Conventional wisdom, at least in frugal personal finance circles says you should wait several days (or even weeks) before making most purchases. Especially large purchases.
Personally, I’m usually a pretty patient purchaser. I hate paying retail for most things. When I decide I need something (or even want it), I usually start my search on eBay. Only when the price on eBay is pretty close to retail, or when I just can’t get something at a discount will I purchase it through a retail outlet. And even then, I generally wait for a sale.
Patience is a Virtue
The main reason that experts suggest that you wait on a purchase is that, after thinking about it for a few days, most people will decide that they don’t need the item, or that they don’t want to spend the money on it right then. It also prevents spontaneous purchases. I seldom find that to be true. Well, not entirely, anyways. There have been a few cases where I’ve decided that I really didn’t want the item. I’m also frugal to a fault, and rarely make a spur-of-the-moment purchase. If I see something that I want, I’m off to research it and find the best price for it.
Limited Time Offers
LTOs are my downfall. Because of their limited timeline, I don’t have the luxury of waiting until I can do the same amount of research that I normally do. I still have a hard time purchasing the item, but have been known to buckle under the pressure and pull out my card. (That’s a debit card, thank you.) And, that’s the reason that retailers will have LTOs. Put under the pressure of a deadline, people will often put off doing the research they should and purchase on the spot to take advantage of a great deal.
How I Practice Patient Purchasing
Patient purchasing has probably saved me thousands of dollars over the years. Here’s the method that I generally use.
- Decide on the brand and model that you want. This can be the super heavy duty research part of the purchase. I’ll spend time shopping for the item, and then looking online at retailers to find a brand and model that I like as well as get an idea of the average price of the item. e.g. when I last bought a pair of shoes, I first decided on the brand that I wanted to buy (New Balance) and then on the model. Deciding on the model took the most time as they have many models that are built for different strides, pronations, etc. I also found that the full retail for a pair was about $125, but that there were discount retail outlets that regularly sold them for about $100.
- Set up a search on eBay. I like eBay. It gives me the ability to fine tune a search and then save it. I also very rarely find that the price that I can get something for on eBay is more than what I can get it for at a retailer. Most of the time it’s quite a bit less. I usually start with a pretty generic search for the brand and model of the item I’m looking for and then fine tune it based on the other qualifications I’m looking for. e.g. in the case of the shoes, I started with a search for “New Balance 757” and then refined the search with the shoe size, width, and maximum price I was willing to pay.
- Exhibit Patience. This is the part that some people find to be really hard, but that I find comes pretty easily. I wait. I check the saved search every two or three days (auctions can be run in 1,3,7, or 10 day lengths, but I’m willing to miss a few of the 1 day auctions) and add items that look like good possibilities to my watch list. I then sort my watch list by the auctions that are ending soonest, and will place a bid on the first one for the maximum that I am willing to pay. That usually involves figuring out how much shipping will be, subtracting it from the max I’m willing to pay and then bidding the remainder.
Using that method, I can usually get an item that I want at a price that I want. Being patient is key though. Sometimes it can take me weeks to finally win an auction. In the example I used above (shoes), I think it took me about 3 weeks to get a pair of shoes that I wanted at the price I wanted. In the end, I paid just under $60 (including shipping) for a pair of shoes that I would have paid about $125 for at a retail shoe store.
Is the savings I got worth the time I put into it? If you break down the savings and figure out an hourly savings based on the amount of hours I put into getting the shoes, it would probably not be a very good rate. Below minimum wage for sure. But, for the most part, the time I spent on it is time that I likely would have wasted on watching TV or something anyways. In other words, it was non-productive time and therefore had little monetary value associated to it in the first place. I got a new pair of shoes, and saved money doing.
Are you a patient purchaser? What are your methods for buying bigger ticket items?
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Eric J. Nisall - DollarVersity says
I’m the ultimate patience purchaser. In fact, I’m so patient, I often miss sales simply because I wait so long that I don’t buy what I was thinking about. Truthfully, I really do take forever to make a decision on potential purchases. If I’m in a store, I can walk around for an hour holding something with every intention of buying it, then all of a sudden, put it down and walk out.
For big ticket items, it depends on how much I need or want it. Most of the time, if I know that I’m going to use the crap out of it like my iPad, I won’t bother wasting time price-shopping (not like much can be done on that particular item). Most of the time, I’ll just take a day or two to let it sit and if I come back to it, then I’ll buy it. More often than not, I forget about it pretty quickly, meaning that it really wasn’t important enough to buy.
Kurt @ Money Counselor says
Patient purchasing definitely saves lots of dough, compared to “impulse buying” in particular. My method is a bit like yours. When I decide I need something, I first get online and research models and features and decide exactly what make/model I want. Then starts Phase 2 of the research–where can I get the best price? Lots of websites help with finding the lowest price online. On the rare occasion when a local brick & mortar retailer might offer the product at a price competitive with the best online price, I’ll research those too. Usually I’ll monitor the flyers that come with the newspaper. Depending on how urgently I need he item, this process could take a few days or a few months. Like you, once I decide I need something, it’s rare that I change my mind and just abandon the purchase altogether.
Since I only buy when I can reach a sufficient discount, I am very patient. I either wait for sales or buy online. My usual buying oint is a 50% discount. I recently bought some $13 socks for $4. Unfortunately, I only bought 6 pairs and should have bought 2 dozen.
Wow, that ebay process is down to a science. So systematic. But it’s necessary in today’s climate where everywhere you turn, some company is trying to get their hands on your money. For me, I shop at discount stores such as Burlington. Burlington is my favorite store. I also do ebay once in a while myself. I was able to get 2 additional lcd monitors for my recording studio on ebay for $40-$55 a piece. I also use amazon used items.
Haha! You’re all making me sound normal! Wait, am I normal? That changes my whole perspective on things… 🙂
Haha – Na BB, you’re good. More people should go about life that way. Giving careful consideration to things rather than jumping into it. Especially with finances. Most people lack the discipline. I commend you for it.
Retirement Investing Today says
I think I’m the next level above being a Patient Purchaser. I avoid shops whether it be online or High Street based unless I really can’t do without something.
… and my definition of “really can’t do without something” is I’m sure very different from most. For me it means my shirt has a hole in it and it’s in too abvious a spot to mend. It’s not I must buy a new shirt because that one in the shop is nice looking or my old one is out of fashion.
This means I have no debt at all and am saving 60% of my gross salary. Financial Independence (some might call it Early Retirement) is just around the corner.
Since I’ve gone down this Frugal Road I just can’t explain how uplifting it’s been. No debt slavery and not far off the point where a work day can be filled with what I want to do and not what I have to do.
Jon @ MoneySmartGuides says
When I was younger I was much more impulsive when it came to purchases. Then I would often times experience buyers remorse. Once I realized what I was doing, I started to become much more patient. I think it was understanding myself as well as the internet that helped me. Now I research items constantly, trying to find the item I really want. The internet allows me to take my time to find the exact item I want and then I can begin to search for the best price.
Grayson @ Debt Roundup says
I would consider myself a patient purchaser. I usually get excited about purchasing something, but step back, research, and then move forward. I check online before I buy it retail. I wait a few days and still see if I want it. This works for me.
Julie @ Freedom 48 says
I’m in the same boat as Eric. I often miss out on sales because I’m so patient that I don’t get around to buying what it was I planned to buy – before the sale is over. I’m a bit “list maker”. I never go shopping without a list. I often wait several weeks before I finally go out and buy the things on my list.