Would you buy it if it wasn’t on sale?

by Karen on November 13, 2008

Photo by theogeo

clearance saleThis time last year I was working in retail in a clothing store. I wasn’t making much money, but one of the “perks” of my job was an employee discount.

I bought a lot of clothing during this time. Not only did I take advantage of my 20% discount, but I scouted the sales and clearance racks. I never paid full price for anything. I thought I was getting a great deal. In all honesty, I really was. I usually paid about 20% of the original price.

As I look back, though, I’m reminded of the strange psychological effect of sale prices. Sale prices can turn a ho-hum item into something you must have.

Since I worked in the store every single day, I was in a unique position. Instead of stumbling on these great deals, I was aware of my changing perspective as the prices dropped. Many of the items I bought off the clearance racks, I didn’t even notice at full price. Though I stocked them, rehung them in the fitting room, and straightened the shelves after closing each night, I barely noticed them at all. But as soon as they hit the clearance shelf, I suddenly had to have them.

Looking back, I realize I wasn’t really shopping for clothes; I was shopping for bargains. It wasn’t that I really wanted the items I bought for such a great discount. I just loved the rush of knowing how much money I had “saved” compared to the original price.

Shopping for bargains is dangerous, though. If you’re not careful, you’ll go broke saving money.

Don’t get me wrong, there were items that I coveted from the day they came into the store. A beautiful cashmere sweater that originally retailed for $60 comes to mind. I absolutely wasn’t going to pay full price for it, but I kept a close eye on our inventory, hoping my size would be there when the sweater finally hit the clearance rack. It was, and I paid $8 for that sweater at the very tail end of the winter season in March.

For the most part, though, it wasn’t the price that deterred me from noticing full price items. It was that I just didn’t particularly like or want them. But as soon as the price dropped and it was a “deal,” my mindset changed completely.

Sale prices can be blinding. As the holidays approach and prices start to drop, it can be tempting to buy buy buy. I’ve said it before, though — if you don’t need the item, you’re paying too much (even if it is on sale).

Next time you’re tempted by a sale price, take a hard look at the original price. Ignore the sale price for just a moment. Try to ask yourself, “Would I want this if it was $60 instead of $10?” Regardless of whether you can afford to pay full price, would you even want it if it wasn’t on sale?

I absolutely wanted that cashmere sweater even at full price — I just couldn’t afford to pay full price. When I finally bought it for the clearance price, it was incredibly rewarding. It’s still my favorite sweater of all time. I can’t say the same for 90% of the clearance items I bought during my time working in retail.

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