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I'm a frugal guy, and I'm addicted to getting a good deal. I can't say I cut coupons, exactly, but I've always wondered how much money you can save doing so. I do spend a few minutes a day checking various deal sites to see if there's anything I want, and I rarely make a big purchase (let's say over $200) without making sure that I am not getting ripped off.

Just the other day I picked up a subscription to The Economist for $40 for an entire year, an absolutely stellar buy given that the student rate is a whopping $99. Love getting extra value for my $.

But more and more frequently, I am amazed at the fact that people often pay full-price for items without batting an eye. I know people who buy the $4.99 version of The Economist at Barnes & Noble every single week and for whatever crazy reason will not spring for a subscription even though it's $150 a year list-price.

When I was in college, I was living on a budget, just like everyone else. I had a few campus jobs and good financial aid, so I generally had a good bit of disposable cash, but my checking account didn't really contain anything noteworthy. Often times, I would go shopping with some friends -- maybe to pick up some clothes, for example -- and I was always that guy who would try a few things on, think about it for a few minutes, and remember that I could get the same pair of jeans or shoes from a discount retailer online for half the price. Why on earth would I pay double? Beats me, but so many people do!

One friend I have in particular, who mind you does not come from a wealthy family by any stretch of the imagination, goes to Saks to buy jeans and is perfectly comfortable paying $200 for an item that can be bought online for $70. Maybe there is some inherent prestige with shopping at a place like Saks, but I'll be damned if I ever pay a premium that large to walk through the check-out area and "feel" like I'm a boss because I'm at a store like Saks buying some exorbitantly overpriced items.

Even when I was making a lot of money in the software business, I still always hunted for the best possible deal. It didn't take much time or effort, and it did save me a lot of money on a lot of different items. No matter how I try to rationalize it, I simply cannot understand why people overpay for items, yet there are always a thousand people at the Apple store and the Ralph Lauren store is always completely packed -- do any of these people know that you can buy all their crap online for less? Do they just not care?

Some of you guys out there make a lot of money. Do you watch your spending? Do you look for better deals when you're in the market for a particular item? Or is it simply more convenient to pay whatever price you find first, and then go on about your business?

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Comments (42)

  • animalz's picture

    people are just plain stupid and are afraid to think with their brains - they love to be sheep

  • In reply to animalz
    DontMakeMeShortYou's picture

    animalz:
    people are just plain stupid and are afraid to think with their brains - they love to be sheep

    And this MUST be an entirely original thought from you. Kudos on your ground-breaking ruminations. You should write a book.

  • In reply to DontMakeMeShortYou
    animalz's picture

    DontMakeMeShortYou:
    animalz:
    people are just plain stupid and are afraid to think with their brains - they love to be sheep

    And this MUST be an entirely original thought from you. Kudos on your ground-breaking ruminations. You should write a book.

    thx mate you inspired me to actually write one!

    pm me your name and details so i can sign a special copy for you

  • yeahright's picture

    ppl b cray

    Frank Sinatra - "Alcohol may be man's worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy."

  • jmdude's picture

    What sites do you use for deals?

  • In reply to jmdude
    DonVon's picture

    jmdude:
    What sites do you use for deals?

    SlickDeals and FatWallet.

    "An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows."
    - Dwight D. Eisenhower

    Check out my blog!

  • SanityCheck's picture

    You're right, the majority of people don't need to be paying full price, but for a few it does make sense to go to an on-site store. You can try on clothes, get opinions from sales staff, be able to look at things live, etc.

    And to those who don't mind paying the premium, it's worth it for them to be able to buy the clothes when they want and wear it immediately rather than wait a few days or a week for shipping.

    If you're making mid six figures, it's not worth spending all your free time bargaining for discounts that probably save you 50 bucks total over a span of an hour when you can use your free time in much better ways. I'd rather go in, get pampered by staff and get opinions, try clothes on immediately and wear it that night. To me that's worth paying an extra 20 bucks.

  • In reply to jmdude
    DonVon's picture

    jmdude:
    DonVon:
    jmdude:
    What sites do you use for deals?

    SlickDeals and FatWallet.

    thanks! will have a looksie at these

    Enjoy. Be careful not to overspend because you start seeing so many awesome deals. Using these sites might require even more discipline than good ole' brick & mortar shopping.

    "An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows."
    - Dwight D. Eisenhower

    Check out my blog!

  • 808's picture

    I find myself knowingly being that kind of person you're talking about, and wondering how to justify my actions to myself. Here's my take: the decisions we make with these kinds of purchases pit the marginal value of spending the extra time up front (signing up for the subscription, perusing deal sites, etc.) against our perceived WACC for our time. Time, like money, has a time value itself. When you make a choice of what to do with your time, you are forgoing the benefits that using that time for something else would provide. So, even as a student I didn't clip coupons - I saw my education as being worth far more than the couple hundred I could have saved each month, since I was betting that giving 100% to my education would pay far bigger dividends (even adjusted for PV) in the future.

    Having said that, there is a human tendency to incorrectly overweigh the value of doing what we want to do now, now, rather than later, and I think this accounts for a large portion of the phenomena you are describing.

  • In The Flesh's picture

    IlliniProgrammer will make landing in 3......2.......1.....

    Metal. Music. Life. www.headofmetal.com

  • In reply to jmdude
    Otter.'s picture

    jmdude:
    DonVon:
    jmdude:
    What sites do you use for deals?

    SlickDeals and FatWallet.

    thanks! will have a looksie at these

    FatWallet is great. Everyone should create and account and check this page (http://www.fatwallet.com/cash-back-shopping/) before they shop online. If you access some online stores through this referral page then you can get some % as cash-back on your purchases. Seriously, it's pretty awesome and as far as I can tell there are no strings attached. Also that link is just to the main cash-back referral page - I don't get anything in return for you clicking it.

    Hi, Eric Stratton, rush chairman, damn glad to meet you.

  • BTbanker's picture

    Please don't share the secrets to saving money. If everyone was as frugal as IP, there would be no economy. Our target companies would have smaller revenues, thus making our deals smaller, thus making our fees smaller, thus making our bonuses smaller. Just. Say. No.

  • In reply to BTbanker
    In The Flesh's picture

    BTbanker:
    Please don't share the secrets to saving money. If everyone was as frugal as IP, there would be no economy. Our target companies would have smaller revenues, thus making our deals smaller, thus making our fees smaller, thus making our bonuses smaller. Just. Say. No.

    Not necessarily. Hang gliding and The Pony Bar would be booming!

    Metal. Music. Life. www.headofmetal.com

  • MindOverMonkey's picture

    I just wish that people would actually use your and you're correctly. Aren't you guys paid to catch simple mistakes like that?

  • In reply to 808
    DonVon's picture

    808:
    I find myself knowingly being that kind of person you're talking about, and wondering how to justify my actions to myself. Here's my take: the decisions we make with these kinds of purchases pit the marginal value of spending the extra time up front (signing up for the subscription, perusing deal sites, etc.) against our perceived WACC for our time. Time, like money, has a time value itself. When you make a choice of what to do with your time, you are forgoing the benefits that using that time for something else would provide. So, even as a student I didn't clip coupons - I saw my education as being worth far more than the couple hundred I could have saved each month, since I was betting that giving 100% to my education would pay far bigger dividends (even adjusted for PV) in the future.

    Having said that, there is a human tendency to incorrectly overweigh the value of doing what we want to do now, now, rather than later, and I think this accounts for a large portion of the phenomena you are describing.


    I mean sure, I suppose this is true, but what I should have included in my original post is the fact that perusing deal sites is something that is not time-consuming at all...

    For example, if I want a base 13'' MacBook Pro, I can go to the Apple store (or site) and see plain as day that it's $1199. Now I can go to FatWallet or SlickDeals, create an alert that send me an e-mail every time a deal for a 13'' MBP is shared, and unless I must absolutely have the item today, within the next 2-4 weeks, Amazon will have a sale on MacBook Pros and I'll get one for $1059. Not incredible savings (still $140 bucks...), but considering in this example I don't have an immediate need for the item and am willing to wait for a good price, the time/effort I spend in finding a desirable price is really quite small given the reward.

    Sure if you're looking at deal sites 3-4 hours a day just because you want to buy "something" but don't know what that something is and are ready to jump on anything that looks good, that's both a waste of time and money.

    "An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows."
    - Dwight D. Eisenhower

    Check out my blog!

  • AndyLouis's picture

    convenience and time are currency to me so i'm big on spending a little extra for these, but there are definitely some ways I could be smarter about cash flow. BIG one down here in Argentina is finding out about xoom.com - a service which allows me to transfer $ dollars from my US bank account and get 6.1:1 arg pesos to dollars vs the actual rate (4.78:1) out of the atm. Fees are similar to withdrawing from ATm so is about a ~21% instant increase in purchase power

  • In reply to DonVon
    Value_added's picture

    If you like slickdeals you check out Dealnews too. I used to use both but now end up on dealnews most of the time. Huge deal variety.

  • WhoSteen's picture

    The rich stay rich because they spend like they're poor and the poor stay poor because they spend like they're rich.

    "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit."

  • SenhorFinance's picture

    After a rough experience in one of my posts, I foresee shit coming my way once again but I don't care.

    I fully and wholeheartedly endorse the idea that achieving colossal wealth is ONLY a matter of making more, not of spending less. The "save every penny" mentality is useless, if not detrimental. If you succeed after a long career in finance, whatever you save in an Economist subscription or a MacBook is financially irrelevant to your final net worth, especially considering how back-loaded your cash flow profile looks like in this business.

    Living up to this pinchfist philosophy and taking it too seriously has the power to lower the probability of bumping across your MD while he's wearing your team's jersey in that upscale mall (and as a consequence, of starting a great promotion-accelerating chat) or having $20 craft limited-edition beers with that distant friend-of-friend that may put a word for you for some big name PE interview. If you want to be one of them, live and spend like one of them as far as possible, and don't charge it as COGS, book it as social capex. If you're out of luck, you may need to write that ingangible off one day, but fuck it, life's a bitch sometimes.

    Well, and the fun part is that if you save and fail, in 30 years those $40 will have accrued to $91 at the 30y T-Bond rate (more likely $50ish once you remove inflation - thank Uncle Bernanke). That will buy you maybe a week longer before you hit the shelter at 30th and 1st Ave. Don't get me wrong, as a rational utility maximizer, I will always evaluate owning $X+e as better than $X, no matter how small "e" is. It is just that, from experience, such savings are seldom worth the time you need to invest to get them, and even when they prove to be, it's always ex-post, you really never know beforehand.

  • West Coast rainmaker's picture

    I am all for saving, within reason. It is one thing to throw money away, but another if it improves your quality of life. Don't live 45 minutes from work because you save $300 per month on rent.

    I buy a chicken salad for lunch most days. It costs $6, including tax. I could make the same salad and bring it with me for $3.50. But having to think ahead, carry a container of food to work, worry about grocery shopping, etc. is worth more than $3.00 to me. I can afford $3.00 per day.

    I do hear Suze Orman's shrill voice inside my head saying, "If you saved $2.50 per day, you would save $1000 over a year and with compound interest..." but I figure that the ~$3000 I spend per year on "quality of life" purchases will not determine my eventual net worth. Especially in finance. Odds are good that anyone in the front office will be making over 250k within 5 years, if not sooner. As long as you don't go crazy once you hit that income level, you will be saving 50%+ of your compensation. Obsessing about small expenses might mean you can retire 6 months earlier. I would prefer not to micromanage my budget and just put in those extra few months.

  • In reply to SenhorFinance
    DonVon's picture

    SenhorFinance:
    After a rough experience in one of my posts, I foresee shit coming my way once again but I don't care.

    I respect that, but here's what I'd say:

    1. Owning $X+e versus $X doesn't imply "e" is put into a 30-year T-bill. Obviously you just used that as an example, and the "e" can be used for anything -- and therein lies the true power of "e". Maybe that cheaper Economist subscription makes absolutely no difference on a 30-year time frame with respect to my NW, but it does mean that today, assuming that I was in fact in the market for the subscription and would have bought it anyway at full price, I have $40 more to spend on other activities/goods/services/drinks/etc. than I would have had otherwise.

    Even realizing a savings through deals of something like $500 a year is non-trivial...that means I have $42 extra per month to use to my liking. That's the price of my cell phone plan (be jealous at my grandfathered iPhone status) -- would I like to drop my cell phone plan and NOT pay $42 a month for it? Absolutely, it'd be awesome to not pay it. So why wouldn't I want to have an additional $42 per month through finding good prices for things I'd be buying anyway?

    2. The "on a long enough time scale, X/Y/Z won't matter" is a trump card against essentially any argument. Why do people want to earn $120K at 22 as an Investment Banking Analyst? On a long enough time scale, the $120K doesn't matter at all, assuming one stays in finance...but in the short-term, you get to enjoy a pretty stress-free (with respect to your financial conditions) lifestyle and live reasonably lavishly. And on a long enough time scale, we're all six feet under, so why do anything ever, amirite?

    "An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows."
    - Dwight D. Eisenhower

    Check out my blog!

  • rnellis2002's picture

    I know exactly what you mean. I rarely buy clothes for myself (unless holes start to appear), but I rather focus on the best ROI for both my time and money. I just don't see a bunch of value in overspending for something that immediately goes down in value. That includes clothes, cars, etc.

  • In reply to AndyLouis
    neilol's picture

    AndyLouis:
    convenience and time are currency to me so i'm big on spending a little extra for these, but there are definitely some ways I could be smarter about cash flow. BIG one down here in Argentina is finding out about xoom.com - a service which allows me to transfer $ dollars from my US bank account and get 6.1:1 arg pesos to dollars vs the actual rate (4.78:1) out of the atm. Fees are similar to withdrawing from ATm so is about a ~21% instant increase in purchase power

    I haven't looked into this, but how is this possible? Where are they making up the difference?

  • In reply to DonVon
    prospie's picture

    DonVon:

    2. The "on a long enough time scale, X/Y/Z won't matter" is a trump card against essentially any argument. Why do people want to earn $120K at 22 as an Investment Banking Analyst? On a long enough time scale, the $120K doesn't matter at all, assuming one stays in finance...but in the short-term, you get to enjoy a pretty stress-free (with respect to your financial conditions) lifestyle and live reasonably lavishly.

    Exactly, the $120k doesn't matter on a longer time scale, so no, that's not why people do it. People want to do it because of the doors it opens and the wide range of stuff you can do after your IB stint. Analyst pay/lifestyle isn't that great, even if you compare to that of a 1st year associate.
  • In reply to prospie
    DonVon's picture

    prospie:
    DonVon:

    2. The "on a long enough time scale, X/Y/Z won't matter" is a trump card against essentially any argument. Why do people want to earn $120K at 22 as an Investment Banking Analyst? On a long enough time scale, the $120K doesn't matter at all, assuming one stays in finance...but in the short-term, you get to enjoy a pretty stress-free (with respect to your financial conditions) lifestyle and live reasonably lavishly.

    Exactly, the $120k doesn't matter on a longer time scale, so no, that's not why people do it. People want to do it because of the doors it opens and the wide range of stuff you can do after your IB stint. Analyst pay/lifestyle isn't that great, even if you compare to that of a 1st year associate.

    You're telling me that people who do investment banking exclusively do it for the exit opportunities? So it has nothing to do with the fact that you get to live in Manhattan, work at a prestigious financial institution, and have $600 Friday nights if you so choose? If you want, you can pay off all of your student & CC debt, and begin setting aside some money for travels, kick some to your parents, or even start saving for b-school. Yeah, the $120K isn't making or breaking your life, but you can't deny that it brings myriad short-term benefits during the 2 or 3 years you're earning it, irrespective of whether you're doubling your comp when you switch to PE or you choose to work at a non-profit and take a 50% cut.

    Same with saving $50 on something that you would have bought anyway. It means that I can use that $50 to do something else that I enjoy in the short-term knowing full well that it has no discernible impact on my NW. Analyst comp also doesn't have a huge impact on my NW 30 years down the road, but today it means that I can do a lot of things that I wouldn't be able to do if I were earning $35K.

    "An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows."
    - Dwight D. Eisenhower

    Check out my blog!

  • PetEng's picture

    I make money to spend money. I don't make money to save money.

    Yes, I will probably look back at those reasonings in 30 years and think I was an idiot.

  • SenhorFinance's picture

    PetEng:
    I make money to spend money. I don't make money to save money.

    Yes, I will probably look back at those reasonings in 30 years and think I was an idiot.

    No you won't. People who are 40-50 and realize they are now loaded yet pretty much out of the market for stories and experiences that they could have bought at a deep discount 20 years ago are likelier to face this hardship. Pecunia est papyrus, man, no drawers in the caskets I've seen.

  • Koho's picture

    I'm a sucker for a good deal.. all those two sites do is make me want to buy stuff that I don't need because "it's a good sale".. that being said, I definitely agree with the thesis of this post. Even going to an outlet mall is 100x better than getting it in a normal retail store.

  • In reply to DonVon
    Going Concern's picture

    DonVon:
    prospie:
    DonVon:

    2. The "on a long enough time scale, X/Y/Z won't matter" is a trump card against essentially any argument. Why do people want to earn $120K at 22 as an Investment Banking Analyst? On a long enough time scale, the $120K doesn't matter at all, assuming one stays in finance...but in the short-term, you get to enjoy a pretty stress-free (with respect to your financial conditions) lifestyle and live reasonably lavishly.

    Exactly, the $120k doesn't matter on a longer time scale, so no, that's not why people do it. People want to do it because of the doors it opens and the wide range of stuff you can do after your IB stint. Analyst pay/lifestyle isn't that great, even if you compare to that of a 1st year associate.

    You're telling me that people who do investment banking exclusively do it for the exit opportunities? So it has nothing to do with the fact that you get to live in Manhattan, work at a prestigious financial institution, and have $600 Friday nights if you so choose?

    I'm almost positive that people do it mostly for the free dinners from SeamlessWeb. I'm pretty sure about this.

    "He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee."

    "Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent."

  • In reply to SenhorFinance
    Going Concern's picture

    SenhorFinance:
    Pecunia est papyrus, man, no drawers in the caskets I've seen.

    The drawers cost extra.

    "He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee."

    "Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent."

  • In reply to SenhorFinance
    AndyLouis's picture

    SenhorFinance:
    PetEng:
    I make money to spend money. I don't make money to save money.

    Yes, I will probably look back at those reasonings in 30 years and think I was an idiot.

    No you won't. People who are 40-50 and realize they are now loaded yet pretty much out of the market for stories and experiences that they could have bought at a deep discount 20 years ago are likelier to face this hardship. Pecunia est papyrus, man, no drawers in the caskets I've seen.

    speaking of future blog topics, how about this?

  • In reply to neilol
    AndyLouis's picture

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  • peterg's picture
  • StrongMan's picture

    It is not about the title that you have, it is about how much money that you have.

  • SirTradesaLot's picture

    adapt or die:
    What would P.T. Barnum say about you?

    MY BLOG

  • In reply to peterg
    Otter.'s picture

    Hi, Eric Stratton, rush chairman, damn glad to meet you.

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