Who can resist a sale?

At the moment I am reading Dan Ariely‘s book Predictably Irrational. Chapter eight is all about keeping doors open ~ that is keeping opportunities available just in case the current situation doesn’t work out as planned. Dan loves to test his theories and after experimenting with this idea he came to the conclusion that “…running helter-skelter to keep doors from closing is a fools game. It will not only wear out our emotions but also wear out our wallets.

Of course leaving the odd door open isn’t always a bad thing so long as you reserve the habit for important doors. Feeling the need to do this with every situation in life can surely only lead to constant dissatisfaction and a whole lot of stress. As the saying goes ~ The grass is always greener on the other side.

With that thought in mind Dan poses this question ~ “Similarly, how many times have we bought something on sale not because we really needed it but because by the end of the sale all of those items would be gone, and we could never have it at that price again?”

This is a case of seeing the door closing and making an irrational decision to buy such items ~ you guessed it ~ whether we need them or not. It doesn’t seem to matter that it has been proven to us over and over again that no sooner does a item go off sale but returns ~ sometimes even at an even cheaper price ~ very soon thereafter. It is the possibility that this time that door may never open again and that lures us in. So don’t be fooled because even if it doesn’t reopen the chances are that the most likely long term effect is that you have saved yourself some money.

Practice ignoring those sale doors often enough and soon you will realise that there is a lot of stuff out there that you can live without. You may also want to close a few doors on past hobbies and interests that you have not engaged in for some time. Also close the door on items you think you may need some day. Chances are if you aren’t using that door now you won’t need to in the future. Close the door on the idea that stuff will make you happy. How many other doors to clutter can you find to close and set yourself free from unwanted stress, wasted space and the futile attempt to buy happiness. You may then find you are free to open new doors onto something good and worthwhile in your life.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something you are only keeping out of guilt because it cost you much more than it proved useful to you. That is you paid a lot for something and now you feel obliged to keep it even though you hardly if ever use it.

Remember the November Keep it Tidy Challenge

Today’s Declutter Item

Silver Bracelet

Eco Tip for the Day

Don’t leave the TV on during the day just for company. You may laugh but I have know plenty of cases of people doing this.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Since we don’t get the newspaper with all of the ads and we only go shopping when we have to we seldom buy anything on sale or off. I haven’t been in a shopping mall in years and years. The only store we go in regularly is the grocery store. Usually the sales are on name brands and can’t beat the store brand price. I like this.

    • Hi Deb J, I go to the mall often enough usually only to have coffee with friends or to buy groceries. I don’t shop for much else and when I do it usually takes an extra long time because I am determined to make the best choice I can so I am not disappointed. And I have to say I don’t enjoy that kind of shopping.

  2. Plan to check out this book next trip to our library since the website shows it is available. Your post is very appropriate with the USA madness called Black Friday coming (black meaning retailers begin profit making and out of the “red”)–some people camp out in cold, wet, or whatever in line for stores opening–all in hopes of getting a great bargain. This on the day after Thanksgiving when most of us are tired from the extra cooking and cleaning involved with family dinners. Black Fridays at our house are spent visiting, eating leftovers, etc. not in shopping. Since we live in the country and have a lot of space outdoors our grandchildren love being outside–weather permitting–just playing with the dog, playing football, running around, etc.
    When shopping online with sales, there is this type of pressure and the item does disappear sometimes before the purchase was made. But most of us do have clothes we can wear, etc., etc. I do try to buy out of season–mostly shorts and slacks, since the thrift store seldom has my size or the cotton items I prefer.

    • Nana – I have been wondering what Black Friday meant, its getting out of the red and into the black, of course! Over here, Black Friday is when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday, and yes there is some sort of sale that usually stretches over the whole weekend.

    • Hi Nana, I am well aware of what Black Friday is all about as I lived in the US for almost eight years. Can’t say I ever went to any of those sales though. Even in the days when I enjoyed shopping I was that keen as to camp out of get killed in the rush.

      Like most shopping I very very rarely shop online. I am a tactile kinda gal and unless I am buying something I am already very familiar with I prefer the hands on approach to shopping.

      You are so right. So long as we have clothes on our backs, food on our table, a place to lay our head and a roof over our heads all other options aren’t necessary.

      • I rarely shop on Black Friday. In fact, the last time I can actually recall buying anything on BF was back in the 90’s. I always worked the day after Thanksgiving (unless I was seeing family in another state) so shopping on BF was never a big draw after working all day. Plus the lure & allure of being surrounded by crazed bargain shoppers never seemed worth saving a couple of bucks over.
        Yeah yeah you read about a few folks who saved some serious money by stalking a sale on BF, but again, it’s just not worth the insanity.

      • A friend said a similar thing the other week – “we really only need food, shelter and medical care – everything else is a privilege”

    • Funny thing about those so-called Black Friday sales…according to the news media, those sales aren’t all they’re cracked up to be and often the same items can be purchased for the same or similar price during the holidays. About sales flyers, I rarely look at them unless I need a specific item. Great way to save money for sure.

  3. I love a good sale (with the exception of Black Friday because that is just madness and I hate crowds with a passion) but I can resist them. I only look for sales (or coupons or discount codes) if I’m looking for something in particular. Sometimes I find a good deal. Sometimes I don’t. It just takes patience. Sales are something I learned to resist after purging too many “good deals” from my home.

    • Hi Rachel W, I am sure that anyone reading here would be familiar with having decluttered many a bargain they couldn’t resist. I know I have.

      I don’t even look at sales catalogues anymore as it is too easy to be drawn into buying something that seems very useful on the outside but usually ends up not being so practically. What I don’t know about is out there I don’t miss.

    • Rachel W – I saw a clip on the internet about Black Friday sales and was fascinated. The nearest thing I have seen to that was the Teletubbie Riots about 15 years ago, when NZ was the last country in the Western world to get the limited stock of teletubbie dolls, well it got ugly. Mothers and grandmothers stampeded at opening time to get their teletubbie. We’re usually a bit more kick back down here so we still refer to that as the height of public madness.

      • Oh Moni! You just made me laugh so much with that mental picture!

      • Moni, I’ve never participated in a Black Friday sale. I heard too many horror stories when I was a child. Haha. But I’m also the same person who plans to go shopping during non-peak hours if at all possible.

        I can’t imagine riots over Teletubbies. But there were small riots here over a freakin Elmo doll so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at madness over a toy.

      • Never underestimate the potential of primitive behaviors to (re)surface when humans are backed into a seemingly hopeless corner of life verses death or when faced with 60% off a limited stock of 42″ flat screens & surrounded by competition.

  4. In answer to your question, who can resist a sale, that would be me! And probably most of your readers 🙂 I do get ‘junk mail’ at home but only check the grocery ones – I should probably do this online rather than getting all of the others that I don’t need, hmm might look at changing this! Instead of buying something, I love the idea of re-using something that I already have. For instance I went to the hardware shop recently to get some plaster of paris to put into my new (2nd hand from the salvage shop at the dump) Christmas tree pot. While hubs and I were standing there trying to work out what size packet to get, I realised I could use the florist’s block I’d used last year! Win!

    • Hi Judy, I love that you try to re-use something that you already have. I do this all the time. Where there is a will (to avoid buying something) there is a way (to adapt something else you already own to suit). This has become even more obvious to me lately as my son finishes off his final year of university. He often comes out at the last minute wanting ideas and supplies for presenting projects. With my car in the shop for repairs it has been a case of utilising what is available. Taking into account how little there is available I have been getting very creative.

    • Judy, like your idea of reusing what you have on hand for a different purpose. I’m trying to deal with some fabric that I purchased and just can’t part with yet. Have been using to make gifts and even though it will take longer to get through my fabric stash, making things seems like a win for me.

  5. We moved to a much smaller home. After getting rid of so much stuff I’m finding I do not want to shop. I looked at the ads for Black Friday and said no thank you. We are going to the country with friends for Thanksgiving through Sunday! No temptation to buy. I am still trying to unpack and get rid of things and I don’t want more coming in. Ads have lost their power with me.

    • The same here Wanda. I was looking through a catalogue for xmas and said to my hubby how each page was filled with so many electrical products that we dont really need and dust collectors. amazing how our ideas change.

  6. Hi Wanda, it seems to me that that is another positive side effect of moving into a smaller home. Now not only are you buying less but you are probably saving more and the environment is gaining from the small decrease in supply and demand that you have generated. Good for you!

  7. Interesting thought. I can relate to this now. We are building a tiny house, and we went back and forth between 500 and 750 square foot plans. The bigger plan came with restrictions, it had to meet strict energy efficiency regulations, and we would need to install a forced ventilation system, which we do not want, and half a meter of insulation, and a finicky, risky heating system… which we DO NOT WANT, and they cost a lot of money to boot.. But we would have gained 250 sf and the possibility to expand later. Yes, people keep telling us how we will want to expand later 😉 The smaller plan only had one caveat: It’s 500 square feet, and probably can never be expanded (without making big changes to meet the requirements).
    Maybe we are crazy, but in the end, after first deciding to go with the bigger, “sensible” plan, we changed our minds and went with the small one.
    So it was, choose small, AND STICK WITH IT.

    • Hi Cat’sMeow, your choice, if I remember correctly, wasn’t just all about bigger or smaller but some of those extras the big house required could cause you the same problems you were having everywhere else with the mould. So if I were you I would have chosen the smaller one too. You could always add an outbuilding to house any extra needs that may come along.

    • Great to hear you chose the smaller one (you deem healthier!)!

  8. I’m no longer hung up about buying stuff on sale or if it’s a bargain. I spent my youth chasing that. Now that we’re in the country, and if I need something (for instance a new dressing gown) I go into the limited number of shops and pick one I like best. If it’s on sale all the better, if not, that’s OK too. Because I buy so much less, I can actually justify paying full price every so often (but I know not everyone is in the same boat).

    On the matter of closing doors: for years I’ve yearned for a cottage-style garden, but living in a house with a very small yard it just wasn’t feasible. I’d collected several gardening books on the subject though. Last year I decided to get rid of the books as I thought that dream would never come true and I was just torturing myself by looking at the pictures of something I couldn’t have. Fast forward to this year where we bought a house with a GORGEOUS cottage garden! Turns out I didn’t need the books to make the reality happen!!

    • Hi Loretta. Congratulations on your dream coming true! It is really great when we wish something and it happens.

    • Hi Loretta, I am with you on the shopping thing. When I shop these days it is with purpose and if what suits that purpose best is not on sale then so be it. like you I buy so little that it really doesn’t matter although I would love that I did get a bargain I will certainly not settle for second best because of the price.

      I had to laugh about your garden story. I had a sinking feeling at first that you were going to say you regretted getting rid of the books. But hooray your story had a happy uncluttered ending. Phew!

    • I think, there are certain things in terms of “aspiration clutter” that we only accumulate, BECAUSE we can’t fulfill our innermost wish in that particular field. It seems you bought those books as a replacement for the real thing.
      I find, I did that, too: buying books when I had no time to read is just one example.
      The bad thing about that is that this accumulated aspiration clutter tends to drag one down, when one finally finds the time to endulge in that hobby. Like when you want to knit for the first time in two years and open that box just to find all these zillions of yarns and aspired projects – and in your feeble attempt after this long time you just don’t feel strong enough to tackle them all. How much nicer it is to run out and get some fresh wool to start a fresh project all over again!

      I still have items for hobbies that “sleep” more or less at the moment, but I’m rather sure, I will get back to them. I tend to minimize these supplies, so that I just have enough to get going when I feel like it, but have no “projects” lying around. (like: I own a pair of knitting needles or a musical instrument, but I radically pared down on yarn, music sheets etc.)

      • Very interesting insight Sanna. I would have to agree with you as I have had to learn to resist the temptation to acquire items that I can “see the potential in”. Potential is one thing, having the time, skill and inspiration to act on that potential is a whole other thing.

  9. Hi Colleen. We don’t have a Black Friday, but sales are very usual (as they are everywhere else in the world 😉 ). I have, through much thought, discovered my weakness when it comes to buying: books and office supplies. I have, to my relief, seen that when I go out and choose a outfit to buy, I wear it to death. I don’t wear some the hand me downs that do not suit my taste and I kept “just in case” (should declutter them, I know). So I do think very carefully before buying clothes, and have seen that I am very conscious, and buy things that i need and will wear. But put me somewhere with books and office supplies and the hoarder in me comes out howling 😀 . So sales do not tempt me, unless I am at a bookstore.

    • I agree! How could I resist a Far Side Cartoon book for $5? Or the Truth about Coca Cola for $5? Cartoon book already gifted to a friend to enjoy.
      I just have to ask Andre’ia, what sort of office supplies are your downfall?

      • Wendy F – even I would buy a Far Side Cartoon book. They are legendary!

        • This conversation has just reminded me. There is still a boxed set of Far Side the complete volumes one and two hiding in our TV cabinet. I must remind Steve that I have never seen him read them. Perhaps it is time he found a new home for them.

          Jealous anyone?!!!!

      • Hi Wendy F! It’s folders, mechanical pencils, pens (different and regular ones), clips, different kinds of paper. I just don’t go where they are, because I will buy things I don’t need. But I do like them. Whenever I see “Hoarders” and think of my books and office supplies I can relate to them. However I have been thinking long and hard about what books I will read. I have been “exercising”: I go into the bookstore and look at all the books I would like to buy. Then I think of all the unread books at my house, and, unless its a technical book (work related), I promise myself I can buy that one when I have read the ones at home. I have been leaving the bookstore empty handed a lot these days. And what office supplies do you like Wendy F?

        • I just saw what a Far Side Cartoon book was. Definitely wouldn’t leave the book store empty handed if I ran into one of those! 😀 😀 😀

        • I was going to say none, But I do have a fetish for those little spring binder note books by Marbig, with the pretty coloured binders that I can purchase at the supermarket. I use them to write reminders in, which I promptly forget to read. Not having to supply stuff for the kids anymore is a relief.
          I like to think my browsing is classed as ‘exercise’ 🙂

    • Hi Andréia, it is interesting that you have two related Achilles’ heals. You have a problem keeping your home office organised and yet you can’t resist office supplies. I would say there is a distinct connection there. I would guess that you think having just the right gear will miraculously make your office easier to keep organised. This not only turns out not to be true but actually no doubt exacerbates the problem. The reality is that it takes a tailored system and physical effort to keep any area organised and that takes a lot of investigation, planning and elbow grease (work). Once the solution is obtained the effort to stay organised is much easier which is well worth the initial time and thought outlay.

      • Hi Colleen! It kind of amazed me that decluttering china and silverware, made realize what was my REAL clutter problem. I can tell you that all the decluttering I did in my kitchen and with kitchen related stuff did not take me more than 24 hours, and I always leave it tidy. And anytime I have to declutter paper related stuff (aka as books, office supplies and others) I agonize to start and leave it by half. I t did not go back to the mess it was almost a year and a half ago, but it is not as neat as it should be. I have unearthed so many folders and organizers and empty notebooks and I really can’t seem to part with any of them, “just in case” I might need them and have to buy again. I have researched the internet for a good (or “magic”, “magic solution” works too 😀 😀 😀 ) solutions to my office. And it is just as you said: work, work, work. I have not, in the last 2 months bought any office supplies, and have been trying to use what I have, or else, declutter it.

        • Andreia – that is an interesting diagnostic tool – the areas that cannot quickly be done have some sort of attachment issue. I never thought of it like that. Very interesting.

        • Hi Andréia, the thing with an office is it has to be tailored to the individual using it and the job they are doing. What you need to do is observe for a while how you go about things, how and why the clutter mounts up all the while testing new solutions to the problems that arise. Tweaking as you go until finally you have it all worked out. The right system is there you just have to invent it to suit yourself. Just like one a day decluttering this task is observe a day, figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

  10. I could never resist a sale! The reduced rack, was my aphrodisiac , a further 30% of the reduced price would have me reaching for my credit card. The reward was having nice clothes for my children. Recently, I realized I only focused on the “sale” signs when I went shopping ,totally avoiding full priced items . I now employ the cost benefit analysis, mentioned before by Colleen; cheap unworn clothes are more expensive than full priced clothes worn all the time. So the cost is high if you do not wear/use it.
    I like this quote ‘ long after the price is forgotten , the quality remains’

    • I used to be like that too Wendy F. I have learned my lesson. Don’t get me wrong I love it when the stars align and the thing I need is on sale or there is no real rush and I can wait for it to go on sale but to buy things just because they are on sale is long in my past now.

  11. Good book. I just picked it up from the library. Thanks to whoever it was that recommended it.
    Sales are great if you know what you want and can wait. Holding off for a wanted item to come on sale gives you time to be sure it’s what you REALLY want. We went to the hardware store last week because the step ladder was on sale CHEAP. We came home with the full price one because one was CHEAP, the other was what we REALLY wanted.

  12. A friend on the mainland is a “shopaholic”. She actually does the rounds every week for all of the sales. Her husband summed it up by saying to her, “Would you please stop saving me so much money?”, haha!

  13. Great post and comments!

    I had to learn to beware of not only the sales where you save on one expensive item, but also the weekly sales at the grocery or drug store, where the prices – and savings – are individually smaller, but will add up over time. Nowadays I try to buy just what we need and let the shops store the rest for me (as some smart person has said here in the past) 🙂

  14. I try not to miss out on the sales at the grocery store, because regardless of what the item may be, I know that it will be eaten at my house with two teenage boys. Those sales also run in cycles, so if you miss it, it will come back around again. Other stores, if I need an item, I will wait for it to go on sale, but I try not to buy “just in case” anymore.

    I am so guilty of this eco tip. I run the radio or the t.v. I will try to do better.

  15. I love this concept. I haven’t used this language, but I’ve been focusing on closing many doors to my past so that I can be ready for future doors to open for me.

    Thanks for sharing this concept!

  16. I have been rereading this entry and wanted to comment on my shopping experiences this winter. For the first time in a long time, I have had a little extra cash to spend on Christmas gifts. My son and husband both needed new winter coats and I was able to get them online for a good price with free shipping but I did spend some time at the mall looking at coats to get an idea of the quality of the items. I also went shopping with a friend from work and what I found was that the more we were at the mall, the more tempted I was to purchase things that I had not planned to buy. I still find myself looking at sale ads and drug store flyers to see if there is anything I would be interested in. I am also getting emails from stores that I purchased items from online and find that unless I delete them right away, I fritter away minutes looking at the website and thinking I might buy something. I am not usually a shopper but the bug is there and I am having to push it away harder than ever. My goal in January is not to purchase anything unless it is medicine or groceries (although I have a freezer full of meats so will only be buying milk, bread, and fresh veggies) that we absolutely need. I must get back to my days of not being interested in shopping. Shopping is addictive and I can see how people get sucked into spending time and money at the mall. It happened to me this Christmas.


  1. […] Sanna shares some views and experiences of aspirational clutter in this comment. […]