Spending to save. In this latest language mash-up, I bring you ‘spaving’ – the questionable idea that you can save money by spending it. You’d know it if you’ve ever felt the urge.
Spaving happens when the reason we’re spending is not because we need or even want something, but because we think we’re saving money. We tally the supposed savings in our heads instead of noticing how much we are out of pocket in the process.
And if we’re talking about truly saving money, in the sense of accumulating wealth, spaving is a mathematical impossibility: you cannot really save if you’re spending, right?
Spaved with good intentions
- You’ve queued up extra early for the department store sale, looking forward to getting $150 worth of clothes for $100. You find something flattering, but you haven’t reached $100 yet, so you throw in a few more things that don’t quite fit… but they may someday.
- You’ve headed to a hardware chain, looking for a $4 ball of twine. You emerge with a circular saw marked down by $80. You’ll use it someday, especially for more jobs that require even more… hardware. (“Lower prices are just the beginning”)
- You’re trolleying up and down the market aisles, looking for washing powder in bulk. You’ve got the room to store more at home, so why not stock up and save? You end up overlooking that one 2kg box is actually more expensive than two 1kg ones.
- You’re on to the Christmas sales in February – way ahead of yourself and scoring serious deals for next year’s gifts. It’s always good to have extra presents at the ready, and you can always give them away, right? When December comes, however, the kids have moved on – they’re asking Santa for entirely different things.
Retailers love the idea of spaving, and for good reason – it helps them sell more. While they might take a loss on some products, they know they will make it back by selling more volume. That’s why we often can get those low prices only by buying significantly more stuff.
Retailers have already got their plan for your money – do you have yours?
The other thing that’s going on here is something called ‘anchoring’, which retailers use to fix in our minds what something usually costs. We all compare prices by anchoring to something and comparing the difference.
Once that anchor is in place, retailers can then use a teaser rate that is much lower in order to make us feel like we’re saving huge amounts. And everyone loves a good deal.
Spaving is not bargain hunting
“It’s not a bargain if you don’t need it,” a friend’s grandmother used to chide. Truer words were never spoken.
Remember, just because you’ve found a coupon or a deal on something, it doesn’t mean you really need or even want it. But if you end up buying it anyway, that’s just spaving.
If it’s buy two for the price of one, and you don’t really need the two, that’s just spaving. Take T-shirts, for example, at one for $20 or two for $30. If you buy the two, sure you will have saved $10, but you will have really spent $10 more than you really needed or wanted to.
In contrast, here’s what a real bargain looks like: not long ago a colleague saw a stunning red, reversible blazer in a shop window, went in and tried it on, but decided that the $380 price tag didn’t fit her plan. Months later she was thrilled to find the same blazer had been marked down at the shop to $58! (And since it’s reversible, that’s only $29 per jacket…)
A true find, and no spaving in sight.
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