When a sale is costing you money

I’m a sucker for skincare products.  I don’t wear a lot of makeup, and my hair gets cut at First Choice Haircutters three times a year, but I fully admit to having splurged on skin-care impulse buys on many occasions over the year.  I’d read a comment somewhere referencing a product, look it up on Sephora and see the hundreds of glowing reviews (does anyone dislike ANYTHING on that site?), and before I could think too hard, I’d have my credit card out and a new tube or vial of something on its way to me in the mail.  I’d try it a few times, realize that I, like so many people before me, fell for a snake oil sales pitch, and then it would go into the back of a drawer for months or years.

I went to local spa a couple months and paid for a service that I’m now not 100% sure was really needed, but that’s a different story.  Since then, I’ve been getting random emails from them advertising their sales.  10% off this, $25 off that.  Then I saw the newest attempt:

Receive 50% off any services you have never tried!

My lizard brain started drooling.  I went to their website and started looking through page after page of high-priced treatments that would now be almost affordable!  I’d be saving money, so surely that was enough to bypass my newly created month-long wait list for non-essentials.

Thankfully, I’m not entirely an idiot, and I was able to think a little rationally about it.  Because, wait- saving money?  That’s a marketing gimmick that really doesn’t transfer over to spreadsheet and actual numbers. If I actually save $200, at the end of the month my savings account or investment accounts will be up by $200.  Math, pure and simple.

If I ‘save money’ according to marketing professionals, I’ll have spent money.  Let’s look at this sale again.  Let’s say a facial normally costs $175, and during this promotion I get it for $87.50.  At the end of the month, my savings account is up DOWN $87.50.  There was no saving involved anywhere.

Now, let’s say this was something I was going to get anyway.  I have $600 budgeted towards food/household supplies.  If there was a sale at the grocery store and I was able to get all the perishables I needed for 25% less, that would raise the amount of money I transfer over to my savings account at the end of the month, and I would be actually saving money.  But unplanned purchases?  That sale is stealing your money without you even realizing it.

The way I see it, if I wasn’t planning on buying something at a regular price, it’s probably something I don’t need.  Why do I suddenly need it at a lower price?

These are my rules going forward for sales:

1- Do I have budgeted money set aside that will cover this purchase?

2- Have I already been planning on purchasing this item (i.e. is it on my Want list)?

3- Will this increase my net savings at the end of the month?

If so, I will take advantage of the sale.  If not, then I guess I’m just going to have to pass on that one.

Nice try, marketing people, nice try.


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