Buying Things Just Because They are on Sale

Posted Thursday, June 24, 2021

A simple sale sign

I'm crafting this post as Amazon Prime Day and the rest of the Fourth of July posts come around.

A time when companies update their websites to show big countdown timers and slashes through arbitrary prices to convey that you're getting the deal of a lifetime.

Well, most of the time you're not.

From my perspective, there are good sales and bad sales.

Sales that sort of fall in your lap and end up saving you a bit of money, and sales that pull every psychological trick in the book to get you to spend even more than you would have on a typical shopping session.

Let's talk about them.

The Good Sales

Seemingly this store's last sale...ever

The good sales are the ones where something you've been planning to buy for some time is cheaper now.

For example, you're in the market for a blender. You've been looking at them for a while, doing your research, and are about to press that purchase button.

But wait!

Tomorrow is national blender day. So you hold off on the purchase to see what kind of deals you can get.

When it's all said and done that national blender sale saves you 50% on the exact same blender model you were planning to get anyways.

It's a pretty simple concept. Buy something you want and save money.

So what's so controversial about this and why is there an entire post dedicated to discussing it?

The Bad Sales

A paper shopping bag

It's no secret that businesses, especially large-scale e-commerce focused businesses want to do anything they can to get you to spend money with their establishment.

In my opinion, sales are always the biggest and most effective campaigns to get customers like you and myself to spend money they were never going to spend.

Think about it.

Sales are always urgent. There are big countdown timers plastered on every page pressuring you to make the purchase before the opportunity slips away from you.

Yet it feels like every holiday, every company anniversary, and every season has some sort of sale. So what's the rush?

Every retail price has a slash through it, with the sale price always showing some ridiculous percentage off, conveying how much of a steal this purchase would be.

But did you ever consider buying that item to begin with? Do you know what the average price of that item typically is?

These companies are planting seeds in your mind. 

They are showing something you were never thinking of buying in the first place, and they create problems for you to think through in a short period of time.

Do you need it? Is this a price too good to pass up? What if this item never goes on sale again?

Your mind races through all of these manufactured problems all while the website shows you a huge countdown timer and a live feed of the stock left.

The House Always Wins

Someone getting dusted in poker...I think that's poker

When you participate in these sales the company you're shopping with is always going to benefit.

That's okay.

Your goal is to make sure you're always benefitting as well.

Use the sales to your advantage.

Here are a couple tips to help swing things in your favor:

  • Keep a running list of the more pricey items you've been shopping for so you know what to look for when you're browsing.
  • Use a site like to see the price history of items you're interested in.
  • Read the reviews of products before you buy to make sure they are quality products and the review scores aren't just being inflated.
  • Don't get in a habit of buying things you don't need just because they're on sale.

The last one is a big one and I can't repeat it enough.

Don't buy things just because they are on sale!

Big sales are designed to trick you into buying things you were never planning to buy.

Even if something you weren't going to buy is now 50% off, you're spending 50% more than you need to.

Resist the urge and be strategic about how you navigate these sales.

Go Forth and Save Money

Someone getting dusted in poker...I think that's poker

Sales are awesome.

I almost always try to be smart about my purchases and wait for sales when I can.

At the same time, I no longer look at Black Friday, Fourth of July, or Prime Day as e-commerce holidays that I look forward to.

I look for the things I need at the time, and besides that, I go about my business.

Avoid the mind tricks and use the sales to your advantage.


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