Making the Case for Paying Full Price

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Pay full price?

Avoid sales?

Wait, doesn’t this go against every key belief of personal finance experts?

Shouldn’t we be seeking deals and coupons? 

There’s a potential problem with sales and savings on products. In order to save on any of these products, we must still spend money. While sales and great deals can save money, and sometimes great offers come along offering huge discounts, the fact remains that money must be spent regardless. 

We spend a lot of money on things we don’t need. For example, the average American spends nearly $150 per month on clothing!

Think about that for a moment.

Maybe, by becoming more willing to pay full price and more intentional about our spending, we can save much more money than we would by chasing sales and cheaper products. 

Why Should We Pay Full Price?

1 – We Spend More When Following Sales

We are bombarded by advertisements on billboards, television, and social media. Everywhere we look we see advertisements: 

Buy one get one free!  

Clearance! 40% off! 

Hurry! Sale ends soon!!

In 2012, J.C. Penney attempted to do away with all gimmicky sales, instead opting for “fair and square” pricing. The results were disastrous. The company almost went bankrupt because they were trying to be honest with their shoppers. Companies create commercials and advertisements in a way that draws us to purchase items, many of which we don’t really need. 

Have you ever been wandering around the mall and found a sale?

You felt good about finding those jeans for 50% off. Or you couldn’t believe your luck at getting a pair of sneakers along with that pair of boots because there was a buy one get one free sale.

Sure, sometimes these are great deals and sometimes you will save money. But, at the same time, saving $40 on a $100 shirt still means you spent $60 on it. Instead, try to avoid impulse purchases altogether and move toward a more mindful approach to spending. Think about what you really need, not what the deal of the week is.

2 – We Get Tricked Into Buying Inferior Products

Additionally, how many times have we all bought something because it was a few bucks cheaper? We settle for product X, but product Y is a superior item and would have only cost us five extra dollars. 

There are, of course, times when buying a cheaper product makes the most sense. Feel free to buy the cheapest brand of cotton swabs, aluminum foil or aspirin.

But just as often, we end up purchasing a product simply because it saves us a couple of bucks instead of thinking about the long-term ramifications of this product. Sometimes that product can even be free, yet still rob us of our time and money. Or we jump for that pair of jeans that cost $30 instead of the pair that cost $50, knowing full well that the $30 pair may have holes in them within the first six months. Perhaps we buy the $8 towel instead of the $20 towel, but it feels scratchy and gross from the first time you take a shower. Before we know it, we end up going and buying a new cheap towel and the cycle repeats itself.

Consider Cost Per Use

Cost Per Use (CPU) is a popular idea in the personal finance community. Using this formula, items are valued based not on the overall cost, but on the cost divided by how many times you will use the item. Using the CPU method, those $75 jeans don’t look so expensive if they are worn all of the time. Compare that to a great deal on those $30 jeans that never really fit correctly or weren’t really the right style.

Wear those $75 jeans 75 times and the CPU is $1.

Wear those $30 jeans twice and then throw them in the back of the closet, and the CPU is $15.

What’s the better deal? The answer seems pretty simple.

Always Pay Full Price?

So, does this mean that every item bought should be a full-price purchase? Of course not. There are plenty of times when it makes all the sense in the world to pay less for an item. For example, if Black Friday is around the corner and you have a true need, it might be worth waiting for those few weeks for the deals.

When grocery shopping, stick to a list instead of aimlessly wandering up and down the aisles.

Instead of going to the mall to see what you might find, go with a specific plan in mind and only when you need or really want an item. The key is to be intentional and mindful of what is necessary and avoid impulse purchases.

Mindful Purchases

There are two messages here:

  1. Don’t be afraid to pay full price if it’s something that you really need.
  2. Don’t be afraid to spend more money on high-quality items.

Pay Full Price – If You Need It

When I go shopping, it’s because it’s something I know I need. Last year, I started off the school year and realized that I had literally one pair of dress pants. Obviously, I needed a few more, so that weekend I went shopping. I needed a specific item and I purchased only that item.

If the pants were on sale, then that’s great!


But, if not, that was okay, too, because I was buying something that I needed, not simply for the fact that it was on sale. Buying it was a conscious decision.

This is an important distinction.

Try shopping with a plan to avoid impulse purchases. 

In the end, most people will save more money by avoiding the lure of sales and cheaper items. Be mindful that 25% off is still 75% on. BOGO still requires that you buy one.

Pay a Premium – If it Means Lasting Quality

I remember going to the outlet mall a few years ago to search for winter boots. I definitely needed them; my other boots had a massive hole. I stumbled across this great deal for a pair of heavy, waterproof boots. I tried them on and they felt pretty heavy and clunky, but the price was so much more affordable than some of the other boots I had been looking at.

I’m sure you can see where this story is going…

I bought the mammoth-sized boots and felt pretty proud of myself for getting what I needed at a very good price. The happiness wore off pretty quickly, though, during that next snowstorm. The boots were a pain to put on, weren’t all that comfortable, and felt like they weighed even more now that I was traipsing through the snow with them.

Moral of the story: I would have been much happier in the long run if I had just spent an extra $30 or so on boots that fit me well. 

An Intentional Plan

An intentional mindset to all purchases is the best way to avoid impulse purchases and save money. Shop because that item is necessary, and buy quality items. If it happens to be on sale or you decide that the cheaper alternative provides good value, that’s just a nice bonus — but often our minds are tricked into thinking that sales and bargain items are saving us money in the long run.


How about you? Do you have any instances where paying full price was worth it? Or the opposite — a time when you spent more money because items were on sale or cheaper quality? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “Making the Case for Paying Full Price”

  1. I never realized just how prevalent gimmicky sales tactics were until I saw a graham stephan youtube video saying “why would anyone sell something worth $6,997 for 97% off for $97 to you?” Then I realized just how much prevalent it was.

    Agreed on the paying more for quality. Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy a more expensive product once than inexpensive products 5-10 times. It’s just not worth it.

    1. minimalismandmoney

      To your second point, I think the hardest part is figuring out if something costs more because it’s better quality, or is it just paying for a brand name. For example, I wouldn’t necessarily spend more money on a shirt, because I think the quality would be comparable. But if I’m buying winter boots, it’s probably worth paying some extra money to find something that will keep me warm and last. Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between quality and just brand name recognition though.

  2. Something I’ve also discovered in recent years that chances are, if something is in the clearance section, there’s a good reason for it! I’ve been far more disappointed in items purchased from those sales overall, so I’m just avoiding period. I’m also just not bothering going to several places along the lines of TJMaxx for the same reason, a lot of what I’ve bought at those places just hasn’t held up or lived up to expectations. Sometimes you really do get what you pay for.

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