How to Spave and Actually Save

Man checking phone while browsing shelves at store.

No, that's not a typo. "Spaving" is a real word (though, not one that you'll find in your Merriam-Webster). It's a portmanteau of spending and saving. To "spave" is to spend more money in the pursuit of saving money. And although the term has gained some recent popularity in social spaces, it's far from a new concept or even a new word...the first Urban Dictionary definition of "spaving" was posted on October 13, 2004 (I hope that doesn't make you feel as old as it makes me feel).

In fact, getting you to spend more money through the promise of ultimately saving money has been a sales tactic for basically as long as people have sold anything. (Buy three goats, get the fourth goat half off.) The trouble, of course, is that spending more rarely leads to saving more. Generally speaking, there are no truly mutually beneficial deals between retailers and consumers. If a deal sounds good for you, it's probably even better for the seller.

So let's dive into spaving: why it's rarely in your favor, and how to best ensure that you only pay for the deals that actually benefit you.

The psychology of spaving

When you think "spend more in order to save money" your mind may first go to Costco and similar bulk retailers. Think two pound jars of mayonnaise and 100 packs of toilet paper. Typically, the more of something you buy, the lower the price per unit. So it's safe to assume that buying a large quantity of something will ultimately save you money.

But spaving isn't limited to bulk purchases, and often times the pursuit of spaving is more impulsive. It's when you reach the virtual checkout and see that you'll qualify for free shipping if you just spend $11 more. It's seeing an item you hadn't intended to buy listed as "buy one, get one free" and thinking, "That's two for the price on one, how can I say no?"

Anyone selling anything is always looking for ways to make more money. And often, it's easier to entice a current customer to spend more than it is to find new customers. That's why after you buy a new lamp, you'll be receiving emails enticing you to buy more lamps everyday for the rest of your life.

When financially bad spaving offers are successful, it's often because they've successfully triggered a behavioral impulse:

  • We're afraid of missing out on a good deal.
  • We overvalue what we're gaining (free shipping, for example) when compared to what we're spending.
  • We don't consider that investing too much money in a "deal" today will limit our options in the future.

As with anything money-related, be cautious when evaluating deals, and try to leave your impulses out of it (whenever possible). 

Tips for spending more and actually saving money

Which isn't to say that spaving is a fool's errand. You can legitimately spend more in a way that ultimately saves you more. But it requires that you follow some guidelines.

Never buy something you wouldn't have bought if it wasn't sale

The fundamental rule of all sales and deals is that you don't pay for something that you didn't even want. This can be pretty egregious when trying to reach a threshold for free shipping or a discount. If you're throwing things in your cart simply to reach a minimum purchase point, you're immediately losing out on the deal.

In any spaving scenario, make sure that you're walking away with only purchases that you actually want. If you wouldn't pay full price for it that might suggest that it's not something you genuinely value.

Never buy more than you can reasonably use

Bulk purchases are only a good idea when the amount you're buying doesn't exceed your ability to actually use all of that mayonnaise before it goes bad. When buying more to save money, stop and consider:

  • Will you actually use all of this?
  • Do you have a place to store all of it?
  • Will you still need it and use it months later?

If a bulk purchase goes to waste or causes you unnecessary headaches, it's probably not worth the savings.

Prioritize quality and durability whenever possible

One way to spend more and actually save money in the long run is to invest in higher quality items. By doing research into brands and products, you can get a good sense of what things are made to last with little upkeep, and what's going to break in six months. 

Which isn't to say that you should always pick the more expensive option by default, because price doesn't always match quality. But it is true that certain brands are better known for creating higher quality products, which often cost more. Whenever possible, investing in these kinds of upfront costs can do a lot to save you from spending more to replace those items in the future.

Trying to make the most of your money? Get advice from an expert. MMI offers free financial counseling 24/7, online and over the phone. We can help review your budget, create an action plan to reach your goals, and provide targeted suggestions for paying off debt and building your credit. Get started anytime.

Tagged in Smart shopping, Psychology and money

Jesse Campbell photo.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, with over ten years of experience creating valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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