I would love to hear your thoughts on balancing “snatching up a good deal” versus “impulse buying”. I feel like there are often time-limited sales or good deals that come up, but if I haven’t budgeted or planned to spend that money I have to pass them by or else spend money I really shouldn’t be spending. -Anna
I think this is such an important topic to bring up — because we must have balance in our lives. It’s wonderful to get great deals and bargains, but I think we need to set clear criteria for what constitutes a true “deal”. Otherwise, we can spend a lot of time and money needlessly chasing down supposed bargains that really aren’t a good deal for us at all.
Here are five things that we’ve set up as a criteria for making sure we’re not overspending and that a good deal truly is a great deal for us:
1. Create and Follow a Budget
Without a budget, we won’t have any way to track whether we are truly saving money. In fact, without a budget, we might be spending more money by chasing down sales and bargains.
Sticking with a cash budget has been so helpful to me — especially because I’m not a spreadsheet nerd. I know that the money that I have in the envelope is what I have to spend. And when the money’s gone, the money’s gone. Cash provides instant self-discipline and guarantees that you don’t spend more than you have.
2. Budget for Everything
We have fairly specific cash envelope categories and find that this really helps us to stay on track. For instance, instead of just having a “clothing” budget, we have individual cash envelopes for each person in our family. We don’t just have a Food cash envelope. We have a Groceries envelope and a Dates & Eating Out envelope.
In addition, we budget for everything — from hair cuts and clothing to homeschooling supplies, gifts, and car maintenance. Everything we regularly spend money on (even if it’s just an annual purchase that we routinely make) has a category in our master budget spreadsheet (I’m so thankful that a married a math nerd who loves to create and track things on spreadsheets!)
On those rare occasions that a necessary purchase arises that we haven’t budgeted for, we either have to find a way to shuffle things around in a few categories to be able to afford it, we don’t buy it, or it comes out of our blow cash envelope.
3. Analyze Every Purchase
Because I have a limited supply of cash to work with in each envelope, this forces me to evaluate every purchase and make sure I’m getting the best deal. I’m constantly asking myself questions like, “Do we need this?” “Is this the best use of this envelope money?”
Note: I think that you can get to a point where you over-analyze purchases — like I did with my candle purchase. If you’re agonizing for 30 minutes over a $0.50 purchase, you may need to lighten up a little bit.
4. Don’t Buy Something Just Because It’s a “Good Deal”
What’s a good deal for someone else won’t necessarily be a good deal for you. This is an important thing to constantly remember. If you don’t have the money for it, it’s not a good deal for you. If you don’t need it, it’s not a good deal for you.
If you feel panicky because you’re missing out on a “good deal”, that’s probably a sign that you need to step back and re-evaluate things. It’s great to get good deals and I’m all about stewarding our money well, but I think we need to be careful that we don’t become obsessed. Life is about a whole lot more than getting the best bargain.
5. Take a Break From Bargain Shopping on Occasion
It’s good to occasionally to just shelve your coupons and maybe even take a break from reading blogs that share bargains. I do this at least once or twice a year — and I find it really freeing!
Taking a breather will help you get some fresh perspective and help make sure that you’re staying balanced in life. And it also usually causes you to be re-energized and excited when you come back to bargain shopping again!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Weigh in on this in the comments!
photo from BigStock