Frugal Move: Procrastinate on Purchases and Pay Peanuts

I won an auction on eBay this week.  It’s something I’ve thought about buying for more than six years. I’m very glad to have at last pulled the trigger. What was this long-delayed purchase?

Wait for it . . .

wait some more . . .

just a bit more . . .

It’s the official 2007 World Series DVD! And it’s brand new in its original wrapper. The price? I blush to disclose that I paid only $3.75, shipping included. It had listed originally for $19.99, so I saved 81 percent.

I suspect what you might be thinking right now. You probably think that I’m an idiot to brag about this new, massive, life-changing stockpile of $16.24.

But hear me out. My point isn’t that I saved this amount on one purchase. My point is that I save routinely by procrastinating on all kinds of purchases. It’s an ingrained habit that I’ve acquired because so many good things seem to happen whenever I wait. Prices drop. Sales occur. Products improve. Coupons and rebates magically appear. I find out I can buy used. Sometimes, I even decide to go completely without. It seems the longer I delay, the happier I am with my ultimate decision.

Procrastination is a powerful tactic in any frugal buyer’s arsenal. But it’s a difficult habit to acquire. Why? It’s a combination of factors. Most of us, it seems, are wired to seek instant gratification. Kneejerk reactions supply most of our purchase decisions. Layered on top of this is the power of advertising. By the time we reach adulthood, we’ve been exposed to a zillion or more commercials. None of these warn us to hold our horses, look before we leap, or think things over because haste makes waste. All these ads instead insist that we buy now, buy now, buy now. It’s tough to overcome such a repetitive message when it’s been hammered into us since birth. It’s even tougher if we’re genetically predisposed to follow it.

Given humanity’s encoded tendencies, you should start reprogramming yourself into an accomplished procrastinator today—no more dilly-dallying. You’ve already been zapped with a zillion or so ads, so let’s counter with ten quick war stories, all of which happened to me within the past year. Each example provides a short case study on the merits of delay.

1.  Love Actually DVD
Purchase Date: 02/28/14
Seller: library used media sale
Purchase Price: $2.50
Retail Price: $9.96 on Amazon
Savings: $7.46 (75% off)
How Long I Waited to Buy: about two months
While I Waited: I watched a DVR recording that suffered from many commercials.

Love Actually reminds me of two other favorites: It’s a Wonderful Life and Groundhog Day. These films all have a structural complexity that makes them fun to watch over and over. It takes several viewings to figure out how the various parts interlace. Love Actually achieves its complexity with ten separate storylines (the TV series Love Boat interlaced only three storylines; so you might say that Love Actually is actually Love Boat on steroids). I stumbled upon a wide-screen DVD copy at a recent book sale. Bonus: the DVD includes special features that my DVR recording doesn’t.

2.  Rand McNally USA-Canada Road Atlas, 2012 Edition
Purchase Date: 02/28/14
Seller: library used media sale
Purchase Price: $2.00
Retail Price: $10.44 on Amazon
Savings: $8.44 (81% off)
How Long I Waited to Buy: about 1½ years
While I Waited: I made do with the 2010 edition.

I have GPS, but I always carry a road map as a backup. I’m willing to buy older atlases because so few roads have changed. In exchange for waiting to buy, I enjoy lower prices.

3.  2001: A Space Odyssey Blu-Ray DVD
Purchase Date: 02/17/14
Seller: Amazon
Purchase Price: FREE using Christmas gift certificate
Retail Price: $6.96 on Amazon
Savings: $6.96 (100% off)
How Long I Waited to Buy: about 6 years (Blu-Ray was released 10/07)
While I waited: I survived without.

I’ve thought about buying the Blu-Ray since it was first issued; however, once again I was dissuaded by the price. And then this past Christmas my sister gave me an Amazon gift card. FREE has always been my favorite price point. The Blu-Ray delivers huge sound and a crystal-clear presentation of early hominids and spaceships alike. One question lingers: if the HAL 9000 had never made a mistake, why did the ship’s designers deem it necessary to install a warning light which read “Computer Malfunction”?

4.  The Big Book of Peanuts—All the Daily Strips from the 1970′s
Purchase Date: 11/19/13
Seller: Costco
Purchase Price: $19.99
Retail Price: $132.24 on Amazon (see discussion below)
Savings: $112.25 (85% off)
How Long I Waited to Buy: about 5 years
While I waited: I read the funny pages.

I love Peanuts. Shortly after Charles Schulz died, his publisher began issuing books that contained the complete run of the strip—and the strip ran for 50 years. I thought about buying these books. I checked some out from the library and enjoyed them. But they cost $22.04 each on Amazon and collecting just one decade (say the 1970s) would cost more than $100. Then I made a discovery. While browsing at Costco last fall, I saw a complete collection of all the daily strips from the 1970s (excluding Sundays) in a single volume. I bought the  book for peanuts and I’m now waiting to see whether future collections will be released for other decades. If that happens, I’ll be an enthusiastic buyer.

5.  Two Perfect Coffee Mugs
Purchase Date: 10/09/13
Seller: Hardware store
Purchase Price: $7.00
Retail Price: $32.00
Savings: $25.00 (78% off)
How Long I Waited to Buy: about 8 years
While I waited: I used the one perfect mug I already owned or inferior mugs.

Sometime around 2003, the local cross-country ski center gave season pass holders like me a free coffee mug. I realized eventually that this mug was the ideal size for my morning Joe. The amount it held was “just right” and the handle accommodated all four fingers. But I didn’t grasp the mug’s perfection immediately. A few years went by before I realized that I wanted backups as a hedge against possible breakage and so I didn’t have to wash the cup so often. The ski center no longer offered the mug, so several times a year I would shop for similar designs at Goodwill and retail stores. Years elapsed without success. And then one day I stopped in at Cracker Barrel. Lo and behold, it was selling an identically shaped mug. Perfection? Nope. More like purr-fection, because the cup featured the picture of a white kitten overlaid by a too-cute quote that made my stomach turn. I couldn’t possibly drink from this cup. Anyway, it cost $16, so I kept searching. Several months later I found my magical mugs at a local hardware store. They were covered with dust on the lowest shelf of a housewares display. These mugs featured no kitty, no nauseous sayings, and nothing to detract from their pure perfection. I bought two.

6.  Single-Seated Sea Kayak
Purchase Date: 08/24/13
Seller: Sports Outfitter
Purchase Price: $1,415.74
Retail Price: about $2,100
Savings: $684.26 (33% off)
How Long I Waited to Buy: about 13 years
While I waited: I used my tandem kayak.

I’ve owned a tandem sea kayak since 2000. But the problem with a tandem is that you always need a partner. In 2013, I decided the time had come to add a single-seater to the Moose flotilla. I delayed buying until a local outfitter’s end-of-season sale.

7.  Four Plastic Adirondack Chairs
Purchase Date: 08/15/13
Seller: Hardware Store
Purchase Price: $75.56
Retail Price: about $100
Savings: $25 (25% off)
How Long I Waited to Buy: about 2 years
While I waited: I used existing patio chairs, also made of plastic.

I first saw these chairs in 2011. They’re made of plastic resin, but are surprisingly durable. In 2013, the design changed to include an ergonomic bend for lower back support. I sat in the updated chair and loved it. The time to buy was near. I waited for the season ending sales and bought from a local store that provided free delivery.

8.  Rudy Project Ekynox SX Frames
Purchase Date: 06/02/13
Seller: eBay
Purchase Price: $66
Retail Price: about $185
Savings: $119 (64% off)
How Long I Waited to Buy: about 2 years
While I waited: I got by with my deteriorating frames.

I purchased these sunglasses back in 2004 and wore them daily. By 2011, they were falling apart. The nose bridge had corroded and the rubberized temples were detaching. After several unsuccessful bids on eBay, I finally scored brand new frames and popped in my existing lenses.

9.  Toyota Genuine Parts Prius Wheel Cover (Hubcap)
Purchase Date: 05/14/13
Seller: eBay
Purchase Price: $35.99
Retail Price: about $90
Savings: $54 (60% off)
How Long I Waited to Buy: about 1½ years
While I waited: went without one hubcap and boy did it look ugly.

I must have bid on a half-dozen hubcaps before I finally got the price I wanted. But get the price I did.

10.  Westminster Abbey Tour Book and
St. Paul’s Cathedral Official Guidebook

Purchase Date: 04/29/13 & 05/03/13
Seller: PaperBackSwap.com
Purchase Price: about $5
Retail Price: about $40 US
Savings: $35 (88% off)
How Long I Waited to Buy: about two weeks
While I waited: I went without.

Last spring, as trees budded and tourist prices slumped, Mrs. Moose and I made our first ever visit to London. Among many other places, we toured St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. We didn’t immediately buy the guidebooks. Instead, when we returned stateside, I logged onto PaperBackSwap.com and traded in some existing credits. We saved big on two lushly photographed souvenirs.

*   *   *

To sum up, these ten purchases would have cost $2,704.10 at retail. By procrastinating, I paid only $1,629.78. The delay saved me a grand total of $1,074.32 (40% off).

I intended today to also write about several useful techniques to help you procrastinate better and more often. But curiously enough, for some reason I now find myself putting it off. So I’ll wrap this up in a later post. In the meantime, please don’t jump the gun and buy anything on impulse. I’ll be back Friday—at least I think I’ll be back Friday.

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One Response to Frugal Move: Procrastinate on Purchases and Pay Peanuts

  1. Free to Pursue March 13, 2014 at 6:58 PM #

    I agree 100% that if you feel you need to buy it now, you are likely paying too much and/or you are buying something you don’t need. My rule is to always “sleep on it” and see how I feel in the morning. Of course, this does not apply if you know that you have intended to buy something for months and they sell out in the blink of an eye (such as tickets for an event that’s on your bucket list).

    Instead of the word “procrastinate”, I like to use the words “being opportunistic” instead. Doesn’t that sound better Noonan?

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