When I was in high school, my mom put me through this personal finance class. I don't remember much of it (sorry mom), but here's the one thing I remember.
Advertisers use the word "save" differently than we do. They'll tell you that, by spending money, you are actually saving it. TV commercials are pretty blatant about it - in the commercial, maybe a couple is talking about how the economy is rough and they need to save money, so they go to the big sale! They bought everything they wanted while saving money!
The problem is that stores will say anything to make you feel like you're "saving." They could price a decorative pillow at $20. Or they can price it at $30, then say there's a deal going on for $20, so you can "save" $10. Either way, if I buy the pillow, I didn't save $10, I spent $20. The $10 "savings" is just a partially imaginary number at the bottom of a receipt.
The author of the blog The Unextreme put it this way, writing about extreme couponers:
For one thing, just because someone brags that they have saved $60,000 in one year (using coupons), doesn’t mean they didn’t spend any to get that savings. If you have $60,000 worth of merchandise, you have actually spent too much money. You have paid too much for coupons, too much gas, too much wear and tear on your vehicle, too much time, and too much on items that you don’t use!Obviously, if there's something that you really need, buy it on sale if you can! There's nothing wrong with looking for a good deal on things you need. Just remember that shopping is not saving, no matter what the advertisements tell us.
And that's what I remember from my high school personal finance class.