Dear Rabbi: Your Talmudic Advice Column
Often when I go shopping or order merchandise online I feel compelled to search and search to get the very best deal. After I buy something, if I find out later that I could have gotten the item cheaper, I feel so disappointed with myself. I’m afraid I may have a bargain-hunting disorder. What can I do about this?
Desperately Seeking Deals in Demarest
There is nothing wrong with looking for a good deal or trying to save money when you shop. Effective negotiation in transactions is valued as a desirable skill. Frugality is considered by many to be a virtue. Some religions raised the frugality trait to an overt ethical ideal. Quakers and Puritans in America for instance have encouraged a lifestyle of modest spending in combination with helping others through charity.
On the other hand, sadly we Jews are sometimes stereotyped unfairly and negatively for our frugality.
Our consumer culture in America pushes us through its commercial interests towards conspicuous consumption and lavish spending as the goals of a good life. That’s obviously contradictory to any aims at prudent thrift.
I don’t know if you are in the end lavish or frugal. Your problem appears to be that you feel driven to a near compulsion to get the absolute best deal on whatever you buy, be it a big ticket item or a small purchase.
So let me assure you outright: It is okay to pay retail. I give you permission to do that. You do not have to always get the best price or deal on everything that you buy. That may not be a profound insight. But sometimes it helps if a neutral third party just tells you that.
And if you do manage to go retail, and yet your “disorder” persists and you feel that paying retail is a personal shortcoming, something like a sin, then I have an additional suggestion to help you deal with what you perceive to be a failure in your behavior.
On Yom Kippur in the alphabetical confession of our sins that we recite in the synagogue, the “Ashamnu,” you can quietly add one more lapse to your catalog: “Retail-nu.”