When is comparison shopping more pain than gain?
Money expert Clark Howard is famously (and oftentimes proudly) cheap. Outside of his family and charitable efforts, it seems like he gets a bigger thrill out of saving a few measly dollars by locating a better deal than almost anything in his life.
The man with a wardrobe full of $6.99 black Sam’s Club polos who for a large portion of his career used a single disposable razor each year can afford to be less frugal. But, to him, where’s the fun (and practicality) in that?
The value of the dollar is something that should be taken seriously. But not everyone has the time and emotional inclination to hunt down the best price on every purchase, every day.
How do you decide that line of demarcation?
That's what a listener of the Clark Howard Podcast recently asked.
When Is Comparison Shopping Not Worth It?
Clark loves saving money. And he’s more willing than most to put in hard work to nail the best value on a purchase.
But when is the extra time and mental effort more than it's worth? That's what a listener wondered on the Jan. 10 podcast episode.
Alex in Illinois asked: "Hi Clark. This may be an unanswerable question. When is saving money shopping actually not worth it? Considering one's opportunity cost to earn money from work, time necessary to save on a specific deal, and one's mental temperament."
Perhaps surprisingly to some who don’t know him, Clark is rarely militant about the financial medicine he prescribes. His North Star is helping people save more and spend less. But, as he says often — including in his answer to Alex — we’re all human. We have to account for our differences and circumstances.
“The last thing is what counts, Alex. Mental temperment,” Clark says. “None of us are efficient with our time. We’re human beings. We futz away a lot of our life doing things that are fun or just sitting on the sofa.
“If the idea of comparison shopping is not your thing, don’t do it. Just buy from the warehouse clubs and call it a day. You will have saved enough money. And you won’t have to spend that effort, time and mental energy trying to save money.”
Clark is offering a practical solution. If you don’t like comparing prices and making detailed notes on every item across multiple stores, just choose a store (or group of stores) that offers great value and shop there as much as possible.
“As an example, if you just bought the things you need and want over the course of a year in one of the three warehouse clubs, you would be saving money just by breathing.”
To borrow from an old phrase, there’s more than one way to save money.
If you’re willing to put in the time, you can learn which stores offer the cheapest prices for items you buy regularly — and when something is a great deal.
Life is short. If fretting over nickels and dimes puts you in a bad mood, you can find other ways to make sure you’re getting good value.
Shopping at a warehouse club like Costco, Sam's Club or BJ's can give you a great money-saving start.
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