Before Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) created Prime Day, retailers tried to make the 4th of July a retail holiday. There are, of course, still sales around Independence Day, but the big retail push comes when the online leader tells the public when its summer shopping holiday will occur.

This year, that's on July 15 and 16, with Amazon offering major deals for its members for two full days. Once those dates became public, Target and other retailers follow up with their own blowout sales, theoretically benefiting consumers.

If you think of it like Black Friday weekend in July, you're not wrong. However, I'll mostly be sitting on the sidelines -- and maybe you should, too.

An Amazon tractor trailer.

Amazon Prime Day offer deals, but you're only saving money if you buy things you need. Image source: Amazon.

It's about perspective

When you buy a $200 item you don't need for $100, you didn't save $100 because the item was on sale. You wasted $100 on an item you didn't need.

I'm an impulse shopper, and I'm lucky enough to be able to comfortably afford any small purchases I make. If it's under $100 I don't generally plan for it, and I buy it when I want (which explains why I own an Instant Pot, multiple takes on a slow cooker, four coffee makers across two houses, and a variety of other kitchen devices).

When it comes to bigger purchases, however, my wife and I plan fairly meticulously. This year, for example, we replaced our flooring in our main home. It was needed and expected, but it was also a major expense.

Because we budgeted for the floor, we decided to put off buying new living room furniture until next year. We could afford it, but spending that $2,000 to $4,000 would dip into our reserves or involve using credit cards (and we don't do that unless we can pay the bill at the end of the month, aside from emergencies).

So even though Prime Day will have great deals on things I want, there's nothing on our immediate shopping list. Because of that, I'll be sitting out the shopping event, aside from picking up some minor items like phone charging cables (which you can never have enough of) and batteries (it's hurricane season here in South Florida) if the deals on those items make it worth it.

What should you do?

Before Prime Day, make a shopping list of items you need that you plan to buy in the immediate future. You may also consider making a list of bigger-ticket items you plan to purchase over the next few months. Make sure your list includes the normal prices of those items.

If Prime Day offers major deals on anything on your list, and you have the money to buy it, go ahead and do so. Since you're getting something you planned to purchase, you're actually saving money if you're buying the item on sale.

Prime Day, just like Black Friday, creates a lot of pressure to be in on the action. Social media fills up with images and stories of all the purchases people make. But if you don't need it or can't afford it, avoid the temptation. Go to the beach, take a hike, go see a movie. Do something that takes you away from temptation and focus on your longer-term financial health instead of buying things you may quickly regret (like my Instant Pot and air fryer).

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.