The Road to Financial Ruin is “Spaved” With Good Intentions

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The Road to Financial Ruin is “Spaved” With Good Intentions

What Is Spaving?

Spave (SPAYV) v. Spending money in order to save money by purchasing items at less than their retail cost. — Spaver n. 

Spaving means “spending to save.” In other words, you’re spending money now in order to  save money in the future. This may be by buying needed items on sale, using a coupon, or submitting a rebate. You may not need the item right this instant, but you buy it because you can get it cheaper now than when you’ll need it. 

Generally, I’m all for spaving. If I can save $2.00 on shampoo if I buy it today I’ll do it, even though I might not need it for a few more weeks. If I know someone wants a certain Christmas present and I see a deal on it in July, I’ll buy it and put it away. Spaving can be a great way to save a little money on non-perishable items that you know you need. However, it can go wrong. 

When Spaving Goes Wrong


The danger comes when people spave on things they don’t need, can’t afford, or that are of poor quality (or all three), just to say they “saved” money. At that point, you’re just tossing money away.  

Spaving happens all year, but it gets worse during the holidays. The lure of the bargain tempts people to buy things they don’t need and can’t afford. Look at Black Friday. How much of the shopping done that day is because the items are truly needed for holiday preparations and how much is to get in on the deals? Spavers get excited about “saving” money on stuff that they have no room or use for and then crow about how much money they saved. They would have been better off not buying the stuff at all and saving the money in a high interest account. Or at least dedicating it to one or two well-thought-out purchases instead of piles of junk. 

I know two people who have just about spaved themselves into financial ruin. Neither can resist a sale price, even if it’s something that they don’t need or particularly want. They say, “Oh, but it’s such a great deal, I know I can find someone to give it to.” Or, “Well, I don’t need it now, but maybe someday.” Someday they’ll entertain more, or cook more, or craft more, or lose twenty pounds and fit into those pants. Buying for “someday” is a dicey proposition. 

Yet these spavers are constantly telling anyone who’ll listen how broke they are, how they don’t have money saved for retirement or the kid’s college, and how they don’t have money for the bills this month. They have no money to spare, yet they are reading their emails and trawling the clearance racks at Target looking for deals. They’re convinced they are saving money by buying items on sale. They have huge stockpiles of stuff, representing thousands of dollars, sitting unused in their houses. If they hadn’t bought all that stuff, those thousands of dollars would be available to pay the bills. They’ve spaved their future right down the drain. 

Four Warning Signs That Spaving Is Leading You To Disaster


If you don’t want to spave yourself into trouble, here are four warning signs to watch out for. You may meet one or all of these criteria. The trick is to stay aware so that you realize trouble is looming before it swamps you. 

  1. The deal is on something you don’t have a specific purpose for. If you’re not buying it to fill a need, or with a specific recipient and/or occasion in mind, you’re better off leaving the item until you can come up with a definitive purpose for it. By the time you decide to take up crafting, the kid is old enough to wear that shirt, or there’s a birthday party where a kid wants a particular toy, the item will be obsolete and there will be deals on better, newer items. Keep your money until then. Most things bought because they will be needed “someday” are dumped in a closet and only discovered when it’s yard sale time.
  2. You can’t afford the item at any price. (Particularly when the item is a “want.”) If you can’t pay your bills or are deeply in debt, then 50% off a television is still not a good deal. That TV would only be a good deal if they gave it to you. Spaving only works when you can afford to put your money towards “extra” items, whether they’re wants or needs. If you can’t afford your mortgage, you don’t need to be buying anything beyond the bare minimum necessary to get by until you’re on sounder financial footing.
  3. You can’t afford to tie your money up in things you can’t use immediately. If you have a small or unpredictable income, you are likely to need ready cash more than deals. This means you shouldn’t have a lot of money tied up in gifts for occasions that are six months away, clothes that can’t be worn until next summer, or fifty packs of toilet paper. Even if it’s a great deal, you need to wait and look for deals closer to when you actually need an item. Resist tying up money in future needs and wants. Liquid cash is more important than a stockpile of stuff. 
  4. You’re buying poor quality items. Spaving only works if your items are of good quality and will last. (And nonperishable.) A TV you buy on sale for $80 that breaks in a year isn’t worth it. Now you’re out $80, plus more to replace the broken TV. You would have been better off buying a good quality TV that will last you for years. Buying a bunch of food or toiletries you can’t use before they go bad is also not good spaving. When they go bad and get tossed, it’s wasted money. Put your spaving efforts toward necessities you can use, or high quality “want” items. 

Spaving can save you money if you spave wisely, or it can ruin you. If you can afford to buy items ahead of your needs on sale, you can dodge some price increases and get good deals on the items you use. You can keep a stockpile of items bought at reduced prices to get you through an emergency or to give as last minute gifts. You’ll have planned ahead and spent money to save money when it made the most sense. Awareness of your true financial picture, how much money you have available to spend on future needs (and a clear idea of those future needs), are the keys to spaving wisely and well. 

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