My Journey out of Debt

Featured customers currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Relief Plan, share journey to become debt-free; hear how they juggle family, finances, and more.

The Discount Store Paradox

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Sometimes there is great irony in being in debt. I can't tell you how much money I frittered away needlessly in the name of being a "savvy shopper."

The Discount Store ParadoxThis trap is particularly perilous at my favorite haunts: Marshalls, TJ Maxx, HomeGoods - you know, all of those name-brand discount stores that do their best to fool you into thinking that the more you spend, the more you save! It's a great paradox, and sadly, one that I have grappled with for much of my adult life.

If you're like me, you get carried away with those retail vs. markdown price tags. Take this purse that I took a vague interest in for a second. Turns out its $49.95. But... the original price was $89.95! A purse that expensive must be something great (even better if I'm familiar with the label)! And here I'm getting this good deal on it, almost half off! And certainly I will use this purse at some point, even though I have more than a few perfectly serviceable ones at home, right?

This pattern of thinking (or not thinking) is how so many nice but completely impulse-driven items made their way into my cart, my closet, and my credit card statement. Ahh, the rationalization of luxury...

Now that I am two years into "learning my lesson the hard way," I have come up with some coping skills to get through my occasional shopping trips. They are especially handy at this time of year, for sure. Here is the mental checklist I go through before committing to a want-based purchase:

  • Evaluate the item on its own merits. Am I considering this item only because it's on clearance, or because I actually really want it? Would I buy this thing if it were full price? Was I looking for this item before coming in the store, or do I just want it because I'm looking at it? Is it on my "to-do" list in terms of purchasing priority?
  • Determine quality. Sometimes discounted items are dinged, missing buttons, have a loose hem, etc. I ask myself if it's something that will hold up over the long term and is something I will wear or use frequently enough for the price it commands.
  • Picture where the item will be in a month's time. This strategy really, really works for me. Often I conclude that the item will clutter my life more than integrate into it. And I have enough clutter, thank you very much!
  • Walk away for a bit. If the item is not something I had intended to buy in the first place, I try to leave the store without it, promising myself that if I still want it in a week (and it's still there), I'll go for it. Do you know how easy it is to forget about "stuff"? Try it.

At the end of the day, I still do appreciate (and frequent) these discount chains because I have scored some excellent things at a reasonable price. Like anything else in life, just don't go nuts. Anyone have similar strategies? I need to arm myself as the shopping season gets underway full-tilt!

Related Links:

The Bliss of Forethought for Holiday Shopping

The Debt Diva's Top 10 Holiday Shopping Tips

Creating the Perfect Holiday Shopping Game Plan

StaceyStacey Pavlick

Stacey is a participant in the CareOne Debt Management Plan; soon to complete her second year on the plan. She is a contributing writer for the My Journey out of Debt blog. Stacey works as an operations manager for a title insurance company and moonlights as a music reviewer for SpectrumCulture.com. She combines her passion for writing with her passion for getting out of debt and shares her struggles and success along the way. Compensated CareOne Blogger. Read some of Stacey's previous posts in the blog Single and Settling In blog.

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  • I just may put those 4 points on a small card, laminate it, and put it in my wallet (and my wife's purse).  It could save us a fortune.  Great tips!

  • Those are some great tips.  Thank you for sharing.

  • Thanks, friends! I'm happy to report I made it through the holiday season without breaking the bank! What a difference it makes to be mindful, right?

  • VERY NICE DEBT BLG

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