Money Saving Tips: When A Sale Item Still Isn’t Worth Buying

by Scott on February 24, 2009

Is there a sale on? @ Lowestoft, Suffolk
photo credit: timparkinson

I recently visited a Home Depot that is closing in our area and had to use extreme caution and utilize my own money saving tips. We have a local Home Depot that is closing and they are offering discounts starting at 15% and some deals can be found for 40%. Immediately I thought about the various projects I would like to complete around the house over the coming year. New sidewalk bricks, landscaping, paint, flooring, lighting, and more. I decided to start a list and figure out what was my short term necessities and what were my long term projects. Would buying items now on sale save me money on future projects? Here is an example of the Home Depot ad from this week. Cleaning supplies like Windex or Clorox bleach are 15% off. Fasteners like screws and nails are priced at 40% off. Power tools like Dewalt and Makita are priced at 20% off. I then put together a list of items I would normally buy at the store for common household maintenance. These are items I could use right now.

Here was my list:

light bulbs
gardening seeds
9 volt batteries
duct tape
sprinklers
2 stroke oil
water and gas shut-off tool

All of the items above I plan to use in the next 2 months and felt that they would be a good deal to buy now. I did see several items that would be “nice” to have, but aren’t needed for 6 months or more. Does it make sense to carry an inventory of items laying around collecting dust? Does it make sense to purchase a box full of deck screws if I don’t plan on attempting a project for 6 months or more? What happens if the deck screws aren’t even the right size? Setting boundaries when a sale item is found can be very important for your family budget and for your garage space. Buying a box of screws for $4.00 may seem like a bargain now, but not using those screws can end up costing you more. In this simple example, if I were to use a credit card and pay the minimum balance, the $4.00 screws might cost more like $20. By not using cash I would be paying for the $4 screws over the next several months or year.

Do you consider your garage or home space when stocking up on sale items? If you have a high turnover rate in your family for canned goods like tuna or chicken, then it would probably make sense to buy a large quantity of meat when it goes on sale. What about a gallon of pink paint for $5.00? I actually saw a gallon of pink Gliddon paint on sale at Home Depot for five bucks. Could I find a project that required pink paint? Maybe, but not in the next few months. It would just end up collecting dust and going bad on a shelf in my garage. Have you ever purchased items because the deal was to good to pass up? Are you able to show restraint, even if the deal is almost free?

What I did to help determine if I “needed” an item was to create a list based on projects and shelf life. If the item was going to be used relatively quickly within a few months and it was something I would normally purchase at Home Depot, then it went in my basket. Light bulbs, 9 volt batteries for smoke detectors, and 2 stroke oil are all examples of items I would normally purchase at Home Depot. Buying a flat of bricks at 25% off appears to be a wonderful “deal”, but I wouldn’t use them for months and I don’t have the project underway.

Do you stay focused while shopping? Do you have your family budget and household goals or projects understood before you shop? A sale on paint, wood, or even a flat of bricks can be tempting, but keeping your project time frame in mind can save you some serious money and cluttered space.

I spent a total of $35 for the above items and could have spent hundreds more if I didn’t prepare a list before visiting Home Depot. What do you consider before shopping for home improvement projects or home maintenance items?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Wojciech February 24, 2009 at 4:51 am

I wrote up something like this recently, except for Circuit City, and came to the same conclusion. It’s difficult to keep focus when everything around you seems to be a deal, but it isn’t always, and you definitely don’t always need it. I like the idea of walking in with a list – I hadn’t considered it before. I always leave my wallet in the car when walking into a going-out-of-business sale. If I really need something, I will walk out and get it. It gives me a few minutes to think it over.

2 Manshu February 24, 2009 at 5:52 am

That is one of the primary reasons I stopped visiting Costco. While it seemed that we were getting cheaper stuff, the lot size is so huge that most of the time we ended up wasting stuff. At other times eating stuff – just to finish it.

Its better to pay a little extra and buy stuff you need now rather than pay a little less for stuff you may need in six months.

3 Bella Casa February 25, 2009 at 8:02 am

Very good advice, Scott! I can’t tell you how much stuff I have bought “just in case” because it was on sale or clearance or at a garage sale. My basement and garage floweth over with purchases like these and in hindsight, I wish I would not have bought 80% of the stuff! The one good thing that this Recession is teaching me is restraint out of necessity…and it is a really good lesson that I needed to learn!

Great post!

4 Kristin Harad February 25, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Great article. I love your bit about really thinking/planning into the future. As financial planner, I’m always trying to get people to think ahead – what will you need vs. what do you want – wand it’s okay to go for what you want, but putting things into the reality of the future can help us decide exactly what to spend now and what to leave and wait for on the future rainy day. Like this article says, if you wait to buy that thing you’re not sure you’ll need, or don’t need for a long time, you’re actually saving money instead of losing money, so the cash will be there if you decide you want to do ‘that’ project down the road. I always like to show my clients how small savings can add up to big money over time:

Save $1 per day = $30 per month = $365 per year

Save $50 week = $200 per month = $2,400 per year

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