A false economy is something that initially appears to be saving you money but in the long term, ends up costing you more. It’s a particularly dangerous trap for us thrifty types because we’re always on the lookout for new ways to save.
Sometimes it actually physically pains me to pay more for something I know I can buy cheaper down the road, but realistically if the petrol and parking are going to cost more than the “saving”, I’m actually spending less by spending more!
If you’ve done your research and found something that’s going to save you some money, good on you for doing your homework but also consider these factors:
It makes sense to drive 40 minutes across town to buy a dishwasher that’s reduced by $150 but going to a second supermarket, a couple of suburbs away just to get a few dollars off a box of soft drink cans (which, incidentally, they may be sold out of anyway, as is often the case with sale items) is probably a false economy. How much did the petrol cost you or the extra trip on your bus pass? There’s also the extra wear on your car to contemplate.
I am deeply obsessed with online shopping so I’m never going to tell you not to do it. There are some amazing bargains to be had but watch out for postage. If the jeans you want are $12 cheaper online but the postage is $10, it’s not that much of a steal. If you’re buying internationally, you might get stung by a currency conversion fee that’ll turn your saving sour.
Check the returns policies too; if you don’t like your new purchase, chances are you’re going to have to foot the bill for a return and that leaves you jean-less and out of pocket.
The cost of parking is often forgotten, but it can easily factor in to a false economy. While driving to the CBD and paying $10 for 1 hour of parking is worthwhile for a $60 saving, walking to the other end of the mall for a cheaper cup of coffee is hardly a bargain if it means I’m now paying for 2 hours.
Time is money, but it’s hard to remember that when you’re off the clock. If you, like me, genuinely love the thrill of the bargain hunt, then consider it a leisure activity. But if you’re only doing it to save the dollars, remember there is probably something better you could be doing with your time. Could you be selling your old things online? Planning a thrifty menu or cooking a casserole to fight takeaway urges? Maybe you could organise your wardrobe so you don’t feel the need to buy yet another pair of jeans. Whatever it is, a day spent shopping is a day not a day saving and if you’ve just taken that day off work, well I don’t need to tell you why that’s a false economy, do I?