Why You Shouldn’t Shop Sales

shop sales

Please welcome back our usual Tuesday contributor, Cat from Budget Blonde.

Picture this: You walk into your favorite store in the mall, and there it is…a massive SALE sign. Everything is 50% off! It’s like angels are singing, and forces beyond your control are pushing you towards the back of the store. Suddenly, it’s as if you’ve won the lottery. Shirts for $2! Designer shoes for $10!

You start to wonder how you got so lucky to choose that very day to go to the mall. You can practically buy a whole new wardrobe for pennies on the dollar, and just think of how fashionable you will look when the day is done! It’s time for a cold glass of water to the face as this really isn’t a good dream. It’s actually more representative of a momentary lapse of judgement brought on by the almighty SALE sign.

If you shop sales like this regularly, you might be more familiar with regret than you’d care to admit. You might even have to return some things to come in under budget for that month. When we shop sales, what is it that makes us so darn vulnerable?

I for one try not to get sucked into them. Keep in mind that I’m a big advocate for shopping for the best price of an item so what I’m talking about in this post is the “sale sneak attack,” the one that draws you in when you weren’t intending to spend money to begin with. Here’s why I loathe them:

1. When You Shop Sales They Make You Want to Buy, Buy, Buy

When things are cheap, you’re going to want to buy more of them! It’s really quite simple, and it gets us every time. We might not need or even want what’s on sale, but we’re lured into this false sense of urgency that the items we’re seeing will never drop to prices that low ever again.

This is especially true on Black Friday, but as many wise bloggers have already pointed out, you can get often get better deals during other times of the year. (Editor’s note – As someone who works in the advertising industry, this is SO true! In many cases, there are better times to get a “deal” so be informed with your purchasing.)

2. You’re More Likely to Buy Something That’s Not Quite Right

I’ve made this mistake before, and I really try not to. Basically, you see something on sale, try it on, and even though it doesn’t fit all that well, you still convince yourself that you should buy it. Maybe it’s just a tad too short or maybe it would fit better at a different weight. Either way, I can’t count how many times I bought something just because it was on sale, even though it might not have been a good buy for me.

These days, I only buy clothes if I really love them, and this often leads to spending a bit more on my wardrobe than I have in the past.

3. You Have a Harder Time Returning Bad Purchases

Sometimes you can return sale items and sometimes you can’t. It really depends on the store, but a lot of the biggest blowout sales come with the understanding that you cannot return the item. That’s part of the gamble. These days, I’d much rather have some flexibility in terms of my shopping, and I enjoy shopping at stores that have generous and lenient return policies. I know that not all sales are evil, but they sure aren’t helpful to those who are trying to get their finances on track.

What do you think – Are you for or against massive sales? Do you find it easy to get sucked into them?


Photo Credit: Mark Hillary

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About the author:

Catherine Alford is a personal finance freelance writer and blogger. She received a B.A. from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Virginia Tech. When she is not writing for other websites on all topics frugal and fabulous, she enjoys sharing her adventures on her blog, www.BudgetBlonde.com. You can connect via Twitter / Facebook.

57 comments on “Why You Shouldn’t Shop Sales

  1. I’m in favor of sales as long as you can exhibit self-control. I think I’ve looked at so many sales and clearance racks over the years that I’m much better about being picky. My wife and I can go to a place like Kohl’s where everything seems to be on sale and leave with maybe one thing or sometimes nothing.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..My College FinancesMy Profile

  2. Yeah I agree with all of these points and am completely guilty of buying things because they are on sale- not necessarily because I need them. On the flip side, some of my most favorite purchases have been from sales too. So I guess it can go both ways really.
    Liz recently posted..Should I Get a Master’s Degree?My Profile

  3. I struggle with this most where the kids’ clothes are concerned. I get so focused on getting that “great deal” that I need to really work hard to stop and think: “Is this something the kid really needs right now, or is it a ‘fluff’ purchase?” I’ve gotten better over the last year, but the lure of the sale can really draw me in!
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted..Is 2014 Your Last Chance to Get Out of Debt?My Profile

  4. I get sucked into big sales like this, but recognizing my behavior has helped me avoid them! I’m definitely guilty of buying items that weren’t quite right just because they were a super-good deal. I’ve also avoided a garment I really love in favor of five garments I only like because more is more. Except it’s not! I’m also trying to be more thoughtful about my wardrobe and only buy things I’m head-over-heels in love with. Great post!! :)
    Kendal @HassleFreeSaver recently posted..Confession: Advertisers Dupe MeMy Profile

  5. Ah yes, the old buy something just because it’s on sale. I’ve certainly been there before! I shop pretty infrequently though, so I often do try to wait until a store I like (ie: J. Crew or Banana Republic) has a sale. I see value in buying quality pieces that I treat well and last a long time, but I also don’t mind repeating an outfit to work week after week and my sweaters and dresses tend to last for years. I got lured into a 50% off sale at Banana Republic over Christmas and bought a dress that I’ve already worn to two different events.
    Broke Millennial recently posted..The Financial Ramifications of the Quarter-Life CrisisMy Profile

  6. ” the one that draws you in when you weren’t intending to spend money to begin with” – those are definitely the kind of sales to be wary of. Our fear that we might miss out can wipe out our common sense. We forget that sales happen every week. I’ve made the mistake of making compromises when I found a great price on clothes – it looks great for the price! But when I got home, not so much. :) And then assuming you can return it, you have to find the time to return in the allowed window. FInding the best price is a win. Knowing that not every sale is specatcular is an even bigger win.
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted..Good Versus Entitled Life: The Unintended ConsequencesMy Profile

  7. I think the big thing is to never focus on how much you save. That’s because in reality you are not saving any money. Just because the jeans are marked down from $25 to $12 doesn’t mean you saved $13. You still spent $12 to purchase said jeans. I think if we focus on that aspect of it, sales would have a much smaller effect on us. This is especially important with food. Too often it’s tempting to stock up because it’s on sale but then all of it can’t be used before it goes bad. This leads to a lot of excess waste.
    Micro recently posted..Consume it and toss it, or you could maintain itMy Profile

  8. I SO agree with this list! I’m BLESSED with somewhat of a disgust for sales: all those clothes suddenly transformed to piles and heaps of fabric. Yuk. But the times where I did buy clothes or shoes: never wore them. Sales make you think you NEED something, and it’s hardly ever true. The only time I’d be a Sales enthusiast, is when I actually know what I’m shopping for, and stick to that plan.
    Debby recently posted..Day 93 – A kick in the Teeth.My Profile

  9. I am SO guilty of buying things (clothes mostly) just because they are on sale – which is why I rarely go to the mall because I know I get sucked in! But on the flip-side, I’ve often waited for sales to happen when I’m in need of certain things.
    Amanda recently posted..My Money in 2013My Profile

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