Should You Always Buy an Item if It’s on Sale?

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While a sale can pop off nearly anytime at your favorite retailer, many stores ramp up the deals typically toward the end of the year and into the holiday period. If something’s on sale, you may think to yourself, “I have to buy it.” But do you?

In this article, we’ll look at some reasons why not every sale is a good sale for us and how to know when — and when not — to buy.

We’ll hear from Managing Editor Charis Brown and get some tips from money expert Clark Howard and, the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer protection website.

Sale Items: Should I Buy and if Not, Why Not?

I think it’s safe to say that almost everybody loves a sale, but it’s not always in our best interests to take advantage of one.

For instance, and I’ll talk about this a bit later, but what if you have to borrow money to buy something? Who wants to face a bill of several hundred (or thousands of) dollars after spending some time shopping online?

So when you find something for a cheaper price, as easy as it is to buy it, that might not always be the right thing to do. Let’s get into some considerations you should take into account.

Should You Buy an Item on Sale? Here’s How To Tell

The first thing you should ask yourself when you see something on sale is: Why do I want this?

“Don’t buy an item just because it’s a great deal,” Charis says. ”Buy it because you need it or really want it.”

According to, here are some other questions you should ask yourself before you buy an item on sale.

If the Item Were Not on Sale, Would I Want It?

If you knew that you’d have to pay full price for the item, would you still want to buy it? Your answer could not only determine whether you really need the item or not, but it could also save you a lot of money.

Are There Similar Products Like This That I Like More?

You may see an item on sale, but it’s not really what you want or doesn’t meet exactly the specifications that you need — and you’ll buy it anyway!


That can mean that when the item you really want becomes available or goes on sale, you’ll have wasted your money on the first item.

The wise thing to do is to resist the temptation to buy an item — no matter how cheap it is — that is not really what you want.

Is the Sale Price Really the Best Price?

Checking prices at other stores is a major way to get the best deal on something you really want. 

Here are some go-to tools for comparing prices of items:

Read Clark’s guide on how to comparison shop.

Will I Go into Debt Paying for the Item?

One important thing to consider when you see an item on sale is whether you have the money to afford the merchandise no matter how inexpensive it is.

You typically would not want to go into debt over something you buy, but if you do have to charge it on your credit card, Clark wants you to pay the balance in full by the end of the month. That way, you’ll avoid any interest charges.

Would the Money Be Better Spent Elsewhere?

Depending on your situation, you may find a better use for your money than buying a particular item at that time.

How To Control Your Shopping

Are you going shopping soon? Here are some tips from Clark on how to keep your spending under control.

Stick to Your Budget

One way you can be sure you don’t overspend is by sticking to your budget.


If you don’t have a budget, here’s how to create a budget.

Wait Before You Buy

Clark says that online stores are good at creating a sense of urgency around the shopping experience. Online, you may even see notifications and banners that say “Only two left” or “Limited number remain” to get you to buy an item now.

If you’ve found something you want online, Clark says you shouldn’t make the purchase immediately!

“The key is to put it in your cart and walk away,” Clark says. If you’ve got the time, Clark recommends you leave an item in your online shopping cart for a full day and then come back to it.

After some time away, you may realize that you don’t want or need the item (and your wallet will thank you). And sometimes, the retailer will send a coupon for further savings.

Shop in Incognito Mode

Clark says another strategy to resist impulse buying online is to shop in incognito mode in your web browser.

You may be tempted to buy something because you continue to see ads about it. “In incognito mode, the ads aren’t going to follow you,” he says.

Want to shop for less? Read up on how to get the best deals online.

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