Monday, August 26, 2013

Frugality Tip # 10: Don't Buy Stuff You Can't Afford

image courtesy of

We are living in a time when everything is about, "what I want, how I want it, when I want it."
See if this rings a bell:

Be YOU, do YOU, worry about YOU... everyone and everything else comes after YOU have every whim satisfied: nice clothes, nice home, nice hair/makeup/body, nice car, nice phone, awesome trips, cool gadgets... or whatever it is that floats your boat.

We are absolutely bombarded by these kinds of messages every single day: the radio, the internet, tv, billboards, ads, magazines... and it created quite the self-serving mindset.

I'm not advocating that it's wrong to want nice things.

The problem lies in our attitude towards how we get those things.

Can't afford it? Use a credit card.

Already have an older model? Get the latest and greatest anyway. You deserve it... just because you want it.

It'll take away from important family time? Go do it anyway.

It'll break your budget? Wait... what budget?

It'll put your kids/spouse/parents in a difficult situation? Tough luck for them. Don't they understand that you need to take care of numero uno?

Before the dissenters begin their dissenting, I understand the importance of taking care of youself in order to more fully take care of others. Complete self-denial is not what I'm talking about.

But I've learned that if I want something, I can't always get it in the "ideal way"(a.k.a. immediately.)

Novel concept, I know.

It's the mis-guided, yet widely accepted, mindset of the day: "I want it now. Why wait? The money will work itself out... or the government, or Mom and Dad, or someone else will take care of it."

You can see how well that's working out for people... the average U.S. household credit card debt  fro 2013 is $15,263. That's just credit card debt! The average student loan debt stands at $31,646, and the average mortgage debt is $147,591.


So, maybe it's time to take a deeper look at how we spend our hard-earned money:

Do you really need a $150/month phone plan?
Do you have to have that new car?... or does the one you have work just fine?
Do you really need a newer/larger home?...think about actually CLEANING those five bathrooms...
And do you have to have that home right now?

Those are some of the bigger things... but often times it's the little things that add up and stick it to us:

Do you really need 4 pairs of boots?
Will you wear that outfit more than a couple times?
Does that $300 watch really look that much cooler?
Do your kids have to have 6 pairs of jeans when you KNOW they'll wear their 2 favorites over and over, unless you make them put on one of the other pairs.
Is that oh-so-cute $200 bag really necessary?
$8 popcorn at the movies, $100 cable bill, $40 steak dinner...

All those things I just listed?


But would it be so bad to save up for them, find a way to do without them, or look for a less expensive alternative?

A few years ago, after I had baby #2, I became very interested in triathlons. (I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that my mid-section looked like a sack of lumpy oatmeal for a week after my daughter was born.)

I didn't have a bike. I didn't have a helmet. I didn't own goggles, or a typical triathlete outfit, or ANY equipment necessary to train for one of those things... plus, I didn't technically know how to swim... and I didn't have cash for entry fees.

Well, I decided a triathlon was a worthy goal, and I worked out a plan to train in a way that wouldn't leave my family hanging.

The problem was the money. I couldn't afford to do a triathlon.

I had zero "extra" lying around, and I didn't want to dip into our other already-budgeted-out funds.

So, I came up with a plan.

Over the course of a few months, I found killer deals online, and resold the items I bought on eBay or Craigslist during nap times or when my husband was working late.

iTunes would have $50 gift cards on sale for $40. I'd buy them, and resell them for $48 or so. Black Friday deals came up, and I took full advantage of those... buying cheap, and selling for a small profit.

For 3 months, I saved up.

Then, I started buying stuff... because I could afford it. 

I bought goggles, a swim cap, an ironman watch, a triathlete outfit, new road bike tires and spare inner tubes (to use on my husband's mountain bike), a fancy-pants helmet, other workout clothes, and the money for entry fees.

I spent $325.

That may seem like pennies to some of you, but for me, it was a significant amount:

Groceries for my family for a month...
Gas for our vehicles for 2 months...
Our entire Christmas fund...

It felt AWESOME to have worked for it myself. My family budget wasn't messed up, no one and nothing was negatively affected as a result, and I was able to more fully appreciate my whole triathlon experience, because I had worked to make it happen.

I'd love to hear what has worked for you and your family as you've made efforts to live within a budget, so please share!!

I'll just leave it at that for today, and part with this enlightening video, brought to you by SNL. It pretty much sums up this post... plus it's hilarious.



  1. Amen! We want it all right now, and even if we can afford it (and most of us can't), instant gratification is never a good thing.

  2. We had this discussion today for the sisters blog. We were trying to decide whether or not we should go to a fancy smanshcy blog networking dinner. In the end we decided against it, as it was about 50% of our weekly food budget. Our mantra was, just because we wanted it, didn't mean we should do it.
    Then Scary jumped on and read this. Way to be right on as usual!
    with love,

  3. I'll give another AMEN! First-- good for you for working and saving up for that money/expenses! It makes it SO much sweeter when you've invested time and work into it rather than just snatching it up when you decide you want it.

    My (now husband!) and I have definitely learned over the past 2 years how to cut back, how to wait out and look for deals, how to save, budget, and the like. Following Dave Ramsey has been a huge part of that, but also blogs like yours that help us to put plans into motion and stay on budget! So thanks!

    The hardest part is when other people just 'don't get it'. "WHY don't you just get that? It's new! It'll be better! EW, why are you buying USED? It's not like you're POOR...just spend the money! It'll make you happy! Use a credit card and pay it when you can! Kate, go back to work then so you CAN buy those things!"......the list goes on and on. Now most of our friends and family are very supportive and understanding of the way we choose to live, budget, and so on, it's just the few that don't that really seem to get me down sometimes. Explaining that we value myself being home, taking care of everything inside it, planning for a baby (we hope, soon..), cooking all meals from scratch, making things ourselves...choosing THAT over me working so we have more money to spend on "stuff". And that's all it really is...STUFF. We are blessed to have all the money we need to meet the important necessities and bills and keep us fed and we're still able to give. No one NEEDS a new cell phone every year or every time they're "due for an upgrade". That's a marketing gimmick and if my phone still does everything I need it to and then some, why change it? Why pay $150 a month for cable when we don't watch more than 2 shows, and then, it's only 2-3 nights a week for an hour? So we got a Roku and are thrilled with the savings. BLAH. I just realized I was on a very long rant here, sorry! :)

    My point is, it can get really frustrating in the world of "get anything you want right now" when your family's values are different than that. Thankfully, we're content, happy, safe, and secure and that's what matters. Kudos to you for laying it out so well!

    Sending my love, and still saying we need to hang out and become real-world best friends! :)


  4. I haven't read your blog before, but I appreciate what you're doing. My husband and I recently started a blog about the things we do to keep our lives simple, stay healthy and save money. I find deals at a local second hand store and resell them on eBay. I've been doing it for about a year and it's an excellent way for me to supplement our families income, without having to go get a job (I still have a three year old at home)
    Thank you so much for your blog, it's great to know other people are trying to be self reliant and save their pennies!
    check our our blog at

  5. Nice post, great blog, following :)

    Good Luck :)

  6. Right on sister! New to your blog and loving it!


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