When is a bargain not a bargain? When you didn’t really need the item in the first place – Anonymous
It’s true. You’ve heard the story. In fact, I think I wrote the story. You went shopping for one or two things, and came home with something else. Plus or minus a few more things you didn’t plan on buying – but that’s ok, it was a bargain. Suddenly you see one of those big bargain bins with your favourite brand items, and you’re on your way to an endorphin overdose. I mean, you were planning on buying one of those whatever’s anyway, right?This is what I call Bargain Brain. That release of endorphins we get when we see the bargain price tag, and within a split second our heart rate goes up and our good intentions, rationality and logical thinking have jumped out the window.The sad part is that a large portion of the time, Bargain Brain turns into buyers remorse and we lose our endorphin rush the minute we get the item home. It’s a temporary fix, but the consequences of making that purchase stay with you for much longer (anyone who has ever had to pay off debt, or completely declutter their home after shopping up a storm during mid-season sales, may relate to what I’m saying here).Here’s what I have learned after many years of cleaning out my many ‘bargains’:
- It’s not a bargain if you don’t really need it
- Plan ahead for what you do need
- Do your research – what are your options
- Know what you already have
- Only buy for things you need to replace
- Unsubscribe from all shopping emails – removing the temptation is the first step.
Having said all this, if you know what you need and you still see it on sale, then great – I’m not allergic to discounts! But be wary of the creepy Bargain Brain trickery that often comes out when you’re driven by bargain buys. For this reason, I buy a lot of my personal items online, and remove myself from the temptation of having to face the crazy sale season in-store. Additionally, unsubscribing from emails, mail catalogues and other promotions removes the temptation to shop impulsively when you really don’t need to.My mother is a classic bargain shopper – but she buys groceries on sale. Even at 84 years old, she will stock up on anything and everything purely because it was on special. She ends up spending more money and having more supplies in her pantry, freezer, linen cupboard and laundry than she will ever use. But hey… it was a bargain she couldn’t refuse. In fact, just last weekend we were decluttering her gigantic walk in wardrobe when I counted 48 large boxes of tissues. I’m pretty sure those tissues are going to outlive her! My husband and I on the other hand, are the opposite. We don’t stock up on anything. We buy enough of what we will consume. Our pantry and fridge often have empty shelves. And, in contrast to my mother, I have two boxes of tissues. 1 box that is open, and another is a spare (and I only have a spare because I suffer from year round allergies and go through tissues like nothing else).Shopping with intention and purpose is also a matter of living consciously. Our impact on the environment due to waste and all of our unwanted or unused items going into landfill has become one of our biggest global concerns of today. Human consumption and waste is clogging up landfill, and second hand stores are overloaded with our generous donations of items we no longer want or need for ourselves.We throw away everything from food, clothing, household appliances, furniture, unwanted gifts and one off items we have purchased for a special occasion, that we won’t need again. Our desire to snap up a bargain, or to simply keep up in our consumerist society has become one of the biggest threats to our future. So scaling back and applying more thought to what we consume, and why we consume it, is really the only way forward.
- Does the person need this item?
- Will this item add value to their lives?
- Will this gift bring the person joy?
- Is this truly a responsible purchase?
- Does the gift have more than one purpose?
- Practical items such as school supplies
- Clothing items that you know they need
- Experience vouchers i.e spas, movies
- Memories – photos of your time together
- Gift vouchers or cash amounts
- A voucher for music or art classes
- Service gifts such as babysitting, gardening
- Donations to their favourite charity.
Now, I am a huge lover of animals – especially pigs and sloths. One of the best gifts I ever received was from a group of colleagues who all pitched in to buy me a farewell present when Rob and I left Melbourne. Instead of buying me trinkets or keepsakes they knew I wouldn’t appreciate, they sponsored a pig in my name through Oxfam, and framed a photo of the little guy along with my sponsor confirmation letter. It was the best gift ever, and I could re-use the photo frame! Key to consuming anything is to place intention and purpose before anything else. Put some thought into not only what you are buying, but why you are buying it and who you are buying it for. I also now ask myself, what is the environmental impact of your purchase? Was the item sustainably sourced and ethically made? What are the organisations policies in these areas?For me, I try to align my purchases to my values, and I get a much bigger sense of satisfaction from buying responsibly, than I ever have from a bargain buy.Applying these ideas will soon reveal that the thrill of consuming was never actually in the bargain itself, but a much deeper satisfaction of having made a purposeful and responsible decision. You may no longer need the IV line for your endorphin fix, but you’ll be well on your way to becoming a more responsible and conscious consumer. Now that is cool!