Spending to save. In this latest language mash-up, I bring you ‘spaving’ – the questionable idea that you can save money by spending it. You’d know it if you’ve ever felt the urge.

Spaving happens when the reason we’re spending is not because we need or even want something, but because we think we’re saving money. We tally the supposed savings in our heads instead of noticing how much we are out of pocket in the process.

And if we’re talking about truly saving money, in the sense of accumulating wealth, spaving is a mathematical impossibility: you cannot really save if you’re spending, right?

Spaved with good intentions

  • You’ve queued up extra early for the department store sale, looking forward to getting $150 worth of clothes for $100. You find something flattering, but you haven’t reached $100 yet, so you throw in a few more things that don’t quite fit… but they may someday.
  • You’ve headed to a hardware chain, looking for a $4 ball of twine. You emerge with a circular saw marked down by $80. You’ll use it someday, especially for more jobs that require even more… hardware. (“Lower prices are just the beginning”)
  • You’re trolleying up and down the market aisles, looking for washing powder in bulk. You’ve got the room to store more at home, so why not stock up and save? You end up overlooking that one 2kg box is actually more expensive than two 1kg ones.
  • You’re on to the Christmas sales in February – way ahead of yourself and scoring serious deals for next year’s gifts. It’s always good to have extra presents at the ready, and you can always give them away, right? When December comes, however, the kids have moved on – they’re asking Santa for entirely different things.

Retail spin

Retailers love the idea of spaving, and for good reason – it helps them sell more. While they might take a loss on some products, they know they will make it back by selling more volume. That’s why we often can get those low prices only by buying significantly more stuff.

Retailers have already got their plan for your money – do you have yours?

The other thing that’s going on here is something called ‘anchoring’, which retailers use to fix in our minds what something usually costs. We all compare prices by anchoring to something and comparing the difference.

Once that anchor is in place, retailers can then use a teaser rate that is much lower in order to make us feel like we’re saving huge amounts. And everyone loves a good deal.

Spaving is not bargain hunting

“It’s not a bargain if you don’t need it,” a friend’s grandmother used to chide. Truer words were never spoken.

Remember, just because you’ve found a coupon or a deal on something, it doesn’t mean you really need or even want it. But if you end up buying it anyway, that’s just spaving.

If it’s buy two for the price of one, and you don’t really need the two, that’s just spaving. Take T-shirts, for example, at one for $20 or two for $30. If you buy the two, sure you will have saved $10, but you will have really spent $10 more than you really needed or wanted to.

In contrast, here’s what a real bargain looks like: not long ago a colleague saw a stunning red, reversible blazer in a shop window, went in and tried it on, but decided that the $380 price tag didn’t fit her plan. Months later she was thrilled to find the same blazer had been marked down at the shop to $58! (And since it’s reversible, that’s only $29 per jacket…)

A true find, and no spaving in sight.

Comments (12)

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11:45am | 9 Jun 2021

I think spaving is one of the main reasons that people spend more than what their budget might be, it is important to be aware of how easy it is to spave. But in some situations spaving could be good if you can get your second item for cheaper if you needed it.

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11:40am | 9 Jun 2021

i think sometimes spaving can be good and bad.

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9:15am | 18 May 2021

I think spaving is a good marketing technique and is good for retailers, but it means you are impulsively buying something that you don't need or really want, which wastes your money and means you will throw away in only a short time later.

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5:41pm | 2 Mar 2021

It will not help if you buy something you don't need.

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2:12pm | 19 Nov 2020

i think that spaving is very helpful and good technique for retailers. however its very good to understand what you need and want and just because it has a discount or a barging does not mean you need it or need to buy.

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8:13pm | 1 Nov 2020

I think spaving is highly beneficial for retailers, and an impressive marketing technique. I am guilty of spaving, and I didn't realize it until now. While you think you are saving that extra $20, you are really spending extra because you don't need it in the first place. I think this article can teach us that it is important to know what you need or want and stick to that. Wants often change over time, so if you buy something in bulk, you may find that you only used half of it and threw the rest away. Spaving is a marketing technique that all customers should be aware of.

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william jenner

4:51pm | 17 Sep 2020

I think it is important to know about "spaving".

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10:12am | 23 Apr 2020

I think Spaving is a good and bad thing because, it makes you think more about what your buying. It's saying plan your budget and stick to it while shopping to save more. but also its kind of telling you to buying out of impulse on stuff that's on sale when you might not even be using it in the future. But it was a good article to read.

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12:31pm | 22 Apr 2020

Sometimes it's best not to plan ahead on things, because the need for an item might change in time. When your out shopping for food always look at the prices of all the different options when buying an item as, you might get a bargain! If your walking home and you stop by in a clothing store and you look a skirt and think "that's nice" when you have already got 5 skirts at home so, think before you buy.

Gravatar for Tyler Wray

Tyler Wray

1:25am | 6 Dec 2019

Spaving seems like you have to be aware and understand this concept when making a purchase as it can work in your favour or against. You just have to have a plan or budget then stick to it when you go to the shops. There is a lot of clever marketing that is specially designed to get you to spend more money.