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Commandments of a Cheapskate 4

How to flee from financial FOMO.
To be a genuine cheapskate one needs to be more than just a bargain hunter. Picture: Shutterstock

It is a question frequently raised over a cup of instant coffee at our Cheapskates Anonymous meetings: What did you save money on this week?

The answers could easily make you think you have just walked onto the set of a game show, and that whoever comes up with the best response, can win a grand prize. Perhaps, a bulk supply of one-ply toilet paper?

But competing against a bunch of savvy bargain-hunters is no joke.

There is Todd*, who quietly sits in the corner with a copy of the community newspaper, immersed in what must surely be the first-ever 200-word article to win a Pulitzer.

Until you realise that he is in fact not reading a word, but comparing and memorising prices in the glossy advertisements tucked away inside the knock-and-drop to see which supermarkets offer the best deals this week. (This is of course, after accounting for the additional time and fuel expenses to drive to more than one chain store).

And Sarah*, the numbers wizard who can tell you exactly how much quicker you’d pay off your home loan if you moved the debit order six or seven days earlier (from the 1st to the 25th of each month) and what the best ways are to make your access bond and the 55 interest-free days on your credit card work to your advantage.

And then there is Jess*, who trademarked the “sort by most discount” button for online retailers, but who had to postpone her retirement plans after Amazon and Takealot failed to warm up to the idea.

But what separates many of the attendees from the average cheapskate like me is that after several years of “non-retail therapy” they truly understand that just because the oversized sign screams “sale”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are actually saving any money when buying discounted items. They believe that only when you buy something you really need (and would have bought in any case) at a reduced price, it is truly a bargain. In fact, they scoff at any inkling that someone unnecessarily spent money to “save” money.

This is the dogma according to Cheapskates Anonymous: Flee from financial FOMO.

Newcomers to the group quickly learn that bragging about a “hardly used” exercise bike bought on OLX for a third of its R4 500 retail price, will not only get you escorted from the premises, but you will also have to stomach a lecture about how you didn’t actually save any money, but spent R1 500 you shouldn’t have.

(If your CrossFit trainer badge is clearly visible and it is evident that you also attend seven boot camp sessions each week, you may be lucky and only see a few raised eyebrows. There may however be some tough questions as to why an extreme sportsman needs a stationary bike and whether you have sufficient life insurance.)

But recently the weekly conversations have not been about true savings opportunities, but about how retailers have stepped up their game big time.

Given that South Africa’s largest merchants earn roughly 3% of their annual profit from the cheapskate community, it is probably understandable, but the tactics used have caught even cynics in the group off-guard.

You see, since us cheapskates generally use the savings opportunities at our disposal, we tend to sign up for loyalty programmes that offer real value. But in a true NSA-style surveillance effort, retailers have started tracking the items we buy, and are clogging up our inboxes with discount vouchers based on our buying history.

I mean the Polyotter around my waist undeniably suggests that I did in fact recently buy a family bag of Doritos and ate it myself, but did I really plan on doing so again this week? Would I have bought it, in the absence of a personalised Doritos discount voucher just for me?

Are retailers not cleverly creating a need (or want rather) that might not otherwise have been there?

Separating a saving from a true bargain has become a lot more difficult than avoiding a stationary bike (buying one that is, not riding one).

And don’t think just because you are a cynic/cheapskate who avoided the loyalty programme system like the plague, this burden will escape you. These days I cannot even peak at share prices online, and my whole online window-shopping history starts popping up all over the show. The running shoes I looked at are suddenly 25% “cheaper”. And I did buy another bag of Doritos…

But perhaps the most difficult urge to overcome is the one where, just three days after I have paid my interest-free retail account in full, a R75 off voucher miraculously appears in my inbox. Yes, I first have to spend R350 to use it, but hey, the account balance is zero and I am still a long way off from chairing cheapskate meetings…

* Of course, not their real names.

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Great article. I’d like to see more stuff written by cynics. Thanks Inge. Allan Greenblo wrote that the word “save” has been completely contaminated when you are invited to “save” 75% by buying something you didnt need or want when you could have saved the 25% quite happily.

A friend of mine recently visited Spain and said the following: ‘The Spanish has largely perfected the art of living. It is a superior lifestyle in comparison to the typical Western driven lifestyle of hoarding more and more possessions behind walls and security fences by people who use a concoction of anti-depressants, high blood pressure pills and anti-cholesterol medication in order to cope with their “visible success”. One Spanish guy told him, he is 43, has never owned a car or a property in his life and lives 7 minutes away from work (he does own a Vespa) and he has no long term plans. In his view, a “rich person” is someone with a lot of money but a “wealthy” person is someone who is in control of his time.’ This was food for thought in a society obsessed with buying more and more stuff which they hardly ever use at the lowest possible price.

No new marriage proposals from RiS yet? Guess he is still reading up on Oz being a nanny state.

Anyway Ingé, Sounds like you use SmartShopper, I gave that up after they made the points expire (was well on my way to one months free groceries) and lowered the earn %, I had no use for their personalized discounts. I now find level 5 ebucks to be more rewarding and they send much less “spam”.

My most recent cheapskate moment, I went to the clothing retailers last weekend and bought a bunch of marked down winter clothes at 50% off the original price, all ready for use next winter.

I did the same, now I have last years 50% off jerseys rotting in the closet because winter forgot to arrive. Now I realise that this years winter sale will be the same.

Just saying, if they rotting, then you didn’t buy quality or its very humid where you live, I have a 10yo jersey that’s still fine (dry air Highveld). I wore the stuff I bought at end of last winter extensively this winter. This was just a few things on top of that.

But indeed, winter wasn’t that harsh this year.

@Supersunbird. *lol*….yes, do we remember RobInSyd’s marriage proposal to Inge *chuckle*

If accepted, Inge may find herself moving from one nanny state to another…and add some extra S’African flavour to our good friend’s life over there 😉

PnP Smartshopper…am a user of that, but still ponder if one really save at PnP (since the points are factored into grocery pricing), while at Shoprite/Checkers numerous items are slightly lower priced to start with(?)

The question all of us should ask, what level of profit was on the original item, if now suddenly a 75% discount is offered. Surely, if they weren’t so greedy in the first place and priced the product correctly then they could have move all their stock and stocked it with new stuff. The clever accountants could introduce a new measure rental space optimisation (RSROE). In other words get the cheap Chinese vomit/frump sold soonest or not stock it at all and market quality GOODS at reasonable profit margins!

Sometimes in business you have to take the hard decision that something is just not flying off the shelf and offer it at cost or below just to get some of your money back. Look at the low cost airlines selling seats (30 or so) at R399. Not covering all their costs, but at least getting some cash flow in instead of an empty seat.

Thanks Ingé. Great piece. Most important point in here – A bargain is something you REALLY need that you buy at a low price with money that you have. Also, there is a world of difference between the concepts price and value. My hobby, living in the Cape, is to find great wine from less known co-ops at a good price. After all it can hurt you if you live by the saying that wine at any price is a bargain 🙂

The most important principle stated in this piece – A bargain is something that you REALLY need that you can buy at a great price with money that you have. Anything else is marketing gumpf. Also, there is a world of difference between the concepts price and value. My passtime, living in the Cape, is finding really great wine from less well known co-ops. After all, although tempting, the slogan that wine at any price is a bargain is just not true. Well done, Ingé.

Well written Inge! You just have reminded me that “no bargain is a bargain, if it wasn’t one’s intention to buy in the 1st instance”.

Again the article highlights the notion of (even if something is bought for a discounted price), if a non-perishable consumer item (i.e. not foodstuffs) is not used frequently, it’s more of a waste. Example: your neighbor boasts about the great deal he bought a used Quad Bike…unless he of the family uses it frequently over weekends, and then only riding it a few weeks in summer…is it REALLY a saving then? E.g. spending say R100K to use say 5-6 times a year?(Cheaper to rent one for the few days you end up using it.)

Well done. We need more fun irreverent articles like this.Sadly all wit and joy have been sucked out of life by the PC brigade.

End of comments.

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