Frugality and Decision Making Poll of The Week

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Here’s another poll to test your frugality behaviors and decision-making processes. There is no right or wrong answer, I promise. Just answer the poll honestly before reading further. It’ll just take a second.

(Due to some technical hurdles, please click on the “Read the rest of this entry…” link below to vote. Thanks!)

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You're buying a nice pen. At the first store you visit, the pen costs $25. But you find out that the same pen is on sale for $18 at a store 15 minutes away. Do you make the trip?

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You're buying a nice suit. At the first store you visit, the suit costs $455. But you find out that the same suit is on sale for $448 at a store 15 minutes away. Do you make the trip?

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I forgot to put this up last night, so results will be shared on Friday. Be sure to come back then. 😉

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

User Generated Content Disclosure: Comments and/or responses are not provided or commissioned by any advertiser. Comments and/or responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser. It is not any advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. I answered yes

    but definitely incomplete info

    first 7x 4= $28/hr (after tax)
    which equates to roughly $40/hr

    I make more than that/ hour, but sometimes my leisure time is worth more than that, sometimes it is not

    If it is a beautiful day and I have something else I’d rather be doing, I’ll buy the marked up pen. If I have nothing better to do (rare these days!) then my time is certainly worth $40/hour (pre tax).

  2. NO

    I think it’s a loss – fuel, wear and tear on the car, my time, etc.

    I try very hard to not waste trips with the car. once we’re out we do the errands and I try to never make a “special trip”.

  3. But it doesn’t say if you are on vacation, working, miles any of that stuff.

    So the question becomes can you just spend 15 min and get $7.00, why not?

  4. Is this a trick question? I would never pay that much for a suit?

    That aside, my answer is, it depends.

    When I made minimum wage, I would be willling to go out of my way to save my $7, yes. With more income AND with less time (kids, etc.), I would be less likely to drive 15 miles to save $7.

    My spouse actually does not work, and will spend a lot of time to save a few dollars here and there. If this were me, I’d send my spouse to pick up the discounted suit, since he has more time. If not, it probably wouldn’t be worth my time.

    I do admit that since it is a more expensive item, the savings, as a percentage, seems less worthwhile than if I Was saving $7 on a $50 item. I couldn’t help but think if it was a lower cost item, of course I would drive 15 miles to save $7.

  5. I answered “NO” but it really depends. $7 to me is not worth the second trip, but if I am on vacation and killing time with family and friends, I would go to the 2nd place just so we have something to do.

    So the answer is “NO” to saving $7, but “YES” if I had nothing better to do on a lazy weekend.

  6. A 15 minute drive to save 1.5% isn’t worth it to me unless I’m already headed in that direction.

    On a more serious note, I would NOT spend much more than $100 on a new suit. I buy suits at K&G. Good quality stuff without the high prices. I’d drive 1 hour to save $355 on a suit.

  7. For those of you only spending under $100 on a suit, think how much more money you would MAKE if you showed up to a job interview in a nice suit instead of K-Mart suit.

  8. As with most other things I buy, I’d probably never go to the store and just order it on Amazon instead.

  9. I’m trying to guess the other question….and which financial behavior we’re testing here. Two different purchases of substantially different dollar amounts, but the cost savings of going to the second location is proportionally the same?

  10. The big question mark is how far away in miles is the cheaper pen? Chances are that 30 minutes round trip would be about a gallon of gas (maybe more), so add a minimum of $2.50 to the cost. Now it’s $20.50 vs. $25. Is a savings of $4.50 worth 30 minutes of my time? If all I would be doing is going to the store, picking up the pen, and coming directly back, then no. But, say I get positive utility when I drive because it’s fun, and say I’m in a shopping mood and would like to look around the other store anyways, thus more positive utility, then maybe I would get the pen.

    Taking the question as written with no added utility outside of saving the few extra dollars, I wouldn’t take the extra trip.

  11. Like everyone else said, it depends on too many variables. I make more than that per hour, but I’d also probably find other things to do in the area. And if it were a 15 minute walk instead of a drive, even better, because I could get some exercise.

    It also depends on the store. If the expensive store is a mom & pop place that has ordered special items for me before and the employees take the time to help me find the perfect product, I’ll definitely shop there over cheaper places. But then, I’m paying $7 (plus additional tax on that) for service and expert advice, not the pen.

  12. I sure wish I could tell the difference between an expensive suit and a cheap one. They all look the same to me!

  13. What I would do is wait until I was going past the 2nd store and buy it then or more likely, find it even cheaper online.

    But if it was 15 minutes out of the way, that would be a half hour round trip, probably a gallon of gas, so only net 4 dollars.

  14. I guess you’ve been reading Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational? It’s full of weird economic games like this.

  15. @Shannon 🙂

  16. Donald Bindner says

    If I found that the $25 pen was $18 at another store, it would probably stop me from buying the pen locally, unless I needed the pen quickly.

    If I needed the pen quickly, I’d probably consider the $7 difference to be a convenience fee. If I did not, then I’d know to find the pen online (for $16) and get it delivered to my door.

  17. So I’m guessing from the responses that there are two questions – the one I got about the pen, and another about suits, both of which have the same dollar savings, but one has a large percentage savings while the other only a small one. And I believe most people when polled would drive to save the $7 for the $35 pen but not for the $500 (just guessing) suit.

    I also think I’ve seen this before, with some experts saying “a dollar is a dollar”, and it shouldn’t matter how much the cost is in making the decision. These experts, of course, are wrong. 😉


  18. I got the pen question. I was expecting a followup question about the same absolute savings on a laptop or something expensive. Well known psychology result that -all things being equal- people will weigh invested effort with relative reward, not absolute reward.

  19. just price match to the 2nd store. Theses days all stores will price match

  20. I like how the answer choices this time are more straightforward.
    I answered “no” to the pen. I would accept the $7 loss unless I could combine the extra trip with something else. Perhaps a more interesting question would be if you were sitting at home and knew about the two stores, which one would you go to?

  21. @bruce: that’s a smart move 🙂

  22. I would NEVER buy such an expensive pen in the first place!

  23. I voted NO because “I wouldn’t buy a suit more than $100” wasn’t an option. I’m the cheapest person to read this blog, but 30 minutes (round trip) + gas + wear and tear on car + increase in probability of crash & injury ain’t worth $7.

    Am I crazy for thinking about these things every time I step into a car? I mean, it’s the most dangerous activity that any of us partake in on a daily basis…

  24. It depends which store has the better return policy. For the chance I might decide that I do not want the suit…

  25. Take the dog on the 15 minute walk to buy the suit. (Why is everyone assuming we’re driving to get it?)
    You had to walk the dog anyways.
    BAM! 2 things out of the way at once – and $7 to put toward that uber fancy pen the people who got the other question wanted.

  26. I could always find something better to do with that fifteen minutes

  27. There’s another psychological element to this situation. I think a lot of consumers feel that they are punishing the retailer who charges more by leaving the store and rewarding the retailer who charges less. We are offended by a large percentage higher price and will make an extra effort to punish the shop who dares to charge it while ignoring to some degree our own best interest.

  28. I’d check it out on ebay and probably get it for less and spend no gas.

  29. What percentage the discount is should not matter. If you would go somewhere else to save $10 on a $20 item, you should also go somewhere else to save $10 on a $100 item. Likewise, if you are unwilling to go elsewhere to save $10 on a $100 item, you should not go to save $10 on a $20 item. If you are rational.

  30. Nobody has mentioned the environment. Not driving 15 minutes not only saves you time, gas, and wear-and-tear on your car. It also saves the environment from extra emissions. That’s good for everyone, plus, depending on how much you care about the environment, you get some intrinsic benefit from it.

    There are a multitude of other factors to think about, as well — you’re reducing your chances of getting into a car accident, you’re reducing your road-rage-induced stress (making you live longer). All this for $7? No-brainer.

  31. @ Mark; You’re right on. I’m willing to bet the other randomly generated question is something much cheaper that you could save $7 on… and I bet lots of people said yes.

  32. I got the question about the suit.

    Simply not enough information is presented to answer.

    Though I have been reading the responses here and will say that I laugh when people say something like, “My free time is worth more than $X an hour.”

    Well, no it isn’t.

    You may value your time and you may have a skill for which someone is willing to pay you $X an hour. However, that definitely makes it no longer free time. Free time has no monetary benefit.

  33. If you are at a grocery store and it is selling watermelon at $7/EA. Words in the store is that walmart 15 minutes away is giving each customer one for free…. do you make the trip?

  34. I got the Suit question.

    As I’ve started to earn more money as an entrepreneur, I’ve had to train myself to do just this: estimate how much my time and energy are truly worth now, instead of going with old habits that worked well for me in the past.

    For years, I wasn’t sure how to generate income, so I didn’t feel I could give a good estimate to the worth of my time. If I spent time working, it might or might not lead to any business. Money was really tight. So shopping for deals made a lot of sense to me, and felt good. I’m still not sure I would have spent 15 – 30 extra mins and gas money to save just $7, but maybe to save $20??

    Now, I know that 1 hour spent on my business could easily generate $250 to $5000 worth of business.

    In recent months, I’ve actually shopped often at the more expensive grocery store (egads) because it was super convenient and protected my time and energy so I could go home and work on my biz. Or, simply have a more enjoyable day, which is so much easier to do now that we have financial peace of mind.

  35. Christine B says

    is it me or do i not see anything about a suit… i see PEN.

  36. Christine B says

    HRM…. now i see suit.

  37. I would buy the pen at the first store by making them match the cheaper price. I still get it for $18 bucks and don’t have to go across town.

  38. LargeTalons says

    I would start my own business 7 1/2 minutes away from each where I buy the cheap suits/pens and return them at the expensive suit/pen stores.

  39. Can’t really answer this one honestly due to variables:

    price matching availability?
    cost of fuel * fuel consumed
    any other reason to drive near second store
    value of time
    price online?

    I’d imagine it’s a very rare scenario where these variables stack up in favor of the extra 15 minute trip.

  40. for those of of you that can’t answer the question you had to be able to choose an answer to start or you would be the one in either store putting back the item as the decision was to difficult to make. This is a question that you are supposed to fill in your own variables and thoughts to come up with a conclusion and select an answer! This is not a one is right and one is wrong test. Soon Jonathan will present to us the different interpretations of the different answers and we can see what some psychologist or scientist thinks, for those of us that picked 😉

  41. $7 of on $455 is a shade over 1% of the purchase price

    not worth my extra time to travel, nevermind the costs associated with that

    only time u run around to different stores for 1% of purchase price difference is for products like cars or something where the gap is $50+ (at 1%)

    plus, if u care that much about the $7 … you shoulda done your research to begin with before going to the more expensive store

  42. I’m going to guess that most readers will choose NOT to go to the 2nd store to save $7, in order to save their time and transportation wear & tear, etc. (I also agree with the various lateral responses — don’t buy an expensive pen/suit in the first place, check Amazon, and do a price match at the 1st store…)

    I’m more curious what the tipping point is for the majority to decide it IS worthwhile to make the trip to the 2nd store, at least in terms of price difference.

  43. No. The time and gas loss coupled with the minute amount of savings would not be rational. Additionally, I would pay cash and ask for a 5-10% discount at the first store. This way, I have saved time & gas and have a good chance of getting the product at a discount.

  44. One of the entrepreneurial groups here in Austin had a call with Ariely at one of their meetings a while back. Pretty cool as it was just a bunch of people at a guys house calling up the author. I really wanted to go at the time because I was about half way through the book, but didn’t get a chance to make it.

    Not sure if you’ve read it, but “Influence” by Cialdini is an absolutely fascinating book along the same lines.

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