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When a bargain’s not a bargain and when it’s OK to give in

Submitted by on Monday, 24 November 2008 No Comment

Did you hear the one about the woman in New York who saved $3.34 per head of cauliflower but spent $28 on artichokes?

I’m not laughing at her. Really, I’m not. I’m laughing with her, because I’ve been there plenty of times.

Between slobbering over a bargain only to blow the savings on something frivolous or buying office supplies in large enough quantities to keep the Pentagon in paperclips for decades, I’ve fallen in just about every shopping trap ever laid.

Most of us have. Well, except for my mother, but she spends more time studying grocery ads than I used to spend on my college text books. I don’t know which of us that indicts.

And even as I’m determined to cut back — and I’ve largely succeeded — a recently as Saturday I caved on silly stuff during the department store trip that’s left me vowing to never shop again. Six-buck Batman slippers for Big Guy, $5 Thomas underwear for Boots. Hardly outrageous splurges, but they did cut by half the money I saved on Big Guy’s jeans.

I was worse at Target a few months back, when I paid $12 for a six pack of Scotch desk tape. Do you know how long it will take to use all of that? OK, so the guys probably will dispose of it before all the Christmas presents are wrapped, but ours is not a normal situation.

Jill Andresky Fraser at least got a free epiphany with the pricey artichokes and excessive cauliflower. She turned her personal teachable moment into a blog, TheEconomicWhiner, that’s part advice, part group therapy, part commentary.

The Whiner’s creed: We didn’t create this mess. But we’re finding our way through it. Along the way, we’ll whine if we want to.

Recent headlines range from “Another day, another bailout (is there no end in sight)” to “5 Fab Ways to Cut Thanksgiving Costs” to “Cancel Your Credit Cards (No – wait, they won’t let you go.)”

It’s hardly feel-good material in the traditional sense, but it certainly makes me feel better knowing I’m not the only one.

And do I feel bad about Saturday’s little splurges? Not really.

Big Guy’s house shoes are the most coveted slippers since Cinderella lost her shoe at the ball. He’s been fixated for months on owning a pair, probably because I’m a hopeless cute-slipper addict. “I’m stinkin’ rich in slippers!” he crowed as he put them on. If $6 is all it takes to make him feel stinkin’ rich, I’ll spend that once in a while.

Boots’ new Thomas undies have convinced him to keep them on. Never mind that he already had at least nine other pairs in the Thomas line alone — he was potty-training, so we overstocked. If $5 is all it takes to keep him from going commando, I’ll spend that.

It’s the same lesson I learned through years of yo-yo dieting: Deprivation will lead you to break bad one day and eat the whole cheesecake instead of one slice.

Likewise, giving in to the guys on the little things once in a while keeps them at bay when I refuse to buy toys, puppies or a pony. Even Big Guy can’t read price tags yet. He doesn’t know I’m still coming out ahead.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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