Something about spring makes me want to wash the windows, clean out the closets, and go shopping. I'd probably be just fine if I stuck to the first two items on the list, but I always seem to find a little time amid the cleaning chores to go hunting for a fabulous spring handbag. I think retailers probably know that we're ready to throw off the winter doldrums and open our wallets to invite in the warmth of spring. At times like this, I try to remind myself that playing good defense can sometimes prevent the worst purchases.
If you're struck by some spring fever, be wary about falling under the spell of these favorite retailing temptations.
Spring sales event!
A special dress discount, or a limited-time sale on strappy spring sandals, can catch the eye of even the most frugal shopper. Even if you make a beeline straight to the sales rack, it's hard not to get distracted by all the other new offerings dangling on hangers at the front of the store. If you want to shop the sales, stick to the sales. On the other hand, buying something inessential just because it's on sale doesn't make it a bargain. That's still money wasted on something that will sit at the back of your closet until next year's spring-cleaning rituals. Resist the urge to buy anything you don't really need.
Special spring discount!
I don't know about you, but my mailbox is quickly filling up with spring catalogs and special discount coupons. The catalogs tempt, and the coupons practically scream, "What are you doing at home? Get into the store before this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity runs out!" Never mind that you'll probably get another coupon in a month or two, and that the spring items will go on sale as soon as summer styles start coming into vogue. Take advantage of the discounts if you need a new item, but otherwise, resist the false urgency these expiring offers create.
Cosmetic counters like to promise that if you just stop by and let a lovely saleslady help you update your look for spring, you can get a free cosmetic bag full of goodies. Unfortunately, these "free" gifts come with a price -- usually a minimum purchasing requirement. That's often just the incentive you need to splurge on that pricey eye cream that promises to erase the last 10 years of stress and sleepless nights. Realize that the extra money you spend is the price you're paying for the so-called free gift. You probably won't like half the samples in that free cosmetic bag, anyway.
I'm not a morning person. The idea of an all-day shopping extravaganza starting at 6 a.m. is enough to make me pull the shades tighter and stuff the alarm clock under a pillow. But, if you're the type to leap out of bed for a bargain, it's easy to reach for everything in the store. After all, it's on sale today, and you know it won't be on sale tomorrow. But will you actually use the item tomorrow? Or the day after? Or ever? The limited-time offer is just another trick to create false urgency.
The beautiful new you!
It's the truly insidious lure of spring fashion events. Designers like Polo Ralph Lauren
This year, I'm trying to work off the extra winter pounds with some energetic spring cleaning and gardening. I've recycled most of the catalogs and hidden the coupons out of sight. There may be a bargain out there, but I'm going to resist the urge to splurge as long as possible.
Fool contributor Mary Dalrymple will probably see you at the mall sometime this spring, and she welcomes your feedback. She doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.