Why Discounts and Sales Are Not Always in Your Favor

Many people obsess over sales and promotions. Some go as far as to mark big sales days in their calendars and make special arrangements just so they can be available at these times. And while it’s smart to always be on the lookout for discounts and other attractive deals, there is a reasonable limit that you should be careful not to cross.

Because in the end, discounts and sales might look like they’re your friends, but they can easily work against you if you’re not careful. There are many finer points to watch out for, and developing healthy shopping habits is largely about being careful and understanding the implications of what you’re spending your money on.

The Purpose of Sales

A sale is for the benefit of the store running it, first and foremost. There are many ways this can happen, and they are not always immediately obvious. For example, a store might run a sale for a less frequently purchased product to drive more traffic to their location, and prompt people to purchase other products as well. Or, a store might be trying to get rid of extra stock that’s about to expire soon.

The point is, it’s never because they want you to feel good by gifting you free stuff. You should try to develop the ability to see through promotions and realize their true purpose. This is going to save you from making many bad decisions.

Double-Check Major Discounts

Sometimes a major discount may actually work against you. It sounds weird, but it’s true. A common trick is to bump up a product’s price shortly before putting it up on sale, with the final result being that the “sale” price is actually even more expensive than the original! You should make liberal use of the internet to research price trends and historic records to ensure that you’re not being taken for a ride.

There’s plenty of information available on that front these days, so you should do your best to do your research before deciding to purchase anything just because it’s on sale. And if you don’t need it, then you should probably not even be looking at that sale in the first place – but more on that below.

Major Promotion Days

Things like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other similar major “sales holidays” are prime examples of the above. They’re carefully designed to increase sales and provide other benefits for the businesses that run them, luring people into spending lots of money on things they weren’t even planning to buy in the first place. And then you see these huge crowds basically stampeding over each other just to get that -5% on a TV set.

Be very wary of these special days and don’t fall for all the hype – it’s usually fabricated anyway.

The Illusion of Discounted Purchases

Then there’s also the thing about buying things just because they’re discounted – if you didn’t actually need that product in the first place, you just lost money. You might think that you’re getting a good deal because you’re paying less than the base price. But think about it – without that sale, you had no inclination to even buy the product at all. So this means that thanks to the sale, you’ve now lost some money on something you didn’t even need.

Some people even go as far as to take out a loan for a major purchase when they see something discounted. This is obviously a bad idea for many reasons, and if you’re responsible about your finances, there should be no need to explain the implications here.


Of course, as with anything, there are exceptions to this. Not all sales are bad – far from it. It’s just that some are designed to get you to spend more money, rather than allow you to save anything, and they’re the problem that nobody is talking about. But in the end, things like paying attention to the prices at your local grocery store can definitely be useful if you want to ensure that you’re always getting the best deal on your regular purchases.

It should also go without saying that the above statements don’t apply to things that you actually did want to buy. For example, that game you’ve had your eyes on since it came out is currently 50% off? That’s definitely a valid saving opportunity, even if you don’t plan on playing the game immediately. The point is that it’s a purchase you were already considering, and did not randomly decide to buy it as a result of seeing it on sale.