the “permission list” = Not on the shopping list!

  21. avatar PearlGirl Says:
    January 12, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    My sister always comes homes with bags of stuff, and announces “You wouldn’t BELIEVE how much I saved today!”.

  22. Great article that I shared with my fans :) All my couponing friends appear to agree that we should NOT buy something that’s NOT on sale just because we have a coupon ;). We weren’t sure about the “crazy couponer” comment though – thanks for the great read

  23. avatar Stephanie Says:
    January 12, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    I think that there is a huge temptation to splurge with the big box stores. For years I avoided a membership at Costco because I was afraid of that temptation. Now I am disciplined enough to go there for a simple grocery shopping….get what I need…perhaps one or two more food items if I think they are worth it and leave. When I walk through such a store I think is this a need or a want? This product is dated such and such a date…will I go through two containers by the time it is expired? Wasting it is not a bargain. I have found that one has to be very price conscientious as well. Just because of volume and size, things are not necessarily a great deal. I remember prices from place to place and compare Costco’s to my benchmarks at two other discount grocery stores.

  24. I certainly agree. But couponing can be okay sometimes. This Christmas, I gathered all the “$10 off $10 or more” coupons I could to use on Christmas gifts. And I applied for all the free samples I could, too. I ended up with about $200 of free merchandise to give as gifts. I just didn’t spend more than the $10 the coupon was worth. Combined with the seasonal sales, I landed some impressive gifts totally for free.

  25. avatar Gabrielle Says:
    January 12, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Another thing to think about. . . Don’t sign up for daily email alerts from daily deal sites. Lots of temptation. Instead, when you know you want a particular item, search sales or sales codes for that one item and skip all the daily deals.

  26. I like to look at some online flyers to see what food is on sale at different local grocery stores.

    Before I head out to buy a few days’-worth of food, I’ll look at these sites and if any food that I like is on sale (for lower than I would normally pay for it – not just because it says “sale”), I’ll often put that item on my list and plan meals around it.

    That way, I get to eat food that I like, I get to save money, and if it helps me to have money left over in my food budget at the end of the week, I’ll transfer that money into my savings account (I’ve already got a line in my monthly budget for savings, so any grocery savings are a happy bonus).

  27. is awesome! For books. You have to wait because their stock changes constantly and popular books get sold out, but they’ve got great deals all the time and they put on “extra” deals at times. I bought some cookbooks I really wanted, and also some other books I had gotten from the library but wanted to have permanent (DFF was one of them!).

    I’m bad with sales but I try to be good. We shop the flyers and make sure we’re always buying meat and produce on sale. We try to stay away from the processed stuff as much as possible. So it’s working so far. We just buy meat in club packs/bulk packs and freeze it in servings for two. Or we’ll cook it all up (in the case of something like hamburger) and then it becomes the base for a super quick meal when we don’t feel like cooking. I don’t think that buying things on sale is bad as long as it’s a planned purchase. We just wait until things go on sale and make sure we don’t ever run out and have to grab things at full price.

  28. Although we may be tempted by a large percentage off the original price, if we keep walking, we’ll save 100% of the original price.

  29. […] Don’t Give in to the Deal […]

  30. for those of you who live in the Ontario and Quebec area of the country there is a great website that makes recipe suggestions based on what’s in the flyers in your area this week.

    It has lots of healthy seasonal recipes and suggestion for how to use some less used but inexpensive items like radish or cabbage or potatoes or beans.

    Another great feature of their recipes is you can change the number of servings to suit your needs. less waste is money in your pocket or leftovers in the freezer for a “frozen entree” for lunch another day is money in your pocket too!

Leave a Reply