“They are better at this game than you are!”

“They are better at this game than you are!”

dollar_sign_eyes_sticker-ra34da77665d243eea60412a5dc1a3aed_v9waf_8byvr_512I read that line in a book about finance. It was referring to marketers. If you read my budgeting blog HERE, you know I’m a sucker for sales, but participating is said sales always blows my budget. What’s a girl to do?

When I read the above line, I think a light bulb turned on in my head. I saw the light. Halleluia!

Marketers are a smart bunch. They know me emotionally, psychologically, and financially. They’ve studied me and my spending habits. They actually have a degree in ME. And what do I have? A desire to get the best deal possible. If they can manipulate the numbers to make it look like I’m getting the best deal, and I fall prey to their shenanigans, they win every time.

I’m not only talking about shopping, stores, and budgets. I’m talking about big things too, like car leases and home equity loans. Coupons, convenient ATMs, cash back, loans, refinancing, etc. are all a shell game. The deck is stacked against you and the house always wins. The only way to win is to NOT play. I’m not saying don’t clip that coupon for Tide Laundry Detergent, but maybe I am. You have to investigate FIRST and not take a sale at face value, and who the hell has the time to do this?


Tide Laundry Detergent 50 oz size (32 loads)

Drug store $11.99. Target $10.99. Kroger $7.99. Walmart $7.49.  We don’t need a special deal, a minimum purchase, or a coupon for any of these prices.

I regularly shop at Kroger so it would probably cost me an extra $0.50 in gas to drive a couple miles down the road to Walmart just to pick up laundry soap, although I’ve been known to do things like that for a sale. But what is that extra twenty minutes of my time worth?

The local drug store’s price included a sale – buy one, get one 50% off. That means if you buy two, you’re not paying $11.99 each. You’re paying closer to the price at the other stores. The total price would be $17.89 for 100 oz. Of course you’re going to use it eventually and you’re already here, right? 100 oz at Target would be $21.89, so this must be a great deal.

Target has a sign on the shelf that says you can save $1.00 AND get free shipping if you buy it online. $9.99? Good deal! Who wouldn’t want laundry soap delivered directly to their house? Once you look at the website, however, you find the deal is “with a $50 purchase.” Ugh. I can spend $50 to save $1. Really?

I don’t want to drive down to Walmart, I don’t need two bottles from the drug store, and I’m not buying $50 worth of crap from Target, so I opted for the Kroger price. I googled “Tide coupons” and found a printable $0.75 coupon. My laundry soap costed me $7.24 with no hassles. If you would have chosen the drug store’s sale at $17.89 for two, you would have been screwed. You could have bought two bottles with two coupons at Kroger for $14.58 or at Walmart for $13.58.

Anyway, the bottom line (pun intended) is that it’s all a game to the marketers. You’re going to lose unless you invest hours and hours deciphering the real price of a sale compared with other real prices of other sales. I know some people are coupon crazy and can rock this, but I just don’t have that kind of time. Keep in mind, the people who can rock this are stockpiling, not budgeting. They are two different things.

I needed Tide and my budget was $10. I got it for $7.24. Good for me! Once I realized the marketers are so much better at this game than I am, I refuse to play anymore!

Budget vs. Extra Bucks

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2015 is the year of getting out of debt, hence it’s the year of creating a budget and sticking to it. At the end of the budget, at the end of the year, there will be great freedom and rejoicing. Hosanna and Mazel Tov!

Day One:

I had a $20 budget to go to CVS and pick up three things. Not five things. Three Things. CVS is going to be the death of me. They offer “Extra Bucks” if you spend a certain amount on certain products. If you aren’t familiar with “Extra Bucks,” they are coupons you can use as cash on anything in the store. I go to CVS at least once a month, so I can always use those “Extra Bucks.”

My shopping list consisted of three things:

Lipstick – $10 with a coupon for 10% off = $9

Excedrin – $10 with a coupon for $1.50 = $8.50

Conditioner – $2.99 but on sale for $1.99

So, my total would be $19.49.

This shopping trip would be a piece of cake. I would plop my $20 bill on the counter and get change back. Perfect! On budget! Pride exuding through my pores as if I’d just climbed to the peak of the financial summit!

article-2179504-143EA986000005DC-698_964x640Here’s what really happened…

The lipstick had a special. “Spend $15, get $5 in Extra Bucks”

The Excedrin had a special. “Spend $25, get $10 in Extra Bucks”

I could buy two tubes of lipstick which I will certainly use, and I could buy Excedrin in the $10 size and the $15 size to make $25. And who wouldn’t want “Extra Bucks?” I have no control. My budget wasn’t foremost in my mind. I was tempted by how much I would save, and I was led willingly and joyfully into the pit of the serpent.

IMG_20150114_091403752I bought:

Two lipsticks for $18 after my 10% coupon

A year’s worth of Excedrin for $23.50 after my $1.50 coupon

Conditioner for $1.99 on sale

Total cost $42.49

I got $15 Extra Bucks to spend at a later date, and the way I see it, I don’t have to spend $20 on lipstick and Excedrin anytime in the near future.

If you take the $42 I spent minus the $35 I won’t have to spend in the future, that means my $20-budgeted shopping trip only cost me $7. Right? Then how did I spend $22 more than I had planned to?

Trophy husband says you can’t look at sales when you’re on a budget. You have to stick to the budget. The sales will still be there when you’ve reached your financial goal, but for now, ignore them. I told him I can’t do that. I’m a woman and it’s in my DNA to take advantage of a good sale.

Ugh. This had been so traumatic, I actually wrote a blog about it. Somebody tell me how to do this. I have a sneaking suspicion that trophy husband is right. There can be no wheeling and dealing when the budget says what the budget says. Stick to the budget like it’s the law. Am I right? Has anyone out there done this before?