When a Bargain Is Not a Bargain

One of the reasons we got into and stayed in debt so long was because of “bargains.” Jim and I were almost always shopping, meaning that if we saw something that seemed like a good deal, we bought it. It didn’t matter if we needed it or if we had cash on hand to pay for it. That’s what credit cards were for. I bet 95% of the stuff we bought back in the day was on sale, sometimes at a great discount, but if you don’t need it and can’t afford it, a bargain is not a bargain.

I’ve had two experiences over the past few weeks that have really tested my money resolve. I think bargains can approach from many directions, often when you aren’t looking. Sometimes the presentation can seem like such a good thing that all your frugal and money smart tendencies just don’t have time to register.

But It’s My Family

When a so called bargain comes from your family or friends, it’s an even greater temptation. If someone you know and love has it and loves it, it can’t be all bad, right?

I love my sister. She would never try to steer me wrong.  I was really surprised when she asked us to join a buying group that sounded remarkably similar to a pyramid scheme. This is not something my sister would normally promote, but she was so astounded by the amazing discounts she has been getting. My sister and her husband are building a house and are buying all kinds of furniture and house decorations. Her quote to me was “We got a $2900 rug for $400!” Crap that’s a bargain!

Well, it might be, but my sister and I have very different goals and values in life. She has no interest in travel, investment property, owning a business, or retiring early. At the moment, she values making her house look a certain way, and designer furniture and decor is part of the package. More power to her. Girl knows what she wants and is smart enough not go to into debt to get it.

While getting a $2900 rug for $400 is certainly a savings, I had to remind myself that most of my rugs came from Target or TJ Maxx. My bath rugs are from a yard sale. My most expensive area rug cost $40. Getting a rug for $400 would not be a bargain to me, no matter what it’s retail price was. I had to say thanks but no thanks to joining the bargain club. Sorry sis.

We Almost Got a “New” Car

My parents have always worked hard. They have no debt, a good retirement savings, long term care insurance, and don’t want for a whole lot. They don’t like to travel. They don’t really have hobbies. What they do like to do is get a new car about every 4 years. They always trade in the old one and pay the balance in cash.

Their taste in cars has expanded over the years. Their last two have been Cadillacs, not your granny’s type of Caddy, but the really nice, sporty ones. Right now, they have the SRX Crossover. It is a sweet ride with climate controlled seats and a heated steering wheel, XM radio, automatic seat controls that remember how you like your seat adjusted, and one of those little screens that rises out of the dash to help you back up without hitting anything.

When they got their current car, I made sort of a half joke that I’d buy it for the trade in value when they were ready to get a new one. I kind of forgot about that remark until last week when I found out they were about to trade the Caddy because it had almost 60,000 miles on the odometer. Did I still want it?

That was a tough one. The trade in was about $15,000. These vehicles retail at around $40k. Knowing it has probably never been driven over the speed limit and has been immaculately cared for made the decision even harder. This would be a huge bargain for a luxury car!

In reality, our car is running just fine. At 122,000 miles, we had planned on keeping  it until at least 200K. While it would be nice to have a new to us Caddy, it just isn’t the right time. Plus, I have no idea how much maintenance would be for a fancy car with all those gadgets. It is cool to be able to back up without looking out the back window and my hands could get used to a heated steering wheel, but do I really need that?

What To Do When A Bargain Comes Along?

It’s hard to know when to jump on a bargain and when to let one pass. I think if you always ask these three questions, you can’t go wrong.

1) Is this something I need or will it add value to my life?

2)Do I need it right now or in the near future?

3)Is this the best possible price?

If you can’t answer yes to all three of those questions, it probably means the bargain is not really a bargain. The Eyes on the Dollar household will not be driving a Caddy anytime soon, but maybe we’ll jump when my parents want to trade on the next cycle!

What bargains have you passed on? Was that smart or did you regret it?


Snipon is owned and run by a small team who love to find deals on a dime along with the best sweepstakes and giveaways out there. We’re always scrolling the internet for the latest offers to share them with our community. Sign up for our weekly newsletter so you don’t miss another freebie!

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Snipon is owned and run by a small team who love to find deals on a dime along with the best sweepstakes and giveaways out there. We’re always scrolling the internet for the latest offers to share them with our community. Sign up for our weekly newsletter so you don’t miss another freebie!


  1. I bought my latest Jeep from my brother because I got it at a bargain. I didn’t need it, but I had wanted another one after I sold my last one. I know my brother took care of it as he is an awesome mechanic and did all of the extra work on it himself. I would trust him with every car. Plus, he only trailer-ed the Jeep around and rarely ever drove it on the road. He put 73 miles on it in one year. Was it a bargain, to me yes, but maybe not to others.

  2. I was like in that mindset before. I used to ask my mom buy everything I wanted. Then, one day she shared that she was in great debt because of impulsive buying. After that, now that I am grown up and have my own credit cards. I use it frugally and can think for my own good. That’s what I’ve learned from my mom.

  3. A few years ago a family friend went through some financial trouble and had to put her house on short-sale to avoid foreclosure. She told me she would sell it to me for a pretty good deal, which was a bargain for the house in question. Even though I could technically afford the house, I was still in debt and didn’t have that much savings.

    I’m now glad that I didn’t get the house because it was too much house for me and not the house that I wanted. It was a good deal, but I would have been struggling to pay it off.

    1. I can see how that would be tempting. Good for your for having the foresight to know it wasn’t the house for you, even if it was a good deal.

  4. Kim, it is SO easy to fall into debt by taking “advantage” of those bargains. We used to do it all the time, and I still find myself fighting temptation once in a while when a good Groupon comes along. I usually manage to say “no” now, though. 🙂

    1. Bargains can get you in debt just as much as anything else. I think you buy more sale items and don’t think about it as much. Paying full price makes you stop and think. Sales are certainly tricky.

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