The dictionary describes ‘bargain’ as a thing or service bought or offered for sale at a cheaper price than it usually is. Even, without the dictionary explanation, we all know what bargains are and when it comes to purchases, it is the first thought that comes to mind to most people. In fact, the majority of people are naturally raised to look for bargains. Unless you grew up in a wealthy environment, it is practically second nature to make all expenditures based on available bargains. Think about it. Whether it is food, clothing, home items, electronics, phone contracts, vacation plans, cable contracts and even to some extent, housing, don’t you always look for the most advantageous deal for you? When you are on a tight budget, and most people and millennials these days are, buying by bargains becomes a way of life.
When I think about my own life and my habits, I must admit that it has been a way of life for as long as I can remember. As I became independent and started living on my own, the financial resources available did not allow me to live otherwise.
My purpose in writing this article is to cause you to rethink the mindset of bargains. People say buying things and services exceptionally when they are on bargains is the financially responsible way to spend money. I would say that more times than less, it makes financial sense to look for bargains. I also suggest that it is not always the case. I’ve found that some individuals tend to take it too far. You’ve seen the extreme cases on TV with extreme couponing. But you may not realize that in very subtle ways, what you think is a bargain may be hurting your finances.
For the most part, this article is my opinion. So, others and you may have a different view. In fact, a lot of the points I will raise here are a reminder for me. In fact, I tend to dive toward the cheapest items when I shop. I’ve learned that it is not the best choice all the time. So, let’s tackle a few categories.
How do you shop for food and groceries? Are you one to look for bargains in this category. My thoughts here are simple. When food is cheap, it’s usually fast food or unhealthy food and that is obviously not good for you in the long run. Your health is affected and consequently, your finances take a hit as well. I am not advocating that you should eat at the best, expensive restaurants all the time. How about looking for healthy items? The same applies for groceries. However, stores like Aldi which has become very popular in recent years offer quality items that beat the competition. The lesson is to do your homework and adjust based on your budget, while avoiding consuming things that hurt you. By the way, guys, when on a first date, avoid reaching for the coupons or looking for the absolute bargains. Otherwise, you may not make it to the second date.
In my book, Money-Smart Millennials, I raised the question of shopping for clothes. I’ve learned my lessons from my college years, looking for the best deals which often ended up in getting lower quality items, which will eventually need to be replaced sooner than expected. To this day, I still sometimes struggled with this concept, trying to save as much as I can. But the truth is, in general, clothing of higher cost is usually of higher quality. Invest in items of quality that will last you a while. You may have to change a $10 shirt three times this year while a $30 one may last you three years.
I am still very baffled by how much clothing can be expensive. I recently made a trip to Under Armour to upgrade some of my gear and I couldn’t believe the prices. How do parents afford full wardrobes for the kids I see full dressed in Nike, Under Armour or any other expensive brand? Well I guess it could be all on credit since most Americans have barely anything in savings account. Parents, saying ‘no’ or ‘not right now’ to your kids is not a crime. In fact, it will teach them the concept of delayed gratification.
When shopping for clothing, are you doing it out of necessity or to impress or keep up with the joneses? How about delaying for a while and shopping when the season is over, and items are on sale? Yes, it’s not fun but if you are working toward financial stability, this might be the best way for you to manage this expense.
In conclusion, invest in quality clothing that lasts and learn to delay shopping at the right time for your budget.
There is no debate as to whether electronics are expensive. We all have smartphones now and they all require an investment of a few hundred dollars. And if you prefer brands such as Apple, Samsung or LG, you’re looking at spending upward of a thousand dollars. Unfortunately, we can’t live without them; moreover, as technology advances, they may even get more expensive. In addition to phones, there are the fancy smart gadgets we’ve discovered in recent years. Smart watches, tablets, drones, fitness tracking devices, AI devices such as the Amazon Echo or the Google Home, Bose home speakers, home security systems, etc. do not come at no cost. They can be very expensive. Again, my goal is not to refrain from purchasing those items because I own many of them, but the question we should ask ourselves is ‘why we feel like we have to have them?’. Don’t ruin your finances just to please a momentary feeling.
As for bargains in this area, delayed gratification is very useful as well. Trust me, they will go on sale. Patience will serve you well. As Black Friday and Christmas are around the corner, this could be a good time to do your shopping if you really need to. However, don’t fall for the traps. Every store, every online marketplace is out to get your money and they will cleverly get it with advertising. So, choose carefully.
When it comes to bargains and saving money when shopping, you must think and assess your choices. Are they favorable to your long-term goals? If you waver on the answer, it is not the right time, especially if you’re buying on credit. My goal is to help you achieve financial stability on your way to accomplishing your goals. There are certainly other areas of concerns where looking for ‘crazy’ bargains is not smart but unfortunately, I can’t list them all here. If you want to visit Thailand, be careful in your choices. Getting stranded and lost in Bangkok will not be fun! So, make the right choice. Be smart and mature with your money. Learn to delay or make the right moves. Remember, bargains are not always the right choice.
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