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When Is a Bargain Not a Bargain?

The August issue of O: The Oprah Magazine takes as its theme "Big Deals," with articles on how to find bargains in various realms of life (from personal care products to car loans) and literally hundreds of "bargains" available for purchase, most of them clothes, shoes, and makeup.

Reading the magazine was, for me, something of a roller coaster ride: I loved life coach Martha Beck's advice on how to know what not to spend money on, for example, but found myself almost whimpering at the page-after-page emphasis on stuff, and the encouragement to buy it because it's being offered at a discount.

Far too often, clients will show me items--and sometimes bags, closets, or even entire rooms full of items--that they don't use, don't need, and don't especially like, but that they purchased simply because the things were on sale and were "bargains." Almost inevitably, these "bargains" wind up in the Donate pile, or slink back to the bottom of a closet if the client can't bear to part with something he or she spent good money on.

So when is a bargain not a bargain? When it's something we buy not because we truly need it, will use it, or absolutely love it, but because it's on sale. Here's how to identify these un-bargains and prevent them from cluttering your space, causing you guilt, and emptying your wallet.

Identifying Un-Bargains
How will you know when something that seems to be a bargain in fact isn't? Put it to the test.

So, What Is a Bargain?
Now that you can spot and steer clear of un-bargains, here's how to know what is in fact a good deal.

Living an organized life doesn't mean being an ascetic, never splurging, or not buying stuff you truly need or love, but it does mean learning to identify and steer clear of bargains that aren't really bargains. Put these tips to use the next time you're tempted to buy something that seems like too good a deal to pass up and you'll avoid making purchases that quickly turn into clutter and disappointment.

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