The Truths Every Bargain Hunter Understands

I was raised to believe I should "never pay retail." Stores like Saks and Nordstrom were for other folks. My mother could get the same merchandise for half the price by shopping at discount stores or buying things that were on sale. Seems like a great way to save money, right? Well, not so much if you buy more than you need or things you don't even want because they are such a bargain.

It is easy for me to get trapped into an endless cycle of buying and returning at a store like (just one example and no offense intended) Marshall's. I go there looking for something reasonable like shoes or a purse or a picture frame. I don't find those things, but I am drawn to a display of shirts like a moth to the flame. Who couldn't use a new shirt, especially at these prices? I might as well buy three and try them on at home.

The next step will be all too familiar to folks like me. One shirt is great but the other two are awful. So I go back to return them. Now I have my refund in hand, so why not use it to buy something else? I already spent the money, and there is a huge rack of sale items. And so it goes, round after round, until I restrain myself and walk out with my refund and no new merchandise.

Women like me who shop for bargains have another common trait. When someone compliments us on what we are wearing, we feel compelled to say one of the following:

  • I only paid $20 for this.
  • It was such a bargain I bought it in five colors.
  • Tar-zhay (with a fake French accent).

What we can't bring ourselves to do is simply say thank you when someone admires one of our bargains. The women I worked with and I made a pact years ago to say "thanks" and no more. That lasted a few hours. Then, someone showed up with cute shoes from DSW that ten of us tried on because she confessed they were "super cheap."

Many of my friends refer to shopping as "retail therapy." We shop to make us happy. We shop to find a perfect dress, even though we have a serviceable one hanging in the closet. We shop because none of the tons of shoes we already have are comfortable. Some of us, me for example, shop for new clothes whenever we are going on a vacation. Except that folks like me won't feel good about this shopping unless what we buy is a bargain.

I know this bargain hunting habit could be a gateway for ending up on the show Hoarders. After all, how much stuff does anyone need? I guess you could argue that shopping for bargains occasionally is harmless if it makes us feel better about our lives and ourselves. But many of us in this country have way more than we need while others have to go without or make do. Perhaps next time my bargain hunting impulse kicks in, it would be better to donate the money I would have spent to a cause. Or if I buy new things, I should donate an equal amount of items. Isn't that what we tell children to do when they receive new toys for a birthday? If not, we should.

The poem The World is too Much with Us by William Wordsworth just popped into my head. Only an old former English teacher thinks this way. Frightening. At any rate, back in 1802, long before folks like me took to the mall seeking bargains, Wordsworth wrote,

"The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!"

I have to stop writing now because I'm going to Target to do some getting and spending. I friend once told me that, no matter how few items she has on her list, she never leaves that store without spending $100. So here's what I need: a picture frame to replace one that broke and bubble toys to take to my grandkids in Indiana next week. I don't really want or need anything else. Wish me luck.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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