It’s Not a Bargain if You Don’t Need It

Delighting in the Frugal Find is a wonderful thing.  Going over budget on a bunch of unneeded stuff, bargain or not, may very well net you a cluttered home, an empty bank account, and less time for the things that matter.

not a bargain

I love a good bargain. When I enter a store, any store, I delight in discovering All Things CLEARANCE.

When we lived in the city and I had access to All of The Stores, I was a bargain shopper extraordinaire, hitting all the sales. Frequently. I did lots of shopping, but spent very little money (on each individual item). That money spent, though? It added up, and I had not much more than lots of stuff to show for it. Some of it useful. Some of it even needed or highly desired. But a lot of it ended up being just clearanced stuff.

My fetish for the frugal find found me scoping garage sales every Saturday morning, and I’d also frequently browse through and order items from clearance catalogs. When the items arrived they might not be exactly what I’d hoped for, or wouldn’t fit just right, or *gasp* looked better on the catalog model than on me. But I wouldn’t send the order back, because paying for shipping would be more than my refund! My stuff collection grew.

Things are different now. We have more children and less time. A bigger house (Yes. 1,450 square feet is still bigger than 1,200 square feet.) and a Tiny Town. I have to travel to the stores and travel farther to the garage sales. There are fewer bargains at my fingertips. 

Less bargain shopping nets us a simpler life in many ways.  I’m working hard to rid our home of useless clutter, even if it was a bargain. (And even if it was given to us!) I don’t need 15 pairs of shoes, even if I purchased each of them for under $10. It adds up! I want the simple pleasure of knowing that the items we have were purchased for a good deal and for a good purpose, with money designated to that purpose. I desire a purpose for my purchase!

I still have my “gift stash” (of course!) in the basement that I absolutely couldn’t be without. I still pounce on any men’s size 14 shoes that I see for under $30, because size 14 shoe bargains don’t come along every day, and size 14 shoes are very much needed by an important man in my home. I’m still drawn to the clearance racks and shelves when I have time to browse, and I still purchase what we need or even really want from them, with money designated to that need.

Today, my bargain delights come mostly in the form of bright orange and yellow Manager’s Special stickers at the grocery store. Finding a low price on food we already eat? Now that’s a bargain!

While the bargain still beckons… it’s just not a bargain if you don’t need it.

What bargains have you passed up lately? Which ones have you grinning ear to ear at the find?


This post was originally published on August 28, 2008.

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  1. gerberdaisie says:

    good tip! I must admit that I used to be a shopper (though not always bargains), and it’s more satisfying to buy less and have less.

  2. I am working on this too. And I had to laugh at the size 14 shoe. It sounds like you have the same problem I do on that. My husband is a size 13 shoe. You are right, when those go on clearane I get them no matter if he needs them right now or not. I jump at large tall clothes too. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  3. This is so true and a lesson that took me a while to learn. I still love a great bargin, but I am more selective in what I buy!

  4. i’m CVSing less and less. mostly because I moved back in with my parents and don’t have a place for my stash. and like you said – getting an energy drink for free isn’t a deal if you don’t drink energy drinks!!

    i have no clue how many pairs of shoes i have. i think i would be scared of the number.

  5. One thing about needing something is asking yourself ‘when’ you’ll need it. Do you have enough on hand to get you through a month or two? There are great buys on toothpaste out there, for example. But if I have 8 tubes in my closet, do I really need another one, even if I can get it for 75% off? Free, yes–I’ll take free anytime! Well, at least for things I’d actually use. Brooke is right–a free energy drink isn’t much of a deal if no one will drink it. IMHO, mostly because it just takes up space.
    That reminds me…I really do need to take inventory soon. Or I’ll end up with 12 bottles of shampoo and no handsoap.

  6. I completely agree! The only “clutter” we have is food storage and items we will really use. If I find a great sale on something we use all the time, I will stock up, but ONLY on things we actually use on a regular basis. My heart and my head feel good about this choice.:)

    We believe the Lord is blessing our stewardship in this area.:)


  7. So true! Every once in awhile I succumb to the temptation to order a great deal from an online clearance (recently some long sleeve modest tops from V.S.) and even though they were almost free, only one actually fits right…so that wasn’t really a bargain at all! Good reminder:)

  8. Awesome Amy! This was so well said and so right. It took me a few years to fully embrace this, but I’ve never been more thankful for a lifestyle change. It is freeing to not walk into a store feeling like I have to look at all the clearance stuff “just in case!”

  9. Clutter stresses me. My problem is we have family who give quite a bit. It is overwhelming, and I have a hard time getting rid of some of that ‘stuff’ b/c I know how many hours they had to work to pay for it.

    • That is definitely a TOUGH situation. Been there. (Still there sometimes.) We try to encourage experience gifts or consumable gifts, but “you get what you get.” 😉

  10. I stopped my newspaper subscription that was only for coupons. I stopped shopping the drugstore deals, unless there’s something worth a special trip (like the $1 bottles of laundry detergent I recently bought). I go to ALDI for most grocery items, so I don’t need to coupon. I get lots of personal care items very cheaply at Target (Sale + manufacturer coupon + store coupon + Cartwheel app + mobile coupons), but I’m currently in a “use up the whole stockpile” phase before I buy any more shampoo or body wash. 🙂

  11. I agree with you on all points . . . except your shoes! Like the different styles of bras required for different styles of tops (this from someone who practically lives in a sports bra!), you need different styles of shoes depending upon your outfit, and I don’t think fifteen is out of hand at all. As they wear out you’ll get around to wearing them all.

    • Haha! I should revise that number. (I bet I have 15 that I “need”.) And… I should probably go count my shoes. I will say, though, that I tend to wear the same pair over and over and over.

  12. YES. My mom and my best friend are clearance shoppers and come away with crazy stuff that fits poorly or they just don’t need! It drives me nuts, so I try not to do it. And, if I’ve found that I’ve gathered junk (free, thrifted or clearance) – oops! – it goes into the giveaway pile. And I give it away QUICK!

  13. Great reminder!! As I have moved more into the real foods diet, I find I’m using coupons less and less…simply because I don’t need most of the things the coupons are for. I’m looking more consciously at my stockpile – do we really need any more? And right now, my schedule feels so hectic that adding a special trip to the store for a good deal just feels stressful. I’m passing a lot up right now – and our budget reflects that! The money I save from being at the store less easily pays the few extra dollars I spend on things that aren’t the best deal at the stores I’m already going to…and with less stress. Works for me!

    • I used to coupon a lot, but also found that there are not many available for the healthier items. I also found that I am a lot less stressed when I don’t use coupons. I do however, check for retail coupons before heading out for clothing purchases or large household purchases.

    • Living 17 miles from the grocery store has stopped a lot of my bargain shopping. For $7 in gas round trip, I’d have to make a haul for it to be worth it!

  14. Great post! I also use to buy a lot more “deals”, but have come to the realization that there is a “cost” involved for me in keeping up with too much stuff. It also helped that in college I took a class in which we had to inventory our wardrobe. We tracked the cost of the item along with how often we wore it. That was eye-opening in that I realized if something cost only $10, but I wore it once, it was an expensive item! I could buy a $50 purse and use it daily for two years and the cost per use was a bargain! Sometimes it’s better to pay a little more for something that you’ll use a lot more.

  15. I agree. I bought a ton of brownie mixes about 6 months ago that were a great deal. I don’t do a lot of baking over the summer and now I have several boxes of brownie mix that expire in January. Its not a deal if we never ate it I guess. I only buy deals now if I know they will definitely be consumed.

    • Christine says:

      Don’t let those “use by” dates on your food scare you. Often times these dates don’t mean much. Harvard recently conducted a study (see Politico for the article) on how those “use by” dates cause people to throw out up to 40% of their good, safe, edible food every year. Boxed Brownie mix has so many preservatives it lasts longer than anyone would really want to know.
      I’ve used 2 year old cake mix without a notice! If that scares you, donate it to your local food pantry. And don’t throw out that sour milk! Use it to make cheese!

  16. I hear your! LOL

    Now when I feel the urge to stock up on deals, I get WAAAY too many books out of the library. I get to cart stuff home, it’s free (as long as I return it on time), and soon all the book clutter will be back at the library.

  17. Thank you so much for reminding us that we can still waste money even if it is a bargain. I too am trying to declutter. I have the emotional attachment. Getting better at it though! Love your website. Read it every day. Thanks alot!

  18. great post! living simple without the clutter is much easier said than done, and I continually work on this…but I will say if it’s a sample, almost free or free – I always use the coupon/deal/sign up and get it for one reason – if I don’t use it – I donate it – our church partners with a local food bank and I have donated countless bottles of shampoo, toothpaste, food our family doesn’t eat/like and it may not seem like much to me but to the family struggling to put food on the table, let alone buy personal products – this is a blessing!

  19. Just a great reminder. I’m working through my house too, room by room I’m in a desperate pursuit to get rid of all the unnecessary stuff that has somehow accumulated in our home over the past few years. I too use to love those clearance end caps, and I agree that sometimes there is useful items to be found there. But I’m learning that everything that is brought into my house is something that I am accountable for, and I don’t want all that extra clutter lurking around.

  20. I NEEDED to read this today. Wow, did I need to read this. Something I didn’t really think about. But so so true. I spent way too much money on great deals.

  21. I couldn’t agree with you more! Well, with the exception of the sassafras candy in your post. That would be a need at any price. YUM!

    • Haha! Actually, I probably could have grabbed more of those. They were only 25 cents, and my husband uses them when he gets a dry/scratchy throat at school.

  22. I’m right in the middle of this! I want to stop bargain shopping, going to Target solely to shop the clearance, and hoarding food stuffs because they are a “good deal.” I want to spend my time doing more things like teaching my children, playing with them, and more time with my husband (who travels a lot as it is)!
    What I do love to do is give, and after reading this I’ve made up five, yes FIVE, bags of groceries to deliver to the food bank.
    I will still get things that are free and that they pay me to take out of the store, so that I can give heartily to others, but I don’t want to spend extra time searching for hours to save a few dollars.
    Thank you so much for saying what needs to be said and done! 🙂

    • Whoa! That’s a lot of food to give. Great job! I agree. I’ll still grab free things, but I’m not going to spend extra TIME and gas money running around to find them when I don’t need them. 😉

  23. We buy marked down apples pears that might have a slight bruise. We save a lot of money and eat things that we might not be able to afford at the actual higher price charged!!!!

  24. We buy reduced produce and meat we save a lot per year and are able to buy things we would not be able to afford!!

  25. Timely post! I greatly struggle with this! I greatly enjoy the experience of clearance and thrift shopping. At the age of 56, I have found so much great stuff over the years. I am very gifted at finding treasure. But I have bought junk that was never used, and mostly what I regret is just buying multiples of stuff (too many shoes, clothes, etc.) There is a lot of wisdom in the concept that having less makes life easier. I am still working on this!


  1. […] It’s Not a Bargain if You Don’t Need It @ The Finer Things in Life […]

  2. […] Now that you have started the frugal journey, you may have noticed your stash has a few items you may NEVER use. The Finer Things in Life reminds us It’s Not a Bargain if You Don’t Need It. […]

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