Posts Tagged ‘temptation’

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Pressure cookers and pressure deals

June 6, 2010

Our new pressure cooker is giving me a lot of jollies on the frugal front.

Pressure cookers save power. Maybe only a few cents, but it adds up, you know?

And pressure cookers save a lot of time. Since the cheapest tasty protein is mostly legumes and tough meat, it makes a big difference to a busy person if you can get them cooked more than twice as fast. For example I’ve found so far that 35 minutes — five minutes to come to pressure, 20 minutes at pressure, 10 minutes to release pressure — is enough to render beef shin totally tender, and 25 is enough for dried beans (albeit with a soak first). Those are both things that previously I would only have had time for on the weekend, but which are now feasible on a week night. I also foresee a lot of soups made from odds and ends.

And this pressure cooker was cheap. About $30 I think, on one of those websites that have deals for just 24 hours. Kathy PM’ed me and said “do you want a pressure cooker for $30?” and I was all “I am hella keen on pressure cookers” and she was like “that’s good cause I got us one.”

Yet this bothers me.

Those sites are a nasty play on our psychology. We are hard-wired to take up opportunities that look as though they are about to vanish. That is the basis of all “limited time only” deals — to give an extra tweak to an offer that will make you more likely to buy. The “one day only” sites are particularly bad because they encourage you to check every day, or even to sign up to be alerted every day. And sometimes you get something great, so there’s also intermittent positive reinforcement, which is the most powerful kind for forming habits.

In my experience, usually those great deals can be had elsewhere without the pressure if you are prepared to look around. And sometimes if you check the specs of what’s on offer, you realise that the deal isn’t even that great. The price looks cheap for the product, but the product itself is inferior. Over time, this has to be a recipe for spending money you didn’t mean to spend on stuff that isn’t the best stuff you could have for that money. Those sites may have bargains, but spending lots on crap, no matter how cheap, is not frugal.

In this case I feel we definitely won, but we’ve got to stop checking those sites. Pretend I wrote a really good moral using the metaphor of pressure and contrasting good and bad here.

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Impulse then and now

September 7, 2008

I should have realised there was something wrong when I noticed that I had memorised my VISA card number. Evidently I had typed those 16 digits often enough that my fingers just knew what to do.

When I were a lad, in the 1970s, frugal people had certain guidelines or rules to prevent themselves from coming unstuck. These included:

  • leave your wallet at home;
  • don’t carry extra cash;
  • wait a day before making any unplanned purchase.

(I know this, because my parents subscribed to Consumer magazine and I read something to that effect while perusing their vast stock of back issues at the age of 9 or 10. Like Jesuit training, my dormant but recently-awakened frugal instincts probably owe their hardiness to early indoctrination.)

Apparently there is research out there showing that credit cards and debit cards make it easier to spend, because we are blissfully unaware of the effect on our balance. Hence why we get caught short of funds at the checkout. How did that happen? Because we lost track of where we were.  It is much harder to accidentally run out of money in a cash-only world. (Unless you have so much cash, burning a hole in your wallet, that it seems as though it would be hard to get through it all).

That’s bad enough, but unfortunately, online retailing has greatly reduced the psychological barriers to unwanted spending even more. It is only recently that I have learned to stop and wait and introduce a cooling-off period before typing in the fateful 16 digits.

I now make it a habit to do a few things before I buy stuff online.

  • I ask myself whether I really need it;
  • Where comparison sites like Pricespy or Ferrit exist*, I get a benchmark price;
  • I check the second-hand price on Trademe;
  • I check my balances and see whether this will put me over my self-imposed limit for the month;
  • I bookmark the page so I can come back to it later (which I often don’t).

What are your strategies for avoiding temptation, when it’s just so easy?

*(Yeah, I know, Ferrit is an e-commerce disaster, but it is quite handy for finding out what you should pay for a blender).