There are many die-hard bargain hunters out there in the Mile High City, just like me. I can’t pass a clearance rack or sale sign without taking a quick look. You know who you are. Some days, it feels like a curse. I must stop or it will drive me crazy thinking about the savings I may have missed. However, over the years, it’s presented a few problems. Fellow “cheapskates” will totally understand and appreciate the dilemma. Let me explain.
Anytime I saw big savings on anything, I felt compelled to buy it all. (For me, “big savings” is anything 75% off or more. Ninety percent off or more and I just lose my mind!) And, I mean “anything.” I don’t have babies nor do I know any personally, so did I really need to buy all the pacifiers because they were discounted at 90% off? Well, maybe, I can use them as gifts one day.
Why just get one jar of marked-down mayonnaise for 50¢, when I can buy all three? I will definitely use three jars of mayonnaise before they expire in a few months. It was nothing, but wishful thinking. I could always find a “purpose” or justification for buying it all.
You can see where this going. (No, I’m not a hoarder, but I can see how it slowly happens over time.)
First, there was the issue of storing all of my bargains. I have a small den that slowly turned into a storage unit. At times, you could barely get in without navigating through a sea of Target, Walgreens and Rite Aid shopping bags, non-perishable food, paper products, toys and more.
Once it was at capacity, the bags and boxes began to spill over into other rooms. My bargain-hunting was literally taking over my life.
Next, it affected my budget in an unexpected way. It seems like no big deal to spend a few dollars here and there on clearance. And it’s not. However, when you’re doing it multiple times a week, it can eat up your finances quickly. Some months, I was spending more than $100 on clearance and mark-downs for things I didn’t necessarily need.
In the end, I was “losing money” by “saving money.” It’s a tough concept to get, especially for a die-hard cheapskate like me. I would put off a home repair or not treat myself to concert tickets because I was on a tight budget. Yet, I could easily have had the extra funds, if only I had not spent so much on “bargains.”
And, in the end, I usually just gave most of my frugal finds away to friends and family. It was like I was shopping for others on my own dime, with no real benefit to me other than being “the nice guy.”
I finally had an epiphany last year and made a concerted effort to reevaluate my bargain-hunting ways. I decided to stop and ask myself, if I really needed an item or had a specific purpose for it, before loading my cart. I also decided that it’s okay, if I don’t get all of the bargains. I will survive and it’s good to let someone else benefit from the savings.
Admittedly, if I find a phenomenal deal, I still go a little crazy, but with a goal in mind. Recently, I found boxes of high-end oatmeal for 9¢ a box at King Soopers — regularly $8.29. Yes, I bought all 50 boxes. However, this time, I shared a few with friends and family and donated the rest to a food bank. There are some deals you just can’t pass up, right?
Nearly a year later and, now, I have part of my home back — perfect for reading or napping. (A room that had been inhabitable for years.) Plus, I learned friends don’t mind paying for a good clearance find. All you have to do is ask.
My self-imposed embarrassment about asking others for reimbursement was for naught. Friends and family are happy to pay me back the few bucks I spend. It’s a win-win for all. They’re getting a great deal and I fulfill my passion of helping others save money.
They’re just grateful to have a bargain-hunting buddy always on the look out for savings. Getting reimbursed has put money back in my pocket. Money I was just giving away for years with no regard for my own budget.
I still have to stop and check the clearance rack, but, now, I’m more conscious of how and why I’m spending my money. Saving money can be very addictive. It’s a great feeling to walk out of a store with several bags, knowing you only paid a fraction of the retail price. I still get excited, when I find an amazing deal.
I’m just no longer on auto-pilot and grabbing all I can. It’s been a hard lesson to learn for a born cheapskate — Don’t be greedy. Be grateful. Share the wealth. I will always be a super saver (even if I won the lottery tomorrow!), but in a more thoughtful way.
In the end, it’s not a “worthy” deal, if you’re just giving it all away at the cost of your own well-being, end up throwing away food because it’s expired or the bargains start taking over your home. I take comfort in knowing that there will always be a clearance rack or mark-down bin for me to search. I don’t need to find every deal.
Have you had any similar challenges being a bargain hunter? How do you keep your bargain shopping under control?
I look forward to our next chat. And, remember, there’s always a deal, you just have to look for it. :-)
First off, I want to shop at your King Soopers. Which one had oatmeal for 9 cents? I, too, am at the point you are where I only buy it if it makes sense to do so. But it is still a thrill to find a super bargain I can’t pass up.
I loved this article. It IS a kind of addiction. As one friend of mine put it, “I’m a sucker for free* stuff!” (*or super cheap stuff)
I really TRY to to buy only things (bargains) I already use or actually want to try, but not at full price. BUT…. it does often amount to a type of hoarding. After a lifetime of struggles with money, and pinching pennies because I HAD to, I am pretty secure financially now, but I still love to save money.
I do recognize when I am a victim of social engineering. Sometimes I go along with it , but other times I have a serious talk with myself. Case in point: isn’t it positively brilliant that Starbucks give GOLD STARS in their reward program? I had not received a GOLD STAR since my piano lesson days! How seductive is that? And by the way, you can even get points if you are a cheapskate who mostly makes her own coffee. Or if I buy a cup of great coffee I can get a refill for free (with my GOLD CARD) and they put it in a clean cup I can give to my co-worker if I don’t want it. Almost as cheap as a senior coffee at McDonald’s, although I do tip the barista.
By the way, I love your site. I have received some free movie tickets, even special events like operas. You guys are for real.
I did just make a large contribution to the food bank, which is my favorite charity. Normally I give money because I figure their purchasing power is greater than mine, but I had collected a lot of free items from the Safeway/Albertson’s Monopoly game. I figured “you can’t win if you don’t enter!” And it was free to enter! I kept some of the ones I use, and donated the ones I did not want. I also bought in bulk and got some great bargains to donate. I am thankful I never had to use the Food Bank, but I believe it is a great thing.
I usually do not miss the free Friday at King Soopers, and shop there mostly with digital coupons. Sometimes I try a product that I then buy later.
The other thing, as you pointed out, is the time invested. If I spend a little time and end up feeling good, that is great. I do not want to end up feeling bad because I missed out on a bargain I did not really need. I had to figure out where smart shopping ended and obsession began.
After all, a missed opportunity is a missed opportunity. No more, no less.
So, keep on keepin’ on!
Mary — Thank you for your feedback. How ‘bout a new column “Mary’s Monologue”? ;-) We love your passion for saving money and value you as a loyal reader. -BKC
Dee — I find lots of great bargains at the King Soopers on Leetsdale — not the one in Glendale, the “old” one up the street. That’s where I found the “cheap” oatmeal. I just happen to be snooping the clearance shelves, when the clerk brought over a cart full of oatmeal. I still can’t believe I bought it for 9 cents a box. More than $400 worth of oatmeal for under $5! -BKC
I always shop the KS clearance shelves too. This is a GREAT post. I can totally identify with % of clearance being a bigger temptation. I’ve been down that road many a time (most recently at the 75% off sale at the Rite Aid was closing.) Anyway, love the details. Yes, I get “high” from a really good sale. Yes, I have to work on my bargain shopping addiction. It was kind of embarrassing when I had an organizer come to my house and point out that I didn’t need any shampoo, conditioner, bar soap, or sunscreen for several years.