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Fool Price

I had to purchase a new pair of bluejeans recently. They are the only jeans I own. My previous pair, tattered after two years of literal wear and tear, were beyond repair. Soon the boots I’ve worn since age 29, now sole-less and scuffed from twelve seasons of use, must be replaced. I’ll purchase a new pair this week.

The bluejeans were $100, the boots $300. Full Price, both of them.

I avoid Sale Price whenever I can, and opt instead to pay Full Price: even though I don’t earn a lot of money, I tend to purchase higher quality items—not for their brand names, but because I’m willing to pay more for things that look good, work well, and last long.

Because I’m responsible with money, the higher priced, higher quality items actually cost less over time—I use them till they’re finished: I wore my jeans roughly 700 times, my boots 1,000; therefore, I paid only 14¢ each time I pulled on my pants, 30¢ each time I stepped into my shoes.

The reason I avoid Sale Price, though, has less to do with quality or money, and more to do with my impulses. I prefer to pay Full Price because it forces me to question the purchase: when I discover something I want to buy, I must think it over and spend time budgeting for it—all the while questioning if the new possession will add real value to my life.

Conversely, Sale Price is the compulsory price—a fool’s price.

Not long ago, I played the fool. Repeatedly. I fell for all the tropes of Sale Price: Act now! Limited time only! While supplies last! Like Pavlov’s bell, these clever stratagems incite a false sense of scarcity that clouds our perception of reality, and thus prod us to act on impulse: you might save 70% off the clearance-rack dress you sort of like, but you’ll save 100% if you just leave the store without it.

When I pay Full Price my purchase is deliberate. But even if the jeans or boots are less expensive, I’ll still purchase them—if I need them, not because they’re on sale.

Read this essay and 150 others in our new book, Essential.