Have you ever noticed how much the word saving is associated with spending? Take note as you watch TV, shop online, or walk into your favorite stores over the next several days how seamlessly the idea of saving has been marketed to us as a way to spend, but step out of that context for a minute and think of saving vs spending as the two different things that they are.
When I think of saving money I think of putting away for a rainy day or having a nest egg for unexpected emergencies. When I think of spending money I think or buying groceries or clothes for my kids or occasionally something I’d like for myself. Saving and spending are quite opposite in nature, but when we buy something on sale instead of understanding that we are spending money, our brains have actually been conditioned to believe that somehow we have saved money. The only way to truly save money is to not spend it.
When something is purchased, there are two things happening – one, you are spending money and two, you are receiving something in return for the money.
- You are spending money. “But I used a coupon, so I saved money.” Did you? Let me challenge that notion for a minute. Perhaps you got a better bargain or deal for the item that was purchase, but most likely saving didn’t happen. If I have $20 and I am able to buy 3 things at full price or 5 things by using coupons, did I save any money or did I just buy more things? Big box store marketing leads us to believe that we saved money because we were able to stretch our money further. The art of saving (putting away money to not spend) is a very, very beneficial discipline to have, but let’s not try to eat the cake without the calories. Any type of way that saving money leads us to buy more things is a completely skewed interpretation of saving. This type of spending values the bargain of an item over the actual item, which puts us at number 2.
- You are receiving something in return for the money. I once read this blog post where this girl spent like a minimum of 5 weeks researching anything she bought. I’m sure I have the specifics wrong and I wish I remembered the post because at the time I remember thinking it, “Woah, that sounds so extreme.” She was talking about a t-shirt she ended up buying for like $80. And I remember thinking, “Woah, that sounds crazy expensive”, but reading that opened up my mind to the concept of investment purchasing. I bet she was a good saver because she seemed to be a pretty good spender. Often we will sacrifice quality for bargain, but when you prioritize good quality over low price it’s much, much harder to fall for the saving-by-spending narrative. Intentional purchases help us save because when we value what we buy, we will value the money that we use to buy it. There’s less chasing of deals in this mindset.
So while you’re out shopping this holiday season and considering all the ways to save money (coupons, promos, membership perks), ask the simple question, “Am I actually putting money aside or being solicited to buy more?” It’s quick to see how often perks and promos layered on extra purchases to entice you to save (but really buy more) when you think about it this way.