Like most of you, I try to be frugal whenever possible. For some us it just comes natural and for others it’s hard work. I see myself moving away from frivolous spending towards frugal spending daily. I’ve been trying really hard to take care of my personal finances so it’s becoming painful to pay full price for something! Last weekend I went shoe shopping, and I found a pair that I really liked. I thought they made me look professional and laid back (I’m not sure how that happens, but it did). They weren’t on sale, and the store refused to give me a discount. Even though I really wanted those darn shoes, I couldn’t pull the trigger. I was able to walk away from them because, to me, shoes aren’t important. It’s crucial that we all take a minute to think about what’s important to us. I’m not talking about friends, family, and pets. We all find those things important. I’m looking at this from a purchasing point of view (most of us don’t buy our loved ones). If we know which purchases are important to us then we will also know which aren’t.
I’ve been thinking about this idea for a long time, and it’s really helped me save money while being satisfied with my purchasing choices. Every time we buy something there is usually a name brand and a generic/off brand. Which should we get? Really frugal people might always go for the cheapest products, but most of us, even if we care about our finances, won’t be content if we practice that type of shopping. The following is an example from my past that will help explain this. A couple years ago I lived with my friend Jimmy. Jimmy ended up getting the flu, and he wanted to borrow some NyQuil from me. At the time I had two huge bottles of some stuff I bought that were generic NyQuil. When I bought them I thought I was getting a great deal. They were 2 for the price of 1! When I handed them over to him he looked like a dear stuck in the headlights. He reluctantly took some. When I got home a few hours later he had a bottle of actual NyQuil sitting on the kitchen table. When I asked him about it he said, “That generic stuff doesn’t work. I had to go get the real thing.” I was shocked. Here I thought I got a good deal on some disgusting tasting off brand NyQuil, but it wasn’t good enough for him. To me medicine is medicine. The brand doesn’t matter. I’m not going to spend extra money to get an actual bottle of NyQuil. To Jimmy all cold medicines are different, and even though they have the same ingredients, some work better than others. He knows he is going to pay more for the “real” stuff, but he is willing to do so because it makes him feel better. He cares about his personal finances, but sometimes we have to go with what we trust (even if it costs extra).
How can you save money by knowing which purchases are important to you? Follow these 4 steps and you can get your answer:
1) Make a list with 3-5 non-negotiable items that you won’t go cheap on.
a. EX: medicine, food, and electronics
2) Memorize your list or carry it around with you.
3) Every time you buy something check to see if it’s one of your non-negotiable items.
4) If it’s not on your list go for the cheapest thing you can find that still fits your needs, and if it is on your list go with whatever you think is best.
The whole point of this is to keep your list short. If you have a list with 100 items it won’t help your personal finances. If you only have a few non-negotiable it will save you money, make shopping easier, and you can be proud with your purchasing decisions. Jimmy’s list has medicine on it, but it doesn’t have clothes. When he goes shopping he knows he won’t be frugal when buying Nyquil, but he also knows he should shop for clothes off the clearance rack. It’s important to remember that budgeting doesn’t mean always buying cheap stuff. It means you’re taking care of your money in a way that suits you best and enables you to meet your goals. This is just another tool to stay on track. My question to you is: Do you know which purchases are important to you?
April 26, 2012 at 5:14 PM
Good advice, and simple to use. I’ve patted myself on the back lately for walking away from some purchases that weren’t essential enough to warrant the price.
April 26, 2012 at 6:24 PM
It’s a good feeling isn’t it? It’s something to be proud of. It seems like most people just buy whatever they want nowadays.
April 26, 2012 at 7:32 PM
Great Post Chris.. I think I might have to make my list tomorrow. i think that’s a great idea for people but what it’s all about is being mindful of what we spend our money on and do we really need it. Sometimes it might be all in our heads like the NYquil but it helped him heal having the name brand. Perhaps he was able to relate to a commercial he saw on the tele… but to him the extra buck or 2 was worth it. You are right not everything we buy has to be cheap but at the same time it doesn’t hurt to ask for a deal.. in your case you bombed… but now all you have to do is wait for a special and go get those shoes! Mr.CBB
April 26, 2012 at 7:53 PM
It is about being mindful. I wrote this because I constantly debate myself about buying things. The items on my list are things I don’t feel guilty splurging on because I go cheap on everything else. I’d say books is my number 1. I know I can go to the library, but when I want to read a book I want to read it now!
Also, I haven’t forgotten about the guest post. I should be able to do it soon. School is slowing down. Have a good night and keep up the great posts! I really appreciate them
April 26, 2012 at 8:05 PM
So you save in one area to have pleasure in another.. makes sense as long as you are saving and not using credit for splurges. Splurges are something we need to do more of.. but I think we are heading to UK and Spain next year.. thats a big slurge but needed. Yes send me a guest post.. can’t wait to get something up from you.. fans will love it! Cheers Mr.CBB
April 27, 2012 at 11:10 AM
Great post! A big part of frugality is getting the most for your money. With some things, tools and knives, for instance, you get what you pay for. Those are the type of things I find non-negotiable. I find that it’s often better to spend a little more for a high quality item that will last you the rest of your life, rather than something shoddy that you will have to replace three or four times, costing you more in the long run.
April 27, 2012 at 7:10 PM
Exactly, and if you know what what items your willing to pay more for it makes your life that much easier. Obviously you couldn’t follow it all the time, but it would help in most situation.
April 28, 2012 at 4:43 AM
I agree, Ed. I just bought really cheap golf umbrella (2.99!), with the idea that a big umbrella will save on having to take the car out just because it’s raining – thus saving money on fuel plus CO2. First gust of wind, the thing turned inside-out and some spokes snapped. I had set out to buy a good quality one but couldn’t resist the bargain. It’s a waste all round. I’m all for saving money, but there’s a bigger picture to do with people in the supply chain & the waste involved with cheap things that don’t last long. I wish I was better at not believing all bargains on the one hand, and not believing all adverts on the other – I’d save more.
April 27, 2012 at 8:28 PM
Excellent post Chris! Aside from considering the identification of needs vs. want, as you have said, it is essential to categorize the needs according to its quality. You might end up spending more than you expect.
April 27, 2012 at 11:43 PM
It is important to identify the difference between need vs. want, but I also think it’s important to let yourself have those wants every now and again as long as it doesn’t affect your bottom line too much. We all need something to look forward to!
Thanks for the comment Eze!