The other weekend I went shopping. My girlfriend, Kate, was not looking for anything specific when she entered a Banana Republic. She was lured in, I believe, by the sign for their Mad Men collection, and promise of a 40% off sale. I followed her in because it feels awkward to wait outside.
I was at the mall for a reason. I had a shopping list: shoes (it was a short list). Kate and I have a couple of weddings that we are attending in the fall, and I needed a pair of nice brown dress shoes. Banana Republic did not have the shoes that I was looking for, at least not in my price range. I was in the store for a mere two minutes when I knew I was done.
With my list exhausted, my brain quickly jumped into problem solving mode: what to do while my girlfriend continues to shop? My options were limited and none of them very appealing to me: leave the store and wait awkwardly outside; stand in a corner trying to look inconspicuous; follow my girlfriend around like some lost puppy while she peruses the endless sale section; or look through the men's sale racks.
I decided to check the sale racks. Hanging in the section were plenty of items I could use - polo shirts, pants, sweaters - but I get by with what I’ve got. My shopping mantra is: If it ain’t on the list it don’t exist. I tell myself that I’m looking to waste time, not to actually buy something. Then I find the pants: a nice pair of khakis on sale for... $13.50?!
Before I knew it, I was walking out of the store with a Banana Republic bag and a new pair of khakis that made my backside look pretty darn good. When I got them home I found a pair of scissors and snipped the tag. As I looked at the original price I was taken aback. $69.50? Woah I just saved a ton on this pair of pants! I felt like I won something.
But then I started thinking about the price of the pants. Why would Banana Republic mark down a pair of pants so much? I looked at the price tag and sure enough the pants were marked down three times. How long does a pair of pants have to be at a store before they get marked down three times? And how much are these pants actually worth? Did Banana Republic take a loss selling me these pants?
I doubt it, I think I just did Banana Republic a favor. I bought the pants that no one else wanted. I freed up space on the sales rack for something else. Even more importantly for Banana Republic, I turned a worthless pair of pants hanging on a rack into a cool $13.50 purchase.
I got tricked - there really isn’t any other way to word it. Banana Republic didn’t want those pants. They didn’t care how my backside looked. They wanted my money, and in the end they got it. The ruse was only half Banana Republic’s fault. They were indeed having a sale, but it was my own brain that did the tricking, convincing me that I would feel good for getting a deal - nay, a steal - on those pants.
What do you do when your brain can’t be trusted to steer you in the right direction? And when everything (virtually everything) is funneling, prodding and flattering you into giving up your money? In the world of personal finance you have very few allies. Thankfully we're building ImpulseSave, the tool that reminds us that there is a better way to work our money. Imagine if I would have been able to see that $13.50 not just as a cheap pair of pants but as a $13.50 deposit on something important, like Bruins tickets, and to save it right then and there. (Melodramatic sigh).
So get ready world because there’s a new game in town and it’s putting options back on the menu! And you bet when it's released I'll not be spending anymore money on cheap pants. Request an invite, we’re launching soon!