When you’re out shopping or even shopping online, it’s hard to ignore those big, glaring words “SALE!” or “X% off!” There’s something so irresistible about a deal, whether or not that item being discounted is something we actually want or need. Think about it: How many times have you picked something up solely because it was selling for less than its original price? While it’s great to snag a bargain, the problem is these unnecessary purchases can add up, offsetting all the money you supposedly just saved.
Next time, follow these steps so you can honestly answer, “Is the discount worth it?” An online discount calculator can help you figure this out.
1) What is the Product?
The first thing you should do when you’re tempted by a discount is to take a step back and really look at the product. Ask yourself if it’s something you’ve been looking for, something useful, or something that will bring you lasting joy. You’ll need to determine whether you actually want the object for what it is, or if you’re just blinded by the sales tag.
For those big into shopping, it might be hard to distance yourself enough from something to see if something will really add value to your life. One trick is to walk away from it. Maybe go home or visit a few other stores. If you’re still thinking about the item, then maybe it’ll be a good buy after all. If it doesn’t bother you at all that you didn’t make the purchase, then there’s no reason to go back.
2) How Much is the Original Cost?
After you’ve really assessed an item, take a look at the original cost. You want to make sure you’re not falling into a trap where an item is being priced higher just so that when it’s on “sale” it’s actually the normal price. It’s not a nice thing for the seller to do, but unfortunately, it does work on consumers.
Consider doing a quick online search to see whether the product is available elsewhere and, if so, how much it’s going for. It’s great if you see that the original cost roughly matches how other retailers have priced it. But, this means that the sale price you’re seeing isn’t really a sale at all. If the price you see in the store is lower than what you see online, then you have yourself a deal.
3) How Much is the Discount?
Just because you see a discount doesn’t mean it’s a good one. You might see a sale only to realize that the discount is minimal. For example, a 15% discount sounds nice enough, but, on a $500 luxury item, you’ll still need to pay $425.
The lesson is, dig a little deeper after seeing the word “sale” or “discount.” Make sure to ask yourself, “How much is the discount?” and then think critically about whether or not that would be worth it.
4) What is Your Budget?
Sometimes, it’s necessary to go into a little bit of debt to afford something you need, for instance, a car or a college education. For the most part, though, it’s always a good idea to avoid spending money you don’t have. Even if it’s an item you love that’s normally much more expensive, you still need to consider whether your budget is big enough to handle the purchase.
When weighing the price of a discounted item against your budget, think about where else that money could be going. If there’s a bill you’ve been meaning to pay, a birthday present you need to buy, or some other pressing financial matter, you might be better off using your cash elsewhere. But, if with the discount the item or service will soon pay for itself, then it might be worth it.
5) Are You Actually Saving?
Seeing a discount as a percentage (like 50% off) is one thing, but seeing it in dollars is something else entirely. Having that exact dollar amount in mind can help you make a smarter decision about if it’s worth your money, rather than just assuming that a high discount percentage means something will be “cheap”.
Once you have the original price of an item and the percentage discount, calculate the sales price and how much savings that ends up being. The easiest way to find out both of these quickly is to plug the numbers into an online discount calculator. By doing this check, you can determine if what you’re saving is actually worth what you have to spend.
It’s only human to want to take advantage of a special offer and get more while paying less. The next time you see a discount, however, make sure that it’s actually worth it by using a discount calculator, so you don’t get tricked into thinking you’re saving money when, really, you’re spending more.
Cindy is a freelance writer and editor with previous experience in marketing as well as book publishing. Along with her content writing for a diverse portfolio of clients, Cindy’s work has been featured in Thrillist, The Points Guy, Forbes, and more.