Do You Invent Needs?

Apr 8, 2019 by

My Dad sent me this comic strip, and I think it’s pretty good.

Sherman's Lagoon cartoon strip on bargain shopping

(c) 2012 Jim Toomey. Used with permission from the artist.

Which Came First: The Need or the Bargain?

Developing the knowhow and talent to find the stuff you need at bargain prices can really help you save more and meet all of your money goals. And it’s fun!

But for some bargain hounds, finding an item at a fantastic price can become an end in itself. Maybe you’ve experienced this: Say you’re at the local mall and pass by Ye Olde Kitchen Gadget Shoppe. You’re not shopping for kitchen gadgets, but you notice a sign advertising a top brand food processor for half price. Whoa! You’ve already got a food processor, but wow—that’s really a good price! You make a detour into the store and find the lovely food processors in designer colors artfully arranged in a special display.

Now your mind starts buzzing: Isn’t my food processor about 4 years old? How long do these things last? I do like the new red one here better than mine, and it would go so much better in our new kitchen. I could give my old food processor to Goodwill. Or buy one of these and keep it in a closet until my food processor goes kaput. Or this new one would make a great wedding gift someday. At this price I could probably even sell this one on eBay and make a little money!


See what’s happening here? It’s called rationalization, which according to means:

To ascribe (one’s acts, opinions, etc.) to causes that superficially seem reasonable and valid but that actually are unrelated to the true, possibly unconscious and often less creditable or agreeable causes.

Buying a food processor was nowhere on your radar until you saw the sign advertising the great price. The reality is that you’re going to buy the food processor for one reason: You find the bargain price irresistible—nothing more, nothing less. Retailers count on people like you. And so do self-storage space rental companies.

A Better Way to Shop

First, if you have in you a bit of the bargain-hound-who-tends-to-rationalize, it’s best to stay away from shopping malls so you’re not tempted by deals and specials on items you didn’t realize you needed or wanted until you saw the deal or special. Second, try out this strategy to satisfy your mostly constructive urge to buy at a bargain price:

  1. Keep a list of the things you want or need to buy.
  2. For anything with a significant cost (over $20?), do a little research with Startpage‘s help to zero in on the brand and model you want and to get an idea of price range.
  3. Learn which retailers in your community carry the item you want, and watch for a sale.
  4. If local prices seem uncompetitive, find the best price online. Or use a documented online price to negotiate with a local retailer (this can work!).
  5. If you don’t need the item right away, be patient and wait for a great deal!

Take your time, enjoy the process, and reap a great reward: Getting what you want or need at a fantastic price! And remember:

Buying things you don’t need on sale does not save money!

Are You a Bargain Hound?

Do you buy things purely because you can’t resist a great price? (We all do at times, right?) Have you closeted a stash of aging “back-up” small appliances or “future gifts” that were purchased at fantastic prices? Would you now rather have the cash you paid for these items?


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  1. John S @ Frugal Rules

    Rationalization can be tricky, we can talk ourselves into basically anything we want…especially if we thinkg it’s a “deal”. I would agree that the main point is to stay away from what tempts you. Great point on the “savings”! Just because it’s 25% off does not mean you saved money if you did not need it, it just means you spent that much less.

  2. Jason @ WorkSaveLive

    When I was a kid my mom would ALWAYS browse clearance racks and buy things simply because they were at a great price, regardless of we needed them or not. She still struggles with that quite a bit but it’s certainly something I avoid being the tightwad that I am. 🙂

  3. I used to do this all the time. “Well it’s such a good price, I could probably never find one that cheap again…” Now if it’s not on the list I don’t buy it. If I think about buying something (big purchases) I usually make myself wait a week to see if I really want the item at the end of the week. If I do I go back.

  4. Andy Hough

    Inventing needs isn’t something I generally have a problem with. It is easy to see how it could happen though.

  5. i am still trying to break the bad habit of “shopping for deals” on websites like slickdeals, even when i don’t have anything in paritcular i am shopping for… it used to be one of my favorite past times (altho I rarely bought anything expensive)..

  6. FrugalPortland

    I do think we invent needs all the time! Very well said.

  7. Oh my gosh – you totally have me on this. I constantly convince myself I should buy something “just in case” when I come across a super deal. Case in point: the automatic soap dispenser I don’t really need but found for $6. Now I’m trying to figure out who I can give it to for Christmas because I feel stupid for buying it! Linked up to your post in my weekly roundup.

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