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I rarely listen to music anymore. I’m not sure if it’s just that I’m becoming an old man (I’m a ripe 27, for gosh-sakes! Can’t keep up with these young whippersnappers!), or that my brain couldn’t process any more Autotune coming through my ears without imploding. Whatever the case, I listen to a lot of talk radio. And it’s funny, the commercials are definitely geared more toward upper middle class citizens (mortgage ReFi, life insurance, investments, that kinda thing), but all the commercials have the same message. “How much money can we save you?” Most of them are fine (heck, I was motivated to refinance my mortgage because of some of them), but some are just plain stupid.
One particularly annoying commercial talks about getting a degree or some crap at on online school. Their big pitch is about all the money you will save when going there (surprise). But the part that KILLS me is their emphasis is on what you will do with “all that extra money!” They ask people what they’re going to do with an extra $500, or $1,000 that they just saved. The only problem I might see in this situation is:
“YOU DIDN’T SAVE ANY MONEY!!“
No real money was saved in these situations, so asking “where are you going to spend that extra money” is ridiculous. IF THEY GO TO YOUR SCHOOL, THEY CHOSE IT BECAUSE IT WAS CHEAPER. END OF STORY. Unless you have saved up the amount you needed to go to some other (supposedly more expensive) online school, and at the last second, happened to find this school, there is no physical money saved at all. When you choose a lower cost option, it’s because you want to pay what you can afford, and if the cheaper school is what you can afford, you don’t have extra money!
Now, I’m all about saving money. Heck, I have an entire section of my blog dedicated on how to save money. But there is a huge difference between saving “Real Money”, and saving “Imaginary Money.” Now, to explain imaginary money, I’ll have to take you through a conversation my wife and I have had many times, as she is the absolute best at creating Imaginary Money.
This is a dramatization. Do not try this at home.
Michelle: “Hey hunny, check out these flippin’ sweet copper pots at Williams-Sonoma! How sick would that be to have a set of these in our kitchen? I could make some wicked awesome feasts with those!”
Jake: “Wow, those are shiny! How in the world do they get that shiny?!”
Michelle: “Well, you’ll have to hand polish each of them for a few hours every month. But never mind that. Check out how much these babyies cost!”
Jake: “Wow. They want an arm AND a leg, along with firstborn, the titles to my cars, my future estate and the shirt off my back.”
Michelle: “Don’t exaggerate. They’re only asking $5,000 for a 10-piece set.”
Michelle: “Don’t worry hunny, we’re not going to pay $5,000 for some pots and pans.”
Michelle: “Because we can get them for only $2,999! That’s 40% OFF!”
Michelle: “Hunny, just think of it this way. Without doing anything, I just saved us $2,000. That’s $2,000 we can spend on whatever we want! Vacation, college fund, wine….anything. I just made us a ton of cash.”
(Note: This conversation may or may not be somewhat embellished)
Why “Saving Money” Can Be A Lie
The goal of any commercial is to sell you something. Now, that something may be helpful and worth your money, but most of the time tactics are used to get you to spend money you wouldn’t otherwise spend. My wife (jokingly) likes to talk about how much money she can “save” us if she buys something. Commercials are much sneakier about it, and try to actually convince you that you are pocketing hundreds or thousands of dollars by purchasing their product.
The first thing they do is ask you questions; “Are you tired?”, “Do you wish your hair was thicker?”, “Are you hungry?”, “Are you breathing?” At some point, they’ll ask a question to which your answer will be “yes!” Sometimes it’s as simple as “Do you want to save MORE money?” After they’ve convinced you to listen, they’ll talk about how you NEED this thing if you want to solve the problem they presented. And like the dumb commercial I talked about, they’ll talk all about all the money you will save, and mounds of cash that you’ll end up with after you make the purchase. Which, if you ever took 1st grade math, IS COMPLETELY BACKWARDS!
Bottom line; if you don’t have the money earmarked for the item, you are not saving any actual money by buying something you don’t need for cheaper than it “normally” costs.
Comments: Do you ever feel like commercials think we’re all idiots who don’t understand basic math? Do you ever get so sick of them you turn off the radio/TV? Am I just a cynic who needs to get over it and drop a few grand on copper pots for V-Day?