The War of Receipts

Photo Credit: Adam Ellis

How many of you have had a similar internal struggle like in the above comic?

Not so much with visible, miniature, angels and demons, but with trying to find ways to justify a purchase that you should or shouldn’t make.

The thought of spending $1,000 on something is horrifying, but if you slightly shift the way you view that money “I’ll save $3,000 if I buy this today,” you trick your mind (and your guilty conscience) into thinking that this purchase is actually beneficial to your bank account.  

I’ve got a secret for you – companies know that you do this, and they exploit it.

Kohl’s I think is one of the worst places that does this.  Their receipts are purposely skewed so that your eye goes directly to the savings rather than the total.  Let’s take a look at a receipt.

Look at that big bold text right dead center of the receipt.  Total Saved: $356.44.


When we get these receipts I see that large savings smile appear on my wife’s face.  “Look at all this stuff we got and all this money we saved!”  She says.  “What a great deal we got!”

She’s not wrong either.  Knowing that you are saving money on purchases is a really important thing.  I don’t know anyone that prefers to pay full price on all purchases when they could get it cheaper from somewhere else.

However ladies, I’ve got a secret for you from the male side of the house.  We don’t look at how much money that we saved.  While we smile and tell you “This sure was a great deal!”, inside all we are looking at is the total money spent…and usually cringing inside.

Thus – the war of receipts continues.  

More and more, companies are putting savings on their receipts, and more and more the buyer’s logic is skewed to associate spending money with saving money.  This is a huge problem!

According to CNN Money, “6 out of 10 Americans don’t have $500 in savings”.  6 out of 10!  That’s 60% of the American public that don’t have enough money in savings to afford their furnace breaking in the middle of winter.

“But Onesheet!  Before my furnace broke I went to Kohls and I saved $600 on my purchase!”

To that I say, “Where is that $600?  Is it in your bank account?  Can you fix your furnace now?”

The answer is a resounding no, because the money you “saved” on your purchase at Kohls, wasn’t really money that you saved, it is money that they are telling you that you saved because of markdowns and clearance sales.  No money is actually saved for you, the money is only spent.

It’s a huge problem, which I could delve deeper into and talk about how we’ve created a company centric culture revolving solely around the profitability of companies, that they are willing to do anything (including drive the public into massive amounts of debt) to make sure they are earning money.

But I won’t do that today.

What I will say is that we all need to take a step back away from our receipts, commercials, and mailers, and take a hard look at our financial state.

If you are part of the 60% of American’s that can’t afford an emergency – we need to get you into the 40% who can.  

Here are some steps to avoid the War of Receipts – and to put yourself into a safe, financial place, where you can take on whatever comes at you.

Step 1: When you get a mailer from Kohls or Victoria’s Secret – don’t read it, chuck it in the recycling.

“But OneSheet!  There was a 30% scratch off on that Kohls mailer and a free pair of underwear from Victoria’s Secret”.

That’s okay – they’re going to send you 500 more over the next two weeks – you can let’ them go the sales will never go away.

Step 2:  When you want to make a purchase on an item – add everything you want to your shopping cart and look at the total.  DON’T YOU DARE PRESS PURCHASE!  Instead, take that total and transfer that money into your savings account.

By doing this you’ll see the money come out of your account, and you’ll have the satisfying feeling of spending money – you actually aren’t spending money.

Step 3:  Get a savings account!  Even if it is simply a SmartyPig that you transfer money into.

You need to have a separate account where you can transfer funds, that will hopefully have an interest rate accrued to it.

Step 4: Watch your money grow!

By and large I am not saying “never buy anything for yourself ever again”.  Life wouldn’t be as fun if you couldn’t treat yourself, but you have to be able to take care of yourself to make sure that you can enjoy life to it’s fullest.

By exercising these little pieces of control, you really will have something to celebrate when you see the “Total Saved” portion of your receipts!

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1 Response

  1. Andrea says:

    Very good points! I battle with myself constantly this way. My problem is sometimes that’s it’s not even something I need or really want, but at THAT price, how can I pass it up? I like the idea of transferring money to savings when you prepare to buy online, very cool!

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