Dec 02

When is the Right Time to Buy?

four-seasonsDon’t you remember what your mom always said growing up when you wanted to do something stupid that all your friends were doing?

“If Billy jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?”

Lots of times I would answer “yes” under my breath before I gave up arguing.  I knew once that line came out, all hope was lost.

Mom had good advice, though.  It’s usually a safe bet that if everyone’s doing it, there’s something to be suspicious about.

We know this, but we’re social creatures.  We want to do what our friends are doing.  We want to fit in.

Well, guess what all your friends do?  They buy air conditioners, fans, and drapes in the middle of the summer because it’s sunny and they’re hot.

In the winter, they switch course and pick up space heaters, sweatshirts, and extra insulation for their homes.  Makes sense. It’s cold out.

They repeat this buying pattern ad infinitum.  They run into a situation that causes them discomfort and immediately seek to fix it.

Perfectly natural reaction, but it’s draining their wallets and not doing any favors for the planet since they’re not likely to make wise, earth friendly decisions when the gun’s to their head.

You don’t want to be like that.  Every salesman knows the fastest way to make a ton of money is to sell stuff to people that are desperate.

Side note: If you’re behind on rent and desperate for cash, consider selling Viagra, hair loss formulas, or air conditioners (but only in the summer).

I want to help everyone make eco-friendly purchases and save money when they need to solve problems like being miserably hot or cold.  And I don’t want anyone to suffer through half-ass solutions because they can’t afford to do the right thing at the last moment.

That’s why I want you to start planning out your seasonal purchases so that you can save all kinds of money.

I’m not going to say “all it takes is a little planning.” That would be making light of it.  You’re busy.  I’m busy.  We’ve got a lot on our minds every day.

When it’s hot outside, it’s hard to think about what you’ll need when it gets cold.  When you’re sitting in your house freezing your buns off, the last thing on your mind is how miserable you’ll be when it’s 100° and you’ve got no drapes to keep the sun out.

But this is kind of thinking is exactly what’s necessary.

A new furnace is expensive no matter when you buy it, but it’s really expensive if you wait until the middle of winter when you can’t go a day without it.  Buy it in the summer and take your time choosing the most efficient one that fits inside your budget.  You’ll get more for your money because there’s no pressure to buy.

I have an old window air conditioner from back in my less than earth conscious days sitting in my basement.  Last summer when it was over 100° for a week straight, Portland, Oregon was completely sold out air conditioners.  People were paying hundreds of dollars for tiny old units like mine on Craigslist.

I honestly considered selling it before my conscience kicked back in.  Now, in December, I’d be lucky if I could give it away.

When you plan ahead for your future needs, you take away the power those salesmen wield in times of desperation and give it back to yourself.

Now, every situation is different and certain types of items require slightly different tactics to get the best deal, but here are a few questions to ask yourself when you decide that you no longer want to be at the mercy of the market:

When is everyone else buying it?

If all your friends buy it during the winter, could you save by buying it in the summer?  Maybe a better option is to buy it right at the end of the season its intended for?

Here’s a seasonal buying guide from Kiplinger for common consumer goods and services to get your thinking on the right track.

For the eco-aware, you’ll want to start taking that information and overlapping it with the greenest options of whatever you’re looking for.

What’s the most responsible option for me?

With all the time you now have to plan, what’s the best choice for you?

When you buy in the moment, you’re likely to overpay for features that you don’t really need and give little thought to the environmental impact of your purchases.  Figure out what you really need and don’t pay for more.

On the other hand, when you’re desperate, you’re also likely to pay for something inadequate that serves as little more than a temporary band aid.

Do I really need this at all?

When you’re lost in a sea of agony and just want something to fix your problem, you’re more willing to pay for something you don’t actually need at all.

By planning and giving yourself time to find the best option, you might realize that there are other, much better choices to solve your problem.

You might have thought you needed air conditioning to beat the agonizing heat, but, after running the numbers, you realize that more home insulation and a few carefully placed ceiling fans can keep you cool all summer.

Without the time to consider all your options, you’re less likely to think of alternatives.

If you’re a busy person, it can be tough to get your mind out of the present and plan for the future, but doing so can unlock a whole lot of new opportunities for you.

Try to find one day, maybe on a weekend, each season, where you can plan out your future needs and strategize how best to meet them.

Do you have any tips for making the most responsible purchases? Have any rules that you follow to make sure you buy at the right time for you?


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  1. Wojciech Kulicki

    I really enjoyed this post–I’ve been thinking a lot lately about fighting the urgency mindset and how we can prevent it, and this fits right in.

    As you point out, planning is key, and avoiding situations where you only have one viable option to fix the problem.

    In many cases, it’s much cheaper to get something “way ahead of time” when it seems like we’re wasting money, rather then “right then and there” when it feels like we’re not wasting it at all, because–well “we had to get it.” :)

  2. Michael Thomas

    Wojciech – You’re right. I think a lot of peoples’ procrastination isn’t necessarily tied to their inability to plan ahead, but their denial that they’ll eventually need what they know they will. When it’s a long ways off, it can be hard to tell what’s “wasting money” and what isn’t. That’s when good ol’ critical thinking and planning really comes in handy.

    By the way, I’m embarrassed to ask, but I really want to know…how do you pronounce your name?

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