Impulse buy or once in a lifetime opportunity?

By Stew

Earlier this summer, Mrs. Stew and I went on an overnight trip in honor of our 10 year anniversary. We were able to stay at one of the nicest vacation venues that either of us had ever experienced due to an offer through a website called LivingSocial. We got a fantastic price because everything came together at once: available when we needed it and when we could afford to take advantage. Last week, Ace Hardware held a “bucket” sale, meaning that you received 25% off everything that could be fit into a 10-gallon Ace buck. My timing was perfect as we needed a new bathroom fan . . . which fit in the bucket . . . I got a steal.

We all love to buy stuff for cheaper than expected, the problem is that a deal does not really put you ahead financially if you do not need the item or if it costs more than you can afford – not more than the item is worth – more than you can afford. I recently had a sales person offer me a trip to a resort for a ridiculously low amount of money, but I turned it down primarily because I was confident that there was a “catch” somewhere. However, even if everything had been completely above board, I would have passed on the offer for three reasons: wrong time, wrong place, not enough cash. There are good deals all over, but the problem is finding a good deal at the right moment in time or finding a good deal when you can afford it.

There are many circumstances where we must let a good deal “pass” no matter what.

The sudden lowering of a price is intended to provoke an impulse buy on the part of the consumer. We must have a system or “grid” in place in order to evaluate a “good deal” that seems to come out of nowhere. How good a deal is is? Is is a quality product? Do we really need it? How often will we use it? If I had never seen this item, would I have missed it in my life? Does this item fall under a budget category?

Here are 7 considerations that will help you balance frugal cash flow against missing out on deals that can save you money:

1. Be consistent. If you want to find good deals, you must develop a habit of frequenting places where good deals congregate. Some of the best deals in the world are found at rummage sales and second-hand stores – but not every day or every week. You cannot be discouraged, just be faithful.

2. Keep a list. You need to be aware of your needs because you never know when a good deal will pop up. Sometimes I type a list of things for which to keep an eye out on my Blackberry.

3. Stick to your list. If you come across a good deal, but that item is not on your list of needs, do you really need it? In other words, if you are living a successful life without a widget, do not buy one just because there happens to be a widget clearance sale.

4. Understand cash flow. Purchasing a $900 flat-screen television for $300 might be a great bargain. But if that flat-screen is not on your list of needs, you did not save $600, but rather you are now $300 in the hole in terms of your financial plan.

5. Think ahead! Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent sees the evil and hides himself.” Look ahead and determine your future needs as much as possible. If you purchase things off-peak, you can save a lot of money. Our family purchased a tent in January of last year. Even though we did not need the tent until July, we knew that we would have never found a tent for that price in May or June.

6. Remember. Mrs. Stew is great about purchasing small items that will make quick and easy gifts down the road. The problem is that sometimes she forgets what she has on hand. Keep track of what you have and do not missplace things that you already own.

7. Look for deals on the internet. But be slow to pull the trigger . . . here are my favorite “deal” websites:

 Photo Monkey



11 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Impulse buy or once in a lifetime opportunity?”

  1. Gina Says:

    Those Groupons get me too. Now that we are almost out of debt (one left) I find myself enticed by them b/c it is stuff/services I “need.” Then, that Dave Ramsey voice in the back of my head says ‘you’ve done great w/o it, so move on.’

  2. pen Says:

    good post.

  3. Emily Says:

    Great tips! Making a list and sticking to it may be the most important, b/c it protects against impulse buys.

  4. MK Says:

    Thanks for sharing the list of your favorite deal sites will be sure to check out Living Social. I get the regular Groupon emails but am starting to get tired of filtering through daily stuff I don’t need.

  5. Mike Says:

    Mrs. Stew sounds like a prudent lady stocking up on deals that make gifts for later. My mrs does the same thing and we know it has saved us both stress and money over the years! Great article.

  6. Smith Lottery Says:

    Nice post,I am very interested in your life.

  7. Gretta Says:

    I completely fell into the “great value” trap with my car. I knew I wanted to lease or finance and when an amazing deal on a $24,000 car came up I thought I had to take it even though I could have bought a cheaper car at a cheaper lease rate. It was that this 24,000 dollar car was at such a great “value.” Nowhere else could I buy THIS car at THIS good of a price. If I had been thinking out of the “deal” box I would have gone with an $11,000 car and probably a cheaper lease. Facepalm.

  8. Maggie@SquarePennies Says:

    Good points! I’m glad to know about the REI deal of the day for camping gear. We love to camp and hike all over the US, so this could be good. Thanks!

  9. joel fernandes Says:

    ive alwasy debated whether gruopon was better or living social,thier “schemes of things” are a little different but the actual value for money items that get sold out are the same in a way,what do you reckon stew?

  10. Economically Humble Says:

    Good post… I think #2 is the best advise. If you keep a list its easier to know if its a need or impulse buy. I’m totally going to share and repost this!

  11. Jessica N Says:

    Great advice! I have unfortunately made the mistake of spending way too much cause of a sale. It’s a great idea to stock up on things like shampoo, conditioner, and toilet paper because there is no doubt you’ll use it all. My biggest mistake was buying too many potato bags because they were on sale. Before even finishing my first 5 lb bag the rest of the potatoes went bad and stunk up my house. It’s the worse thing ever waste food especially with all the hungry people in the world, so I made a promise to myself, unless I KNOW I’m going to eat or, cook it, or give it away I will not over buy food even if its on sale.