I was clearing the mails on my kitchen Island this evening when I stumbled upon an unused but expired $10 gift certificate/coupon sent to me by DSW. At first, I paused and mourned the loss of opportunity to get $10 off a new pair of shoes, in fact I thought about the new knee length boots I could have bought to replace the current ones I have been wearing since last winter or even the new black ankle length booties that would match my new pants. Then, I quickly caught myself. What was I thinking? How could the chance to save my money to spend my money on things I actually need, and not things the stores just want to entice me to buy make me sad?
Every wondered why the stores give you another $5 or 10% off your next purchase right at the check out counter when you just finished checking out for a bag full of new stuff? Why they ask you for your email address or zip code for “special offers?” Or why they tell you to open a new store card so you can save 15% on today’s purchase? Well, the simple answer is that all these things are done to get you to buy more and more stuff you don’t really need. You see, everything the stores do is to achieve one goal and one goal only – to keep you coming back for more. The way the items in a store are arranged, the type of advertisements and the “special offers” are all meant to achieve this purpose. I hate to be the one to break the news that the sales clerk really doesn’t care how that dress looks on you, she is just focused on getting the items sold.
So how can you protect yourself especially during the post holiday season when retailers are desperate to keep sales numbers at decent levels? Here are a few tips:
- It’s not too late to establish your goals if you didn’t set them on January 1. Write down your goals and hold yourself accountable.
- Budget! Budget!! Budget!!! Keep a budget and be disciplined.
- Separate your needs from your wants.
- Don’t buy on impulse, always give yourself a few moments, hours or even days to think about significant purchases. Believe me, no deal is that hot contrary to what the marketers are saying.
- Realize that the little bits add up – $5 here, $10 there add up to something significant if you don’t pay attention.
- Keep your credit cards in a locked box at home and not in your wallet, if you have to go home to dig out the card, then you either need that item or you need a therapist (laughs!)
- Keep an expense diary, this helps to keep you in line just as a food diary helps a person on a weight loss journey.
So next time you see an expired and unused coupon on your desk, don’t feel sad but pat yourself on the back for saving the money you could have spent buying yet another item you don’t really need.