Paying Full Price

Photo: Huffington Post

Photo: Huffington Post

“I never pay full price for anything,” is a popular humble-brag: I am declaring myself a whiz at negotiating, or using the marketplace in my favour. I am saying I have the best research skills or I know all the best stores. I am saying that corporations and rip-off artists can’t get the best of me!

I pay full price for stuff all the time. There are lots of reasons:

Need: Sometimes I need something and I can’t or won’t wait for it to go on sale. For example, if my electric kettle were to stop working, I wouldn’t boil water on the stovetop for a month while I waited for the price of kettles to come down. Or, if I ran out of tea, I wouldn’t wait for the price of tea to be reduced, nor would I buy the cheapest brand available.

Planning: In an ideal world, I’d stock up on tea when it was on sale, or I’d start checking sales flyers for kettles when I first suspected mine was on the fritz. Failing to plan costs more.

Accidents and the Unexpected: I should realize when I’m about to run out of tea. I can prepare! But, my kettle could just suddenly not heat up any more. I may have to replace something that breaks or wears out without warning.

Photo: Amazon

Photo: Amazon

Desire: I want what I want when I want it! I could get a craving for Earl Grey Lavender tea and come back with 50 grams for $15 – an impulse buy. Or I could see one of the new see-through electric kettles in a department store and think, “I have to have that!”

Justice: I will pay more for fair trade products, or something handmade locally, or to support a business whose values I believe in. I will pay more to buy an item in my neighbourhood as opposed to driving across town to buy it a bit cheaper.

No Substitutions: Sometimes the cheapest brand is just not acceptable. For example, I have bought the $15-20 drip coffee makers more than once, and the heating element on them has reliably failed after one year. I could read reviews and buy a longer-lasting product, or use a French press!

Photo: Barbours

Photo: Barbours

Loyalty and Nostalgia: When I lived in Saskatchewan, I had my family send me Morse’s Tea from the Maritimes because that’s what I was raised on, and there was nothing else like it. But the company was bought out, and they changed their tea bags from gauze to paper. The bigger corporation says the tea is the same blend, but I don’t believe it! I found an easily-available national brand that met my standards.

No Offers: Some things just never go on sale. Occasionally I have hoped to score an item from a store going out of business. Surely I can buy it at the closing-out sale! Nope, they sell all their inventory to a liquidator.

Photo: Examiner

Photo: Examiner (via BBC)

Rarity: When something commands a premium price and people will pay it, the price will not drop. Remember that civet cat coffee?

The WTF Factor: I have the money and I just don’t care. Haha – just kidding! I would rather save money than waste it, so I can redirect funds to things I feel are worth it.

So are there things I never pay full price for?

Some people never pay full price for flights or hotels or meals. I have. Some never pay full price for cars or clothes. I have. I see “full price” as meaning something different, though. Consumers often think they are getting a deal, when the seller already has a rock-bottom price in mind. So the buyer is paying less than someone who fails to negotiate, but the seller is still getting what she wants. If I see a hotel room “marked down” from $350 a night to $199 a night, and my price limit is $129, is that room really a deal for me? If the MSRP of a new car is $19,999 and the dealer is willing to sell it to me for $17,749, have I pulled the wool over her eyes? I think not.

My pet peeve is when everyday items are marked up, over the normal price, and then put on sale. I know a box of my favourite cereal costs $4.99. I feel ripped off when it’s marked up to $5.29 and then it’s advertised as “on sale” for $4.99 again, as if I should be grateful to get that deal. Of course, when it goes down to $4, I stock up!

I always marvel at the choices each person makes about when to spend freely and when to scrimp. I remember one friend who bought the best wine and the thinnest, scratchiest toilet paper!

What do you never pay full price for? What is always worth full price to you?

This is an update of Splurges and Scrimps (2012).


  1. jollyhollybanolly111

    I am the same as you – I never buy unless I need/realllly want something. I am not much of a consumer. But when I want/need something I want/need it there and then. I will shop around for cheaper prices, of course, but if I see something that is perfect but more expensive/not on sale then that is fine too.

    • Yes, that sounds like my style, too! I hesitate over electronics and do some research, and shop around for pricier things like a winter coat. On the other hand, I will pay more for a direct flight, so I won’t spend an entire day on travel and be done-in when I get there!

  2. Margie in Toronto

    I try to stock up on items that I use on a regular basis when they are on sale – I rarely pay full price for toiletries, paper products, laundry detergent, or food basics such as anything canned, frozen fruit & veg or items such as pasta, rice or cereals. I watch the flyers each week and build up loyalty points.

    I buy undies when Jockey has their yearly sales and take advantage of seniors discounts and other sales as they come up. At the start of a new season I buy a few basics as I’m an awkward fit for clothing and then I wait for sales. I stick to a basic colour palette so that new things will mix and match with existing items.

    I pay full price for things like a favourite tea – good chocolate and good quality shoes and purses (although if I can get them on sale then its a bonus).

    • Hi Margie, I try to keep a happy medium amount of things – I buy 3 or 4 of something if I have space and if it’s something I won’t tire of. I earn points at one store and use them when they build up. I don’t have a system for buying clothes, but my tastes don’t change much either, so I often just restock on things like T-shirts in various colours. I rarely buy an item that would require all new shoes, bags and accessories – I would rather plan my wardrobe around the good ones I have (sounds like you would, too). I buy “good” coffee and occasionally buy expensive local premium coffee. But some things I like cheap n’ cheerful, like jellybeans 🙂

  3. I’ve sometimes given someone selling something secondhand over the asking price when I thought that the price that they were asking was to cheap. A kind of reverse haggling!

    • Haha! Sometimes at crafts fairs and artisan markets I do find the price charged is too low. I wonder if the vendor isn’t knowledgeable about the market, or if the price is sufficient to meet their needs and keep them in business.

  4. I just buy what’s needed when needed… If buying more toliet paper at once makes it cheaper, I’ll do that, but I don’t wait for sales and stock up!! I do watch my milk’s prices, and have seen a ‘true’ reduction in price as lactose free milk has gained a stronger following (it’s other ‘normal’ milk though).

    Buying hotels rooms and flights are a really interesting one! The BF and I are more inclined (now) to buy a direct flight for more than a layover flight. We’ll often ‘pre pay’ for meals (should it be that budget an airline) cause we know it’ll make it worth it on a 7hr flight. And for me, time of flights is important – trying to get a 6 or 7am flight in a new city is not worth the stress of if the public transit will be running etc etc. So I am more willing to pay more when I consider the logistics of transfers and how I might do them.

    But I suppose if I have the luxury of being able to travel, I have the luxury of these choices.

    • I completely agree about the flights. I try to time my flights – sometimes I like to arrive early in the day and have the whole day to do things; sometimes I like to leave mid-day to avoid rush hour in a new city, etc.

      When basics such as toilet paper are not on sale, I buy just enough, and I stock up a little bit on sales, but I don’t have a storage room full of deals – just an extra pack or two in a closet!

      • Speaking of, we need TP, but the BF is being a joker, and it trying to ensure I buy it and walk home with a bulk pack!

  5. Fiona

    I like your list of when you will pay full price. I do the same in all those categories!

    Things that are always worth full price to me are: clothes that are NOT discount-bargain wear, which must be made in sweat-shop conditions. Quality toys that are recyclable vrs non-recyclable plastic-craptastic. Anything recyclable over non-recyclable.

    Things I never pay full price for: I just waited a full year for the Easter Sales to buy expensive outdoor gear for my son. It’s just waaaay too expensive at normal rack rate (and I suspect, well marked-up for the middle-class leisure consumer.)

    Overall, I often feel a bit put off by ‘glee’ over bargains. Sometimes it is justified, but other times I wonder what corners have been cut to give someone that deal (environmental, labour laws etc.) or whose livelihood has been trimmed back. I even sometimes feel guilty waiting for clothing sales to snap up bargains!

    • You have Easter sales? Are they end-of-summer-going-into-Fall sales? I agree about people’s delight in sale prices, and often think ethics go by the wayside. But I have to keep in mind that due to income, many people have few choices (e.g. shop at thrift stores or at Wal-Mart). I have difficulty being consistent about quality clothes because there are so few Canadian-made or North American-made clothing lines. Other than buying from local designers, I feel I am always contributing to the sweatshop problem. So I do try to buy better quality clothes that will last. I sigh because they are usually made in Bangladesh anyway. I’m especially averse to cheap PVC shoes. I am not sure that I feel guilty about waiting for sales. I assume that clothing retailers stock their stores accordingly (knowing that only a small percentage of buyers routinely pay full price). At the grocery store, I will pay more for things that have less junky packaging!

      • Fiona

        I don’t think the Easter sales are widespread but my favourite outdoor gear store has a massive sale each Easter…hundreds off Goretex jackets etc. Huge reductions on $700 kit. I spend a lot of time trying to research the origin of different clothes brands but you’re right…they often seem to track back to Bangladesh. I agree on the PVC shoes!

  6. I hate haggling for things. If there’s a price and I can’t afford it or I don’t think the item is worth that, then I don’t buy it. I find haggling is expected on larger ticket items now, such as furniture and cars. Maybe because of our changing demographics.

    I also think sales are misleading. We seem to have perennial sales here. And people wait until “it’s on sale”. But what does this really mean?

    The price of an item is often just what the market will pay for it. So if there’s a dress I want, and it is likely not to be there, I don’t care if it isn’t on sale. If I’m happy to miss out, I might wait.

    I’d rather pay full price if I knew it meant local shops would provide local employment. I can buy books more cheaply online but prefer supporting book shops. Somethings are worth more than the saving in dollars.

    • I agree with everything you said! I hate haggling and also the feeling of getting ripped off when buying a house or car (because of not haggling enough and knowing the seller might drop the price further if I was willing to walk away). I satisfy myself with paying what I think is fair and not obsessing about it.

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