Monday, November 9, 2009

What makes a good deal?

Many of the things that I post about are "deals". But what is a deal? Or rather, what makes a good deal? Pretty much every week there is something at Rite Aid that is free after single check rebate. Every store puts out a weekly ad that is filled with sales. And don't forget about all the internet shopping options: overstock sites, Amazon, cash back sites....and credit card points.

With how much you can save, its tempting to spend.

The biggest way to save money is to just not spend it. Obviously that cannot work with everything, especially now as we are entering the gift hunting season. I thought I would share a few thoughts about what, in my opinion, makes a deal "good".

1. You can afford it.
Affording the 5 cent candy after sale and coupon isn't what I'm driving at here. That falls more into the second point. Maybe a better way to think about it is the question, "Is this the best use of my resources right now?" If I am at the grocery and I see a deal where I can get cereal on sale AND I have a coupon -- I'm there! But say my budget for the shopping trip is $30 and my current groceries cost $30. Chances are that I have the money to spend on cereal (although if I'm shopping with cash, maybe not). Do we eat cereal? Sure, but because of careful shopping, we have several boxes of cereal at home. In this situation, it is probably better for me to wait and buy the cereal when I had planned to buy it. Or, if I really think I can't pass up the cereal sale, I could put something else back to stay within my budgeted amount.

Only you know how your budget works. I try to keep mine flexible enough that I can go over in one area, providing that I make up for it in another area.

When it comes to Christmas gifts, the best way I know to shop is to have a budgeted amount to spend for a certain person and then to stick within that amount. For many of us that is a no brainer, but it really is important.

2. You need it.
Now there is something to be said for getting a product just because it is free, and then giving it to someone who can use it. I requested a free sample of dog food once. We don't have a dog, but I gave it to friends who do. I probably will not do that again, however, because it took me upwards of a month from when I received the sample to actually get it to them! Likewise, a couple weeks ago I could have gotten Super Polygrip for free at Rite Aid and I had a coupon...woohoo! Except I don't use it (thankfully) and I would have had to ask around to give it away. I probably could have found someone who would benefit, but the time involved to shop for the product and then donate it was a commodity that I did not have to spare then.

This point is not as helpful in relation to Christmas shopping, because many times a gift is something that a person wants and may not need. But the basic idea applies. I'm not going to buy my husband a 1354 4-By Rack Tackle System just because it is on super clearance because he hasn't fished in years and it is not something that we have time or effort for right now.

A few other thoughts about "deal" shopping.

It takes time to learn what is a good deal for you and your household. I stocked up on $.99 toothpaste at Rite Aid a while back. I've since learned that I can get the same toothpaste for $1 at the Dollar Tree or I can get better toothpaste for free periodically from Rite Aid.

Just because something is 70% off does not mean it is cheap! Sometimes I'll see online that a SuperExpensiveBrandNameCompany is having a clearance sale. Well 50% off of $300 shoes is still$150! Would I normally pay $150 for shoes? So just because they were $300 does not make it a good deal for me.

The deceptive "you saved $48.72!" at the grocery. The more important number is how much you spent. If you are able to save $48.72 and only spend $5, that is probably a good thing! But if you bought 6 bottles of Mop and Glow for your 10 by 10 kitchen because each bottle was a $4 savings....not so much.

I try to evaluate the cost of what I'm buying by comparing it to homemade. There are tons of coupons for laundry detergent, and tons of sales. I recently bought those new Purex 3 in 1 sheets (because they were free), but normally I write laundry detergent sales off as one less thing that I need to think about, because I am able to make my own for so cheap. Plus, I prefer what I can make to most anything out there!

Lastly, it has been really helpful for me to remember that there is always another deal. Maybe not for the exactly same thing or exactly the same price, although most products do go on sale more than once! Many things rotate when they are a good deal -- the way fruits and veggies go in and out of season.

Do you have any additional input about how you make your budget work for your family?


  1. Very good point Beth Anne! I noticed that it's very tempting to buy something I don't need or that is too expensive when I have a coupon for it. I think sometimes coupons burn a hole in my pocket more than cash! It's paricularly true for cereal. At Walmart, generic cereal is significantly cheaper than General Mills products even with a General Mills coupon. Also- they just opened up a Dollar Tree down the street from our house. We took a walk through it last week and there are a lot of great deals in there that can't be beat by Walmart or with a coupon.

  2. Very thought provoking. Great idea to give stuff to others. I can get so much free or deeply discounted stuff, esp. at Rite Aid, that I should give it away to others in need. Just today I got some Herbel Essences shampoo and conditioner and an Oral-B toothbrush all for free at Rite Aid and I plan to give it to a friend who would be blessed by it. I plan to continue doing that as there are always toothbrushes (we don't need them because we use our 6 year old rechargeable Sonicare) and toothpastes (I have a ton from a bulk purchase this past summer) and razors (hubby only uses a particular brand) that are usually free at Rite I will just pick them up and give them to another family. Thanks for being Kingdom focused!
    Its very tempting to get way too into coupon-ing (talking from experience). I try to only buy stuff we need, or will use (i.e. stock up when super cheap), or now, could give to others who may not make it out to the stores for the sales/deals.

    Personally, I don't pay more than $1.00 for name brand cereal, usually it nearly free, with the sales at grocery stores and double coupons. I actually find much better deals at grocery stores than Walmart on a lot of things. For something like Fiber One bars which we eat all the time (hubby eats for breakfast), I know that if a grocery store/coupon deal is less than $1.50/box then I snag it...otherwise, if its more than that I stick to buying the bulk box at Costco.
    To be honest, I'm not great about sticking to a certain budget each month, but I do know that I am saving with my methods, though it could look a little crazy from an outsiders perspective....hehehe...some months I may spend more,but others may be a lot less....flexible as you said.

    My husband always asks..."how much did you spend?" Its more important for me to look at how much I spent OOP (out of pocket) than how much I saved.

  3. I just had a couple things to add to what has been said here, as someone who has shopped for many years:
    1. Remember, if you buy something you normally use/need at a discounted price, you can think of it in the same way as investing your money at a good interest rate. You are getting an immediate return on your investment.
    2. When you buy extras, some other things to remember are: will it keep until I can use it?
    do I have room to store it? am I hoarding things? I like the idea of giving stuff away to those who need it now. We need to find a balance between being prepared for the future and relying on God for our needs.
    3. When you go out to shop, try to make it part of what you are already doing that day. For example, if you are running to Dollar Tree just for ceral, make sure you are going past it already for something else. I try to keep a running list of things I need, then look for a convenient time to do it, instead of making a special trip just for one thing. Also, a good deal, and a good use of time.


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