In my line of work, and this is not entirely irrelevant to yours, a man succeeds or fails less by how much he earns than in how wisely he spends. Neither is beyond a measure of one’s control, but one surely more than the other.
Though without perfect success, I’ve always tried to avoid saying, and laughed at others who say, “If only I had more money…”
That’s much like saying “I’d have won the election of only more people had voted for me”.
Money is a unit of measure more than anything else. It is a means of calculation. Money is not the value it represents. And so, though I sometimes fail to resist this temptation myself, it features prominently in my thinking that people who complain about money are complaining about something they do not understand. Much complaining, it might be too obvious to warrant mention, takes this form. This is not to say that there is nothing to complain about with money as such, but the things worth complaining about pertaining to money are rarely pertinent to the reasons one complains about their lack of it.
So, among the things that has occupied entirely too much of my time since coming home is shopping for things which in some cases I am very unlikely ever to buy. I try to know how much things cost, and this was quite the burdensome task after being taken off the streets for three years during which inflation spiraled out of control, supply chains were disrupted, technology changed dramatically, and all manner of chicanery was instituted by retailers to further confuse shoppers on top of this.
Most notably, when grocery shopping, I pay less attention to the price of the item sold than to the unit price. It once was that I could go to the supermarket and see how much the product costed per ounce or per pound, and compare alternatives along those lines. Today I notice that with similar products all next to one another on a shelf, one unit price will be “per each” the other “per pound” the other “per ounce” and I am then tasked with breaking out a calculator and translating this into calculable and comparable units. This has led to the isles being clogged with confused shoppers and making me want to run out the door cursing up a storm, or to take one of them hostage and demand an end to the dishonest practice.
I’ve thus far managed to avoid giving into this temptation, in part by doing much more of my shopping online.
More than groceries, the tools of my trade are a complex market. This has become ever more complex as I have tried to increase my capacities in the market for video. It used to be that the Radical Agenda was a radio show with a studio cam, but the times they are a’changin…
It is almost axiomatic that to go to the store and purchase a thing on any given Tuesday is the equivalent of setting money on fire. To pay retail prices is to waste money. Unless you are traveling and need a thing unexpectedly in the moment, this is the behavior of fools.
Since I do not like to think of myself as a fool, it is part of my near daily routine to browse online retailers like Amazon and Walmart, as well as discount sites like SlickDeals.net, and RetailMeNot.com. This, in order to see what products are discounted, by how much, and how frequently these discounts occur. I do not take meticulous notes about this, but for those things of particular interest to me, notably in recent history, computer graphics cards, and anything for the home that can help make more efficient use of space, I pay very close attention and get a very good idea of what I consider the “real price” to be.
The “real price” as I use the term here, is the lowest cost of the item one can reasonably expect to find within a year. Retail prices are a convenience fee. You pay more, to avoid waiting. In some cases, to pay more to avoid a wait is a worthwhile thing, such as the aforementioned travel reference. Without such time sensitive requirements, it is altogether more prudent to wait for a sale.
And so with the notorious “Black Friday” sales approaching, the first such sale event I’ve experienced since COVID, Joe Biden, and Ukraine turned our world upside down, I have eagerly anticipated the chance to know, just how low the prices can go.
This event is not yet upon us, of course. But retailers understand quite well they can invoke the phrase “Black Friday” to conjure in the minds of shoppers, the idea that a deal is too good to pass up.
In recent days, Walmart has been touting their “Early Black Friday Deals” to which Walmart+ members gain exclusive access.
I had once been a Walmart+ subscriber. This subscription was one of the first things I purchased when I came home, because Walmart offered free same day delivery on orders over, off the top of my head I think it was $35. This seemed quite a bargain, being an Amazon Prime member for nearly $15/month, and after I had just paid $99 for a year of Instacart membership, now that the Walmart+ subscription was discounted to $49 down from the regular $99.
Over the summer I purchased an electric scooter, an Evercross H5 which seemed a great deal but has caused me a bit of hassle. I was so frustrated over a customer service situation that I threatened to cancel my subscription and demand a refund. I ultimately did this, and received my refund, and ever since I have been met with invitations to rejoin the service at full price, literally every single time I go to the Walmart app or website. Since I do this quite often, this has been the source of unending irritation to me.
The subscription fee was again discounted in recent weeks and today I was told it was my last chance to get the discounted membership, and that if I did get this membership, I would get exclusive early access to the Black Friday deals. Myself being not immune to the frailties of human psychology, I bit. Today I became a Walmart+ subscriber once again for $49, and went to see how quickly I could recoup my losses by purchasing discounted items.
Suffice it to say, I will not make up for this today. As I browsed these “Black Friday” deals, on a Wednesday two weeks out, it became obvious to me that these were nothing of the sort. Products are marked as being 50% off or more, but they are actually quite comparable to whatever the regular sale prices have been throughout the year. Had I not been browsing these prices all year prior, I’d likely have been taken for a bit of a ride.
There’s plenty more to say on this and plenty in the news, but I’ll get this email out for now and I’ll see you this evening at 9:30pm US Eastern, as we do every Wednesday with our members.
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