The problem with bargain hunting

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERADeal sites. Garage sales. Thrift stores. All can be a part of a frugal lifestyle. Or they can just be substitutes for a more expensive shopping habit. The question to ask: Are these thrifty alternatives really thrifty for you? Or are they just feeding that lust for acquisition that leads to too much stuff and too little money?

In a terrific article for LearnVest titled “How I maxed out my retirement savings while making $28,000 a year,” writer Leah Manderson puts her finger on the problem:

I tried a stint at being frugal; shopping the sales and searching out deals on food, entertainment and other activities. What I discovered was that a lot of deal-hunting activities are attempts at “keeping up with the Joneses on less,” and, not surprisingly, they made me feel like a lesser version of the Joneses.

That feeling did not make me want to save money for my future—it made me want to spend more money on “deals”!

Manderson found more peace, and more savings, by unsubscribing from deal sites and making do with what she had: “I let my hair grow out, I made new outfits with clothes already in my closet, I rearranged my home decor to change my surroundings, I reread old books that I loved, and I got comfortable with living on less.”

Most of us have more than enough. Recognizing that can help tame the beast within that insists we “need” the new shiny thing that just captured our attention.

Or you can just remember something my grandmother said while laughing at retailer signs that promised big savings. “You’re not saving,” she said. “You’re spending!”

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  1. I can totally identify. I’ve come to realize that I can’t pass up a “deal” even if it’s not really something I NEED. It’s not a deal if you don’t really need it and can live without it.

  2. Interesting thought. Though Ms. Manderson seems to only be referring to retail deals, which tend to max out at 50% off. Thrift stores and garage sales are typically 75% to 90% off. With those, even if you get something you end up not needing, you could hold your own garage sale. Even so, it is still a focus on material goods, a source of clutter, and a time sink.

  3. My 70 year old sister is a hoarder. She volunteers at a resale shop. She’s blowing her retirement money a few dollars at a time & thinks it’s a bargain.

  4. Hi Liz,

    Leah Manderson here 🙂

    Thanks so much for sharing this little blurb from my article. It was one of my most important points, because I think “deal hunting” has become just another form of consumerism that eats up people’s finances.

    Warm regards,