“An alcoholic walks into a bar…”
No, that’s not the start of an inappropriate joke. It’s the way I felt when I walked into Target yesterday.
I had to get new pants for two of our boys. (They keep growing, I can’t figure it out.)
[As an aside, I'm super-excited because this was money we had budgeted specifically for that purpose, and I managed to get everything we needed with $40 extra that can go towards our debt.]
The people who designed Target are genius. As you walk in to the store, immediately on your right is the women’s clothing section. They know their customers, and know that the majority of them will be easily tempted to veer off towards that section if they are presented with it immediately upon entering the store.
So in a “no spending money” mindset, how am I to resist the temptation to browse (which always turns into buying)? Here are some things I’m thinking about when I’m learning about saving money buy not spending it!
1. Why do I want to buy something?
I actually uttered this sentence yesterday: “I’m bored with all my clothes.” As I said that, I realized something – I was considering spending money because I was bored!
That’s not the only reason to spend money, though. Sometimes we want to spend money because it’s something we need. Sometimes we need it, but we don’t really need it right now. Sometimes we want to spend money for status, or because we have a craving or an impulse. There’s as many reasons to spend money as there are things to spend it on. The key is determining first why we want something. Then we can start evaluating those reasons.
2. Is this a good reason to spend money?
There is (often) a legitimate reason to spend money! My boys needed jeans. (Though they would be perfectly happen to go to church in ripped and ugly jeans, Momma is not perfectly happy with that!) That was legitimate.
Incidentally, they needed those pants last month, but since they weren’t in the budget, we had to make do until this month when we could budget it. Talk about self-control! Which leads to #3…
3. Does this money need to be spent right now?
It’s often a legitimate need, but it doesn’t need to be spent right now. It may be that it’s not budgeted yet, as in the previous example. Maybe you can get a better deal on it if you wait a while. Give yourself a month – hold on to the money that you were going to spend, and see if you still “need” that item 30 days from now. More often than not, you’ll find that you don’t need it at all.
4. What will my [husband, friend, accountability partner] say about this purchase?
Do you know someone who will tell you that you made a stupid purchase? I hope you do. We all need someone who can tell us when we’re not thinking rationally, when we’re trying to justify a purchase, or making a bad decision. Once you’ve built that relationship, and given other people permission to call you stupid (under specific circumstances, of course), you have gained something very valuable – and saved yourself a lot of money.
Once you’ve decided the need is legitimate, you have a whole new set of questions.
Is this the best price I can get on this item?
Can I use coupons, will there be a sale? (Target coupons are really popular right now, for instance.)
If I wait, will I save money?
Related to #1, some items go on sale at different times of the year. It’s cheaper to buy candy the week AFTER Halloween, for instance, than the week before.
Could I borrow this from someone instead of buying it?
You might only need a particular piece of cookware for the holidays. Maybe you only want to listen to the album once.
Can I buy it online for cheaper?
If you’re not being guided by your impulses, you can choose delayed gratification and buy it on Amazon for a much better price. (If you have an iPhone or Android, you can even check in the store with this app.)
So, technically, I DID spend money at Target. But I felt good about the money I spent because I spent it on purpose, and resisted the temptation to spend “a little bit” extra. So now I’m off to put on some old boring clothes for our Christmas party tonight…
What do you think? Tell me about a bad purchasing decision you made, or give us some tips on how not to spend money – or to spend less!