Last week was Thanksgiving week, which means it is that time of year again when the shopping frenzy of the holidays begins with two of the most ridiculous days of the year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
On these days, nearly everything appears to go “on sale” with deep discounts where you can supposedly save lots of money. Because of this, shoppers tend to rush to the stores en masse, and every year we hear in the news about people getting trampled and even killed. Even that doesn’t seem to deter the frenzy, although reports say online shopping has replaced some of the in-store activity.
There are multitudes of Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping guides out there listing all of the various items on sale so you don’t miss a single deal in order to maximize your savings. In fact, it can be hard to avoid deals being thrown left and right in your face during this time.
I thought I’d write my own guide on how to maximize your savings on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or really any time there are sales going on. Let’s jump in!
1. Don’t Buy Anything
The best way to save money is to simply not buy anything. It is important to realize that if you bought an item that normally sells for $100 at a price of $60, you are NOT saving $40. You are spending $60.
This feeling of getting a great deal and thus saving money can be hard to shake.
To illustrate it another way, detach yourself from the emotional aspect of any particular purchase. Suppose instead of a deal, the price of a $100 product were slashed permanently to $60. Would you still feel like you saved money buying the product at $60?
If you examine the result, both scenarios mean you end up with $60 less in your wallet and possession of the purchase. Yet the time-limited deal probably makes you feel better.
The key point of this is to not let the amount of the discount affect your willingness to pay for a product. Instead, you should evaluate the product at it’s discounted price to determine if it is at a level of cost that is worth it for the benefits it offers.
2. Don’t Compare Sale Prices to Non-Sale Prices Between Items
Normally, it is a good idea to compare the prices between two items in order to see which is a better deal. But trouble arises when this is used solely to convince yourself that the on-sale item is a great deal because you can now get it for so much less than another regular-priced item.
Consider two similar products, A and B, that both sell for $100. You haven’t purchased either one because you didn’t believe they are worth giving up $100. You made this decision after evaluating each item on its own merits independently of the other since there was no price comparative advantage.
Suddenly, there is a discount offered for item B, bringing it down to $80.
The question you should be asking yourself is whether item B is worth it at $80, pretending that item A did not exist. It makes no sense to factor in item A’s price in this decision! However, that is precisely what our brains will try to do: convince us that because another similar item sells for $100, the chance to give up $80 for item B is a steal!
To see this another way, suppose item A also went on sale at $80 the same time as item B. Now with both prices at the same level again, it becomes easier to see why you should only evaluate each item on its own merits.
The existence of other items and their prices can be a powerful compelling force to convince us that something is a great deal. The reason that restaurants often offer small, medium, and large sizes of an item is because of the psychological effect it has on consumers. Offering 3 different options has been shown to draw people toward buying more than they need and maximize profits for the store.
We should be careful to not let this psychological trick cause us to falsely believe something is worth it at a price that it normally wouldn’t be.
3. Buy Something Only If You Already Planned To
The only time you will actually be saving money if you buy something on sale is if you actually planned to make the purchase beforehand. If you were willing and going to buy item B at $100, and then it drops to $80 before you do, you legitimately saved $20 on the purchase!
This rule can be a little flexible. If you were going to buy either item A or B and they really are substitutes that are nearly equally as good, then buying one of them because it went on sale instead of the other one still counts as savings.
Again, the concept of evaluating products individually on their own merits applies when determining if something is worth trading your hard-earned money for.
Conclusion: Don’t Get Tricked
Most of the so-called deals during sales like these are not really deals at all. Sure, there are some genuine deals where products are priced lower than they’ve ever been, but these are often used as the headlines in ads to draw you in, after which they hope you look at the plethora of other products that aren’t really cheaper than normal discounts throughout the year.
Sometimes, the “regular” price of something may even increase so applying the discount doesn’t bring it down as much as it seems! Quite shady practices, no?
We all need to watch out for the psychological tricks that retailers often use through comparative pricing, time-limited deals, and false discounts to convince us to buy more than we should. Often times, no tricks have been played on purpose; the mere presence of sale events like Black Friday and the feelings that incurs are enough to make our wallets a bit thinner.