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)

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.

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11:09am | 20 Sep 2019

I think spaving is more bad than good. It's more like you're buying out of impulse since you see it's and bargain when in reality you likely might not be using these goods in the future.

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9:07am | 4 Apr 2019

I think spaving is sometimes a good option but a lot of the time when you are shopping you need to stop and think about where your money is really going.... Good article!

Gravatar for anonymous


10:48am | 22 May 2018

Spaving sounds interesting, in all honesty I have done this before and then regretting once realising I didnt need what i bought, however sometimes this has worked well. I think when your considering Spaving you need to reason weather you will actually use everything you buy (consider when you will use it and weather buying in advance is sensible).

Gravatar for anonymous


10:05am | 16 May 2018

Spaving sounds like a good idea sometimes, you are buying something for future use and are therefore saving money in the end, but despite this at the same time it is getting you to spend more money and even sometimes wasting it if you decide you don't like the product or if it expires before you get to use it all.

Gravatar for anonymous


9:23am | 14 May 2018

Spaving is a good way in which you can get cheap stuff for your future use. But also in some ways its bad, like if you were intending to save money but something was on sale and you bought it then you would be saving less. Also stuff on sale might not always be the thing you want and sometimes if you buy it and decided you don't like it and not want it you would be wasting money.

Gravatar for anonymous


4:59pm | 29 Nov 2017

Spaving is an interesting idea in and of itself. In certain ways it can be beneficial, and in other ways it's not. In retrospect, you can't save money when you're spending it, and spaving is just another trick to get you to spend more money on things we don't need or want.

Gravatar for anonymous


10:01am | 14 Dec 2016

This is a great article about 'spaving.' I totally agree, you can't save money when you're spending it, and spaving is just another trick to get you to spend more money on things we don't need or want. Thankfully, I have a wonderful mother who has already seen past this trick and has alerted me of it.

Gravatar for Tahlia


2:40pm | 4 Nov 2016

In some ways spaving seems like it could pay off (if you really like a t-shirt that's $20 for 1 & $30 for two, you've got two t-shirts that you really like. If something happens to one, you've got another one to wear & you've saved $10), but is probably bad in most cases. Buying like that on impulse is rarely a good thing & a lot of the time you'll probably end up with something you don't want or need just because it was half price.

Gravatar for anonymous


10:56am | 18 Oct 2016

spaving seems like a good idea in some ways. buying cheaper clothes instead of buying expensive clothes just for the brands or waiting till they come down in price.