Friday 31 May 2013

The Tyranny of the "Deal"

Everyone likes to have a bargain, right?  We all like to be savvy, shrewd shoppers.  Certainly, no one likes to feel like the only idiot who paid a heavily inflated price.

I've heard stories about one of my parents' friends who has a unique approach.  Whatever she buys, when she gets home, she crosses off the price tag with a red pen and writes in a heavily discounted price.  Her husband is astounded and proud of his wife's bargain hunting ability.

Hey, no judgement.  Whatever works to keep marital discord at bay.

I've also seen many people who will spend weeks and months researching purchases.  They track seasonal sales to find the optimal low price point.  They comparison shop across the world.  They track down rumours and can ferret out discounts with the ferociousness of a terrier on a rat.  They almost never pay full price for any major purchase.

Some of our neighbours are champion coupon shoppers.  We may not have the heavy discounts which you see in the States, but they still chop a fair bit off their grocery bills each week by being flexible and going with what is both on sale and has a coupon.

These are all good options for stretching budgets.  And I think we all have to be financially conscious to make sure we get good value for our dollar.

What worries me is when I see people tempted into too-good-to-be-true deals in the search of their bargain hunting.  I'm a purchasing conservative at heart and I'm inherently suspicious of any claim to easy money.  It's a trait which has cost us money (we ended up with a ridiculously high fixed mortgage rate during a record-breaking lows) but has also saved us money (when we were suspicious of an investment scheme which turned out to have less connection to reality than Michael Jackson).

I will almost always turn down any proposal which starts with "I know this guy".  Unless I know the guy, too, and I'm convinced of his stand-up-honesty, I'm not interested.  If I buy a computer from some guy for $500 less than Future Shop, but it breaks two weeks out, that's not a bargain.  Or if it comes loaded with spyware. 

I could tie this into autism by pointing out that there are a lot of people out there who are going to take advantage of parents' desperation, but I really feel this is a more universal point. 

Bargains often come with hidden fees and costs, be they financial, social or legal.  I have no problem with people who want to spend their time bargain-hunting.  More credit to them.

Me, I'll be curled up watching TV with my kids.  And that's a good bargain to me.

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