Bargain shopping for beginners

It was summer once back in the year known as ‘09. The air was thick with the warmth of an almost forgotten winter. I was still in high school at the time.

Money was not a resource I had in abundance. My parents certainly had copious amounts of wealth, but I myself had a rather miniscule amount of money.

However, I was still a teenager with the insatiable need to watch TV, play video games and listen to awesome music.

Thus, I developed a habit of searching for the lowest possible prices of the things I wanted. Everyone loves a sale, but this went beyond simply searching for sales.

I went to pawn shops, second hand stores and any other store that specialized in selling things at lower prices.

Despite my passion for saving money, I was never a coupon clipper, mostly because coupons saved cents at a time, while I was interested in saving dollars — perhaps even tens of dollars.

It also helped that my sense of fashion was virtually nonexistent. Clothes were purchased based on comfort and not much else.

I must admit, dear reader, that I may have stretched the truth a little. When I said I didn’t have much money, that wasn’t entirely true. I had money, but I made the decision to save it, as instant gratification was not a pastime encouraged in my home growing up.

Perhaps a more accurate way of describing it is that I behaved as though I didn’t have much money.

Also, the money I did have was mine. I had worked for it; I had earned it. My father believed that you either had a job or you had nothing. I chose the former.

Because that money was mine and because I had a limited quantity of it, I was cautious with it.

Of course that’s not to say I’m immune to the impulse buy. We all know what that’s like. You’re standing in line at the checkout, and you never realized that you needed a flashlight keychain that was also a pen until you saw it there at the register.

Or perhaps you saw a fedora on sale and decided you always wanted one of those, ignorant of the mockery that would soon be made of you for it. I am no stranger to this type of purchase.

But for the bargain shopper, there is another type of impulse purchase. The On-Sale Reflex.

The On-Sale Reflex occurs when you see something that is such a good deal you decide to buy it immediately, forgetting that you have no actual use for the product. This is why I own approximately 16,000 USB flash drives (I haven’t done the math yet).

The artist Macklemore described this phenomenon best in his song “Thrift Shop” when he wrote, “But (expletive)! It was only 99 cents.”

There also is one other type of impulse buy that afflicts bargain shoppers and regular shoppers alike, commonly known as The Awkward Buy.

The Awkward Buy is when you enter a store, realize there is nothing you want there, yet still feel obliged to purchase something anyway, because you feel awkward just walking out without getting anything.

Then, of course, there is the I Always Wanted One of Those impulse buy. It is exactly what it sounds like, and it is the reason I now own a samurai sword.

One of the secrets to bargain shopping, or money saving in general, is limiting the amount of impulse buys you make. It’s important to learn better impulse control now, because it could be much more difficult later.

Another secret to bargain shopping is the realization of the fact that instant gratification isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, sometimes you can enjoy something more because you had to wait for it. Want that brand new video game? Wait till it goes on sale. Want that new iPad? Wait till the next version comes out and this one drops in price.

That time you spend waiting is time that will be spent building up anticipation. It is the anticipation that makes the day when you finally get what you want that much better.

To some, the bargain shopper seems to be a strange specimen, but so long as it keeps change in the my pockets, you’ll be seeing me on Black Friday.

Mike Rauser is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].