homepage logo

Tech Matters: How to avoid spaving and protect your dollars

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | May 22, 2024

Photo supplied

Leslie Meredith

Who doesn’t love a deal? In today’s inflationary economy, we’re constantly on the lookout for deals, discounts and bargains. However, this pursuit of savings can sometimes lead to a counterproductive behavior known as “spaving” — spending more to save more. While it might seem like a good idea to stock up on sale items or buy in bulk to save money in the long run, spaving can end up costing more than it saves.

Understanding and avoiding the spaving trap is critical to sticking to a budget and maintaining financial health. But before you can avoid the trap, you need to recognize it.

Black Friday and Amazon Prime Days are two examples of sales events that receive a lot of hype well before the sales begin. Retailers are betting on creating a sense of FOMO — fear of missing out — to increase your willingness to be a part of these annual events. Sure, there are good deals on items, but they’re only good for you if you planned to purchase them for a purpose other than getting a bargain.

You’ll find similar deals all year round across the retail market such as loyalty discounts at your local grocery store. Doorbusters, buy one get a second one free or at a discount, flash sales, clearance sales, member savings, subscribe and save, product bundles, coupons, and free gift with purchase are some of the strategies marketers use to get you to buy, and in some cases to keep you buying on a regular schedule.

The temptation is real but there are ways to prevent yourself from becoming a spaver. Remember, real saving means less spending.

To avoid falling into the spaving trap, it’s important to recognize the signs. Here are a few red flags to watch out for:

  • Impulse buying: If you find yourself making unplanned purchases just because they are on sale, you might be spaving. True savings come from planned, thoughtful spending, not from succumbing to marketing tactics.
  • Stockpiling unnecessary items: Buying in bulk can save money if you use the items regularly. However, if you’re stockpiling products you rarely use, the money spent on those items could have been saved or used more effectively on other essentials. Last year, I bought a bucket of generic dishwasher pods, and after a few months they deteriorated and would stick in the dispenser, so I threw out a half-full container — lesson learned.
  • Chasing discounts: If you’re frequently purchasing items just to take advantage of a discount, without considering whether you really need them, you are likely spaving.

What can you do to break the habit? Start by eliminating temptation: Unsubscribe from every deal alert, newsletter and retailer text you signed up for to get that 15% off your first purchase. While this is a time-consuming process, there is no shortcut. The apps that promise to unsubscribe for you can be expensive, sell your data to third parties and don’t do a thorough job.

It’s worth taking the time to unsubscribe from these mailings and texts yourself, and you can do it over a period of time. Companies have 10 days to remove you from their mailing list before it’s considered a violation of the CAN-SPAM Act. If you continue to receive emails, report the email through your email provider. You’ll find a button at the top of the message window.

Don’t shop late at night, especially on your phone. It’s too easy to tap “Buy” and you may regret it in the morning. It’s a good idea to wait at least 24 hours before you complete your purchase online. You’d be surprised how often you realize that you don’t need it after all.

When a site asks if you’d like to save your card for quicker checkout next time, decline. It’s a safer choice in terms of a possible data breach if the card information is not saved securely, and it makes it just a little less convenient to pay because you’ll have to get your card and type in the details. When you do use a card either online or in-person, consider using a card like many American Express cards where you have to pay the balance off at the end of each billing cycle. And for those of you who shop in stores and carry cash, you’ll likely think twice about handing over those bills for an unplanned purchase instead of swiping a card.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.


Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)