This weekend we had Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and today Cyber Monday. They really drive home the ‘sales’and the feeling that I am going through right now – overload. Yesterday I pulled the trigger on the appliances purchase for my new home, as an example of the savings I bought a Refrigerator that was originally listed at $1699 with the following savings:
- Lowes Black Friday savings $700
- Lowes movers coupon 10%
- Lowes.com Upromise Portal 5% ($44.91)
- Paid for with Lowes Giftcards bought with 5% Cash Back Card ($44.91) that earned 4x Gas Rewards(3592)
The gas rewards were part of a bigger order, so I would value them at $125.72. All together, the net price of the fridge was $682.66. As you can imagine, the difference between buying it like this, vs walking into a store and paying cash it pretty significant, but so is the brain drain to cross check this deal with all the other options out there.
We all know that optimizing spend is important, just like having a healthy diet – but in the latter they encourage ‘cheat days’ where you can break down and eat what you like. It is a reset switch that is considered healthy psychologically, even if from a perfection perspective it adds a few ‘bad’ calories into the system. Even Hugh Jackman had a cheat day on the Wolverine Diet.
I think we need to consider the same approach for the financial lifestyle – the ultimate reset switch would be to just pay cash for a day – a good second for those unable to make that leap would be to just use one card, such as the SPG Amex, regardless of category bonuses, or shopping portals. Leave the coupons behind, and just be a weird, normal person for a day.
If you don’t reset periodically there is a risk that you can become overly obsessed in finding the best deal on each occasion, this can lead to really strange reactions when you inevitably mess up – for example, you might opt to pay with a Chase Sapphire Preferred at a grocery instead of a 2% cash back card – or worse, if you have a 5x card! That could be the difference between 20 points and $1 in cash back on a smallish transaction.
Death by a thousand cuts
I truly believe that ‘couponing’ and stacking discounts is the best way to approach spend, overall doing it correctly can reduce your cost of ownership by an easy 50%, allowing you to have better products, and more savings. The little things DO matter – but if they matter too much, and you start becoming sad or angry for ‘messing up’ a transaction and only getting 1.5x when it could be 3x then you might be in too deep -perhaps having a cheat day, and forgetting about all that crap is what your mind needs in order to keep going long term. For example, it might well be that Lowes.com has a better portal bonus today due to Cyber Monday, but I find myself saying ‘screw it’ that is good enough, else I can’t get anything done.
A similar experience occurred on Small Business Saturday – none of the stores knew they were participating, and I had to work on the house – waiting for a delivery. I left at 7pm and we drove to a wine shop, at about 740pm (closing at 8pm) and I explained the situation to the manager – they were willing to try to swipe one bottle at a time. With 6 Amex cards for me, and 4 or 5 for Allison that was a lot of wine – but after 14 bottles the system started rejecting my cards. We went next door at 755 and we pushed through another 10 or so transactions. On the way home we stopped off at the final place (where I had asked earlier if they participated and they said no) and got 2 more swipes in. In the end, we left something on the table, but I couldn’t be bothered to check every receipt to find out, and sometimes I think good enough works better than perfect in things like this.
I don’t know whether even I would dare suggest Cyber Monday be your cheat day, but I think we all should have one very soon.