As consumers, we are bombarded by a lot of rules and advice about the purchases we make. Do this, don’t do that, buy this, buy often, and so on. However, most of this “helpful advice” comes from the very people who have a significant stake in seeing us open our wallets more often. Here are six common shopping myths that we have debunked. Don’t fall for the hype.
1. Black Friday is the best day of the year for deals
The frenzy surrounding Black Friday makes it feel like the ultimate shopping day. This is the day you’ll get all of those bargains just before the holidays; you are going to save a fortune, right? Well…yes and no.
There are some legitimately crazy-great deals on Black Friday, but they are extremely limited and go quickly. The other deals throughout the day are not guaranteed to be the lowest prices of the year. In fact, many items can be less expensive at other times during the year. You will also be bombarded with prices that are compared to the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price), which is seldom the regular retail price, even when there’s no sale. And, of course, online deals and Cyber Monday give you similar chances to save. (See also: 6 Genius Ways to Save on Cyber Monday)
2. Replace your mattress every 7-10 years
A good rule to remember with a mattress is YMMV (your mileage may vary). Depending on the quality of your mattress, how it is used, how you care for it, what mattress protector you use (if any) and a host of other factors, you could easily get 15 or more years from your mattress.
If you are away on business a lot, and live alone, it could last 20 years. On the other hand, you may need to replace it earlier than seven years if you have kids using it as a trampoline every day, it’s a low end mattress with a low coil count, or it has suffered from significant spills, accidents, and other damage. It’s like an oil change, or a pair of sneakers. It’s not the age of the mattress — it’s the mileage.
Once you realize you’re waking up stiff and sore, and you’re tossing and turning at night, it’s time to start looking around. But don’t believe an arbitrary number given to you by companies invested in making money off new sales.
3. Any food past its sell-by-date must be thrown away
This is another rule we follow blindly, causing people all over the globe to waste one-third of all food. We follow the rule because of the date on the package, also known as a “best before date” or “best by” and these are all just as confusing. The sell-by date is a guide given to stores so that they keep only the freshest produce on the shelves.
However, there is a huge difference between freshest and edible. Those dates are not meant for consumers to live by. Food can remain good for days, weeks, months, or even years after those sell-by dates. Canned goods, including low-acid foods like meat, vegetables, and fish, may be good for up to five years, according to the USDA. (See also: A Quick Guide to Expiration Dates and Food Safety)
You have to use your best judgment, and your senses. Does it look good, smell good, feel good, and taste good? It’s probably fine. If you get a whiff of something you don’t like, it feels slimy or unusual, or just sets off red flags, then trash it. But don’t throw away anything based on some arbitrary date given to ensure maximum freshness. You’re literally throwing money into the garbage.
4. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend
Sure, Marilyn, Sheryl Crow, Prince, Shirley Bassey, and Miranda Lambert have all crooned about diamonds. The ads you see on TV and online make it seem like gifts of diamond rings, necklaces, and earrings are the best possible gift to get for a woman. But it’s all just fakery, marketing hype, and clever campaigning centered around the DeBeers brand.
For decades, DeBeers has been stockpiling diamonds to keep the price artificially high. And in the ’80s, they released an odious campaign announcing that “you can’t look at Jane and tell me she’s not worth two months’ salary.” Actually, she’s worth a lot more. Your partner is priceless, but the ring on her finger? It’s almost worthless once you put it on there.
If any woman believes that the ring on her finger is insurance against things going wrong, she is sorely mistaken. That $10,000 diamond ring will fetch between $2,000 and $3,000 on the secondary market — if you’re lucky.
Diamonds are only worth about 19.7 percent of the original price once you leave the store. Unlike an investment, a diamond never goes up in value. Get simulated diamonds for a fraction of the price, or a different gemstone altogether. Spend the rest of the money on gold, property, or something that has a much better shot of going up in value over the years. (See also: 3 Great Reasons to Choose a Secondhand Engagement Ring)
5. Bulk-buying always saves you money
Can you save money buying in bulk? Of course you can. The warehouse clubs with annual membership fees are excellent for certain products, and you should take advantage of them. But don’t blindly assume that bigger is better. Sometimes, the per-item cost is actually more expensive in a bulk pack. Examine the labels closely, and see if what you’re paying per item, or per ounce, is the best deal. (See also: 6 Creative Ways to Save Money With Bulk Buying)
6. Outlet stores are your best bet for high-end discount goods
Who doesn’t love shopping in outlet stores? You see these big brands everywhere, and then look at the price tags with shock; 70, 80, and even 90 percent off! This is a frugal shopper’s dream.
Well, not quite. Outlet stores propagate the myth that high-quality unsold items are being sold at a fraction of their original price. They maintain that these are last season’s goods that rich people buy at full price, and you can grab them at a bargain because you don’t care about being on-trend. This is all false.
As reported by BuzzFeed, barely 10 percent of the inventory in an outlet store is left over from the original full-price stores. Most of it is made specifically for these outlets, using lower-quality materials from “brand-appropriate” vendors. They may carry labels you love, but these are not of the quality you will ever find on the racks in Nordstrom, Saks, Gap, and the like.