When living frugally within our own personal budget, we are often faced with certain dilemmas. Some of the dilemmas are subtle, like this one: Should you buy an item when it is on sale or only buy the item when you need it? This comes down to a trade-off between certainty-of-use and price.
Why would you buy an item when you don’t need it? This often happens when you think you may need it in the future or it may be a “want” that you always strived to fulfill. A key concept, however, is that you need to purchase according to your spending priorities, in other words, buy the most important or pressing things that you need.
The advantage of buying an item on sale is that you get a good price for the item. The disadvantage is that you may or may not need the item at the time or there may be other items with a higher priority.
When you buy something on sale, you are generally playing along with the retailer. The retailer has put the item up for sale for a reason, either to get rid of some stock or to entice you to come into the shop and buy other things as well. Taking full advantage of a sale is not necessarily a bad thing. You must just be certain that the sale item will actually benefit you and that you do not fall for all the other enticing items on sale. You don’t want to take useless items off a retailers hands and then have it sitting at the bottom of your closet. Garages and closets everywhere are filled with things that were bought on sale and were only used once.
The advantage of buying something when you need it is that you know that you are going to use the item. You are not always certain whether you have received the best price for it, though – you may be buying the item when it is in high demand and therefore more expensive. Another key advantage is that you make purchases that are aligned with your priorities, since you really do need the item. This is especially important if you have an over-arching goal, such as paying down debt.
The best option for the savvy shopper is to combine the two points of view:
* Always keep a list handy of exactly what you need and how important it is right now
* Research the items so you have a good idea of quality and price
* Figure out the best time to buy them or when they are on normally put on sale
* Purchase the item when the time comes
Remember that, with most things, it is not a straight price comparison. The “cheapest option” generally could end up being just that: cheap. Take a pair of shoes, for example. You could purchase the cheap ones for $30, but they may end up lasting for only a year, as compared to the $100 pair that you end up wearing for 5 years. That’s $20 per year for the use of the pair of good shoes, as opposed to $30 per year for the cheap pair.
Keeping your personal and family budget balanced takes discipline. Take care that your love of sales does not slowly eat away at your financial freedom.