Monday, June 29, 2009

Money Monday: June 29, 2009

OK, so right after I got done boasting about my thrift store scores…you know what my biggest peril is, at the thrift store?

The “scores.”

It’s not just the thrift store, of course – it’s the same trap we all face just about every time we emerge from our caves. “SALE PRICES!” “Best prices of the season!” “Buy three, get one free!” “Two-two-two for the price of ONE!”

Now, if you need four t-shirts, the buy three get one free deal might be awesome. If they’re going for ten bucks, you pay $30 instead of $40 and who doesn’t love that?!

If you only needed one, though, you’ve just paid $20 more than you intended or needed to spend.

And if you didn’t need any…ahem…you just spent $30 to save money on something You. Didn’t. NEED.

You see where I’m going here?

The ‘great deal, must snatch’ instinct runs strong in most humans. Oh sure, there are people out there who just buy-buy-buy regardless of price, but for most of us? We want a deal.

For some of us, the deal itself is more important than the goods it represents. Did I need this? Shoot no, but! I got a grrrrrreat deal on it!

I may have spent $200 I didn’t have, but by Gantry, I saved $50 doing it!

Usually, we talk ourselves into thinking we did need it. After all, who doesn’t need more t-shirts? The things have a way of shredding before our very eyes. Also they get “old” and kind of “blech” and furthermore this one has a cute little winking pirate princess skull on it! How cool is that?!

The thrift store is not unlike a minefield for me. The deals can be soooooo spectacular. A bread machine for $15! A crockpot for $5! An endless parade of dusty whatnots, fifty cents each! ohmygah, have you ever seen such an adorable…um…thing?! Only fifty cents, too! I simply MUST buy it!

The easiest way to resist is to never leave the cave. You know, just stay home, forever, and never go out there into the Big Bad World where all the deals are. There you go! Problem solved!

Oh, you’re welcome…you guys know I’m always here for you with the brilliant suggestions and all…

OK, right. So obviously, that can’t possibly work…any more than somebody with a food addiction can overcome their issues by never eating again. With very rare exceptions, we do not live in a world where we can live off the land and provide all of our needs without need for the filthy lucre and a store to spend it in.

I may technically know how to grow, spin, weave and sew (badly, because my poor sewing skills are legend around here) the cotton, but folks? Ain’t no way I’m going to be able to keep my family in t-shirts from the cotton fields of my backyard. Shoot, I can’t even keep them in socks, let alone Everything Else.

Most of us have to go shopping for the things we need. We must risk the perils of the deal-that-wasn’t, and the awful feeling later of what was I thinkin’, buying this?!

I keep my own horse trading instincts at least mostly in check when I brave the yard sales and thrift stores that I hold so dear to my heart with two simple things.

First, I keep a list. A real, physical list – not a list in my head (which is full of holes and subject to deciding that no, really! I needed a fourth crockpot!), but a physical piece of paper that stays on the fridge. It’s a pretty jumbled up thing, actually, because people add to it as we go through the week. Whenever something breaks or it occurs to one of us that it would make our lives a thousand times better if we just had a purple widget for the front room, we make a note of it on the list.

The list helps to keep me focused, and puts the brakes on my enthusiasm when I see some awesome! deal on something we just really neeeeeed, seriously, I mean, c’mon, it’s an awesome! deal!!!

Ya, OK, maybe so. But it isn’t on the list. Which means it isn’t something I needed before I left the house – it isn’t something I needed before I saw the deal.

Which means it probably isn’t something I need at all.

Now, if I’m just absolutely sure we did need it all along and just didn’t realize it earlier – I’ll put it on the new list and walk away from this deal.

I’m going to tell you guys a little secret, OK? No matter how good the deal is? You’ll probably find a similar – or even better – deal later.

Have you ever noticed, for example, that stores advertise the “lowest prices of the season” just about every weekend, on essentially the same things? They always swear that no, really!, this sale, this one right here, this one right here-and-now-only-for-a-few-days-so-act-fast, is the Best Possible Sale Which Shall Never Be Equaled Again, EVER!

Or how about this one: How often have you said, “Wow, what a great deal!” and bought the four t-shirts on the 4-for-3 deal…paying $30 for the four shirts, clever you…and then opened the circulars to find another store has the same basic deal for $5 each.

Could’ve gotten the four for only twenty bucks, yo.

And of course for those of us who haunt the thrift stores, we’ll immediately find four brand-new-with-tags t-shirts for fifty cents each and howl like somebody just jammed a credit card shard under our toenails. Oooooooh, I HATE that!!!

Even when it’s a “one of a kind” thing, like a sweet glide rocker at the thrift store or a PERFECT sleeper sofa on consignment…there will always be another one, down the line. Letting this one go doesn’t mean you’re letting all of them go.

So don’t be fooled into thinking a deal is the deal – there will be others, and they will likely be as good or better than the one that currently has you in a lather.

The second thing that keeps me honest with my spending is that I really do limit the number of times I leave the Den with my wallet a-blazing looking for deals and steals. I try for no more than twice weekly, once on the pickup day for the CSA basket (usually that day is for standard grocery store / mall / Target kind of trips), and then maybe a weekend cruise through the farmer’s market, yard sales and thrift stores. That second one is totally optional, and frequently skipped.

Sure, making yourself resist temptation builds strength of character and all that – but avoiding temptation in the first place is equally valuable. I’ll admit it, I sometimes get bored around here. I wanna go do something, anything!...and when it’s 110 degrees outside (like it is today) and there’s no shade and Outside is just…darned unpleasant…and furthermore it is already 80 degrees in my bedroom/office at 10:00 in the morning and definitely climbing but turning up the AC is going to be like throwing snowballs at the sun until 4:00 when said sun finally stops glaring at my Den like we owe it money…and the mall…the mall will be 70-something because what do they care about the environment / electric bills? They just want me to be comfortable because they think if I’m comfortable I’ll stay longer and spend more money which more than makes up for the expense of the air conditioning…mmmmmm…aiiiiiiiir conditioning…

Now I know that if I go to the mall, I will spend money. Oh sure, it might not be much, I’m not going to be buying new appliances or re-outfitting the Denizens from bangs to toenails, but! Am I going to buy, say, a pretzel to munch? Or perhaps a frothy coffee drink? A chocolate cookie, or a steak sandwich?

And of course, there is a Barnes and Noble in my mall, which for me is like saying, “Hello, moth! Would you care to visit our lovely flame…?” {fffffffzzzz-POW! Tama’s wallet goes down in a blaze of glory and then she’s sheepishly trying to explain how she could spend two hundred dollars on books about Polish history, Eskimo philosophy and duh, fiber arts of every description…} {thank $DEITY for the library, y’all, otherwise I would be even further into the poor house than I already am…}

Right now, retailers are pretty desperate for your business. They’re coming up with promotion after promotion, designed to get you to buy NOW.

The deals have never been…louder. Not necessarily better than times past, but yeah…definitely louder. And with most of us either experiencing the recession directly or getting rocked by the waves of others, we’re possibly a bit more susceptible to the pressure than we might otherwise be.

It’s a great time to remember that the best way to save your money is to not spend it in the first place, and that no matter how great the price is, if you don’t need the darned thing, you aren’t saving a dime by buying it.


PipneyJane said...

Is the local library air-conditioned? Might be a better place to seek refuge than the mall.

- Pam

Steph B said...

Aaahhh, the library! Love libraries. Hate our local option (small, crowded, horrible collection, etc. etc.) but libraries in general are wonderful places.

Rena said...

Fell into that trap recently myself. Found great deals at various thrift stores over the last week or so and have spent $30.00 on things I didn't really need (but I always need new clothes, right?) but they were such a great deal how could I pass?

I need to stay out of thrift stores for a while.

Lydee said...

good tips, good reminders, thanks tama!