When a Bargain Is Not a Bargain
Never buy something because it's a “bargain.” If you don't really need an item, it's not a bargain. Advertisers bank on consumers' susceptibility to “bargain consciousness” by posting signs that say “$200 rebate” or “an additional 40 percent off.” If you don't need a new television, saving $200 on an $800 television is not a bargain. Instead, you've just wasted $800.
The only way to benefit from price discounts is to have a list of items you really, really need (new bras, backpacks or sneakers for your children, and so on) and to watch the ads. Then, go to the store with a firm resolution to only buy the items you need. Avoid any temptation to add anything — a sweater, a DVD, a pair of shoes for your daughter, or a new set of towels — no matter how much they are discounted.
Between the catalogs, Amazon.com, and eBay, we are awash in visual stimulation tempting us to spend. “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention,” Nobel Prize winning economist Herbert Simon noted. “Our busy, busy brains have been on overload for eons, and [they are] still being constantly bombarded with enticements to believe anew that we need more possessions to make us happy.”
Jason Anthony and Karl Gluck, authors of Debt-Free by Thirty, say you should always be able to answer the following three questions before you buy anything … and that means any thing:
Do I need this? Do you really need this item, or are you desiring it for purely emotional reasons? If it's clothing, jewelry, overpriced shoes, expensive cosmetics, or a new laptop when the old one is working fine, the answer is probably “no.”
Can I get this cheaper? Have you researched on the Internet to find the lowest price? Can you wait until it goes on sale? Can you find a used one online or at a flea market?
How will this affect my debt-reduction plan? You are living a frugal life so that you can reinforce your emergency fund, your children's college funds, your retirement funds, or to work toward a down payment for a house. So before you plunk down your credit card, ask yourself if you're ready to suffer the consequences.
Remember that a frugal life means fulfilling your real intentions and not placating transitory or impulsive feelings. Instead of buying another thing, make the pleasure of knowing you have just taken another step toward your ultimate goal, the real reward.