Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Purchasing restraint

So, in keeping with the goals I posted yesterday, Torsten and I right now are in ultra-save mode. We are trying to avoid spending money on anything. Seriously, anything at all. Basically, if it's not absolutely essential, we aren't buying it.

I've started keeping a mental list of the things that one or the other of us has mentioned that we'd like, and that under normal circumstances, we would purchase or at least seriously consider. So far, I've calculated that we've saved ourselves several hundred dollars. And that's not including the savings from not eating out and avoiding excessive trips to the grocery store for last-minute meals.

Here are the things that we've casually mentioned that we'd like, and immediately vetoed as not necessary right now:
  • A few interim dining room chairs to go with the dining room table that Torsten's parents gave us for Christmas (assuming $25/chair, that's $100)
  • A replacement bracelet for the gorgeous bangle that Torsten gave me for Christmas but that I had to return because it didn't fit over my hand (at least $100)
  • A dual trash and recycling can to replace the paper grocery bags we're currently using for our recycling (around $50)
  • This amazing purple watch ($75)
  • A new bathrobe for me because mine is so big that the pockets cross over to the wrong sides of my body when I wrap it around me (around $30)
That is over $350 that we could EASILY have spent on non-essentials over the past week or so. Now, we don't normally spend that kind of money on random things, and yes, a couple of them are holiday-related, but some of them aren't. And we've been spoiled by the fact that we earn more than we spend into feeling that if there's something we really want, it's OK to just buy it. And while that has certainly been an enjoyable attitude, at the moment random materialism is not the goal. Saving money aggressively is. So these purchases are on hold for now.

I don't NEED a new bathrobe--too-big bathrobes are fine because the belt holds everything together. I certainly don't need a watch just because it's purple; I already have a perfectly functional watch. Yes, I loved the bracelet that Torsten gave me, was sad when I had to return it, and wish I had been able to pick out a replacement one, but I'm fine without a bracelet for now, and he gave me other nice things for Christmas. Yes, our crappy Ikea chairs look ridiculous next to our gorgeous new table, but for another year or so, who really cares? And yes, the paper bag with the recycling is annoying and falls over often, but there's no reason for us to buy some fancy stainless steel contraption when a $10 plastic bin will meet our needs just as well for the time being.

So. No non-essential purchases. And I'm very much looking forward to seeing how much money we're able to save this way.

What about you? Are there any things you want, but aren't buying for yourself? What types of non-essentials are worth the money for you?


  1. For January, we're not buying any fast food (which for me just includes cafeteria meals at work and coffee, but is a bigger deal for Homer, who is on the road a lot for his job). Homer would really like a big screen TV for the living room, so we're saving up for it with little sacrifices instead of dipping into our savings.

  2. I am doing almost the exact same thing as you!

    I am planning my meals and doing one grocery shop a week (it isnt uncommon for me to pop to the shops for $30-$50 of extra groceries each day otherwise).

    I'm thinking, 'Do I really NEED this?' and 'Do I already have something similar?' when I want to spend. For example, I have 20+ cross-stitches waiting to be done so I've ignored the sales at my favourite craft shop. I have three books ready to read so I'm avoiding the book shop etc...and I'm saving gift vouchers we got for Christmas so that when I really want a treat I can use those to get a new movie or book.

    It isnt as hard as I thought it would be. By staying away from the shops I'm also saving on things I spend up there like buying a salad for lunch when I shop etc...

    What I want to buy at the moment: A new shower door (kind of a necessity, guests keep getting stuck in there lol), bark chips for the garden.

  3. We'd love to do some saving, but lately everything has been working against us: three major appliances needed either replacement or expensive repairs; several smaller appliances have either died or are threatening to do so very soon; and now my computer is having a hard time remembering stuff (like how to start up when I press the button). We'll get there, but it may take a while.

  4. I just paid off my credit card, so I'm going to be nice and use that money to help Jason pay off his. Then, after a few months, we'll use THAT money to pay off our last piece of debt (not counting our mortgage).

    So, for now, I've just been asking myself if I really need something, even if it's only a few dollars. That Etsy necklace? Bookmarked for later. That Mountain Dew? YES, it's a necessity. :)

  5. Pretty much EVERYTHING. Not to be melodramatic, but we're in major stop-the-bleeding mode around here. We've got about a year and half (with three in full-time childcare, until Cal starts kindergarten) of serious belt-tightening. It's a little frightening, because I know we've got no spare change. But we'll get by... one unmade purchase at at time.

  6. We try not to buy anything that's not a necessity most of the time, but sometimes we splurge if we have a coupon for the item.

  7. Good for you guys! I live for budgeting, it just makes me giddy. Weird? As you know, we have a strictly categoried budget/savings system, so when we hit a savings goal (for example your new dining room chairs) it feels SO much sweeter than when we used to go out and just purchase them without thinking about it.

  8. I want a Wii Fit, and am barely restraining myself.

    I think you need to purchase a bracelet to replace the one you had to return that Torsten gave you - That's not spending, that's exchanging a gift. :-)

  9. We try to be as thrifty as we can...and I don't feel like our lives are suffering for it. Our more recent thriftiness comes from going to the thrift stores to seek out clothing instead of always buying new. I've found several GREAT items for fractions of what they would cost new AND they are in perfect condition, so who cares? We also sell stuff on ebay regularly and stock up on stuff when it's on sale.

  10. I'm in super save mode right now too! I want to max out my Roth IRA contributions this year and that money has to come from somewhere. Not to mention I want to make a big dent in that student loan debt. I buy most stuff on sale and the cheapest of absolutely everything in the grocery store (ie the 99 cent can of beans insted of the $1.29 can). Every little bit adds up! Also, I'm avoiding Starbucks because it is NOT essential in any way and it IS expensive. Being thrifty is easy! But then again, I get a thrill from seeing how much I can save.

  11. One HUGE thing we (well, husband) did recently, after he got the insurance money for his totalled car, was to buy a super cheap but reliable 1996 sedan to replace his old work car. Which, ha, was hardly a luxury vehicle by ANY means, but was still nicer than the beater he replaced it with! But he only ever uses his car to get to and from work, a ten minute drive, and he said he'd rather drive a crappy looking but reliable vehicle and put most of that insurance money in savings than try to replace the car with something comparable or even a little nicer (which I was gunnning for- bad!) I wouldn't want to drive that car, but he did it so our bank accounts would have a little extra breathing room. I was touched by that. Some men bring flowers and chocolates, my husband nobly drives a beater car...

  12. Being on such a low budget (aka NON-EXISTENT)has been a test of my willpower. It's been easier than I thought it would be to not buy any new clothes, or shoes, but I really want a new lens for my DSLR (both lenses I do have right now are not working so I can't even use the camera) and it's really hard telling myself that I need the money for this move, rather than for a passion of mine.

    By the way, I'm moving out to Boulder at the end of this month!! What tips can you give me as far as preparing for winters there? :)

  13. I've committed to doing the same thing, starting today, and I am already finding it hard. Online shopping is SO fun and SO easy and makes me feel better. A diet AND a financial diet? Goodness. This could be rough until I get used to it.

  14. We've planned menus, cooked at home and taken our lunches for a couple of years now. We easily save $200 a month by doing so. It is a total habit, now.

    Right now, we have talked ourselves out of needing A LOT of things. Our goal is to have the credit card paid off this year. So far, 2010 has not helped; the truck is in the shop. AGAIN.

    I am trying to find ways to re-purpose things that we already have. I wish I was more creative in how to make re-purposed things look pretty/nice, however. Any ideas, anyone?

  15. Sweets and I spent A LOT of money last year. I think 2010 is going to be the year of restraint. We just need to make it official. And reading this post reminds me to have a chat with him about it.

  16. Due to underemployment at the moment we are definitely in the same mode. Christmas was VERY minimal this year, and featured mainly handmade gifts year, and we had to completely forego sending gifts to anyone we didn't see on christmas day (so my honey's family, and my grandma in arizona), which saved us a few hundred dollars. We also will be skipping anniversary presents or a dinner out in couple of weeks. I've also resisted buying a new dog bed for the boy, excessive grocery trips, etc. If it isn't a bill or a bare bones trip to Trader Joe's it isn't happening right now. I like the idea of estimating how much you are saving by resisting those purchases. I think I might start doing the same thing.

    That purple watch IS awesome. I have a very similar one with a dark blue face, and I actually find that it can be really hard to read unless the light is just right and it is tilted just so. And bathrobes are overrated. I much prefer my fuzzy hoodie and PJ bottoms anyway.

  17. Oh gosh, everything. Like Erin the first (like that Erin?) we're also in the stop the bleeding mode. Hard to do with 4 kids who keep GROWING but we're trying. Now if the ($*#)(48 economy would rebound just a smidge that would help!

  18. We've kind of been in purchase restriction mode for a while. We live on one teacher's salary with an influx of parental support every year. We do our best to have as much of that support left over at the end of the year. Our one problem occurs when we get our tax return. We wait to make all of our big purchases with that and then never keep track of how much of it we've spent and therefore way overspend it. This year it's getting it's own savings account so we can be exactly sure of what's left and stop when it's gone. Or even before that. Novel idea.

  19. Michelle Singletary (Washington Post financial guru) had a fantastic article in last Sunday's Post about a 21 day financial fast. Whew! She's strict :-)

    Not sure if you have to be logged in to the Washington Post site but here it is:


  20. I've been restraining on just about everything. In fact, I think that the only non-necessity purchase I've made since Christmas was some after-Christmas-sale wrapping paper (and that WAS a need, actually, because I had but one roll left for next year, and I'll NEVER pay full price for the stuff).

    The biggest area we're working on this month (and this year, really) is the amount of money we spend eating out. It's insanity, truly, and it must stop.

    I'm super proud of how restrained and adult you're being. As someone who is just now *almost* done paying off stupid debt, I can absolutely say you'll thank yourselves later.

  21. i'm annoyed, because i'd like to track my spending better and i hear mint.com is the way to go... but they haven't added my bank yet. for like 6 months. ADD CLEARVIEW FEDERAL CREDIT UNION, MINT. KTHX.

  22. We eat out at least twice on weekends, but generally casual dining- Maybe $50/meal. I also buy a lot of clothes, but I'm cutting back MAJORLY on that this year so I can afford a fancy camera.

  23. Whoaaa girl, saving agressively!!! Me likey. I'm trying to save to get plastic surgery, but shhhh don't tell on me, cause well I'm not sure yet. LOL.

  24. Oh, I DO think you should replace the bangle! I totally know what you mean, and if you go with not replacing it I'll get why, but on the other hand it seems sad in that one case, and also seems like it's an exchange rather than a purchase. I have a suggestion: the watch is a nice replacement for the bangle.

    Oh dear, this is not helpful is it? And that's silly because I LOVE this kind of saving---not so much sacrificing per se as DELAYING. More like thinking, "I know we want this, but can we continue to live happy lives without it for awhile so that we can have something else we want more?"

    We're doing that with our dining room table, which is a handmedown but will do just fine. And with one set of bunkbeds, also handmedowns. And with our bed, which doesn't have a frame. And with a bunch of other things where we think, "Sure, we WOULD really like to have it, but we can wait."

    I recommend Freecycle.org for this kind of delaying. We wanted a kitchen island but we're putting it off because we CAN get by with two feet of countertop--but then we thought just for the heck of it we'd ask about it on Freecycle, and someone had one in their basement they'd replaced with a better one and hadn't gotten around to hauling away yet, so we went and picked it up. Free. And it has revolutionized our kitchen.

    Also, bathrobes will go on 75% off at Target pretty soon. Er, oh, that's non-helpful again.

  25. Oh, and I like what Heather says about avoiding the shops where the temptation lies. The children have so many clothes I really need to do a serious declutter of their bureaus, but I'm still so tempted by the GREAT SALES and CUTE STUFF, I've been just STAYING AWAY from those stores. If I don't know about it, it won't bother me so much to give it up.

  26. Oooh, that is a very nice watch. I love Fossil, they're the only watches I buy - when I actually buy one, which hasn't been for a couple of years.

    I can't imagine having the kind of self-restraint you two are imposing. I'm in awe, truly. I see, I want, I purchase. It's an excellent practice, cutting out all but the essential, and I'm positive that like you, I could save hundreds per month.

    I'm trying to be better, really, but it's so HARD. Although, the other day, I did actually deny myself a pretty new sweatshirt I wanted. And a book. Uh...yay progress?

  27. most certainly.
    Ever since moving into our home the husband and I almost NEVER buy things that arn't needed AND the hubs started tracking EVERY CENT WE SPEND.
    Its weird and sometimes frustrating but we don't want to fall into troubles in our first year of home ownership.

  28. Quality food (fresh vegetables, organics, non-processed) is always a non-essential (food is essential, quality food isn't) purchase that's worth the money.

    Evenings out with friends could be evenings in with friends, but I'd be limiting my chances of meeting a man, so that is a worthy non-essential right now.

    Dance classes are non-essential in that I could just run more, but they're also sort of essential for my mental and spiritual health.

    I just bought a dress for some of the events surrounding the five weddings I'm going to this year. It's definitely a non-essential item, but it was reasonably priced (thank you 65% off sale!) and is incredibly versatile. And I'll spend on a formal dress or gown to wear to three of the weddings because it's worth it to me to show up in something people haven't already seen me wear.

  29. Ok, this was great but also, but don't forget to reward yourself sometimes.

    It's tough, so tough to find the line between essential, spluge and ok to an occasionally treat. I see your bathrobe as a eventual replacement. Sure it's ok for now, but eventually you need to reward yourself with something you use often.

    The system I have is to write everything down that needs replacing (and I mean need replacing --like the 10 year old bath towels that were starting to fray) and after each pay period, after paying bills, determine if its best to go ahead with the replacement.

    Oh gosh, I sound so horrendously boring.

  30. Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

  31. We're pretty much in the same boat - after a few years of buying most things we wanted, we now own a house and want children soonish so need to learn to be more careful. We also have a couple of big jobs to do on the house (damp proofing, rendering, electrics) that we are saving for so "minor" things like extra dining chairs and a second sofa will have to wait.

    Like you, we are trying to plan meals again (something we always used to do but got out of the habit over the past few months) because it really does save money. And in a similar vein, we have taken on an allotment with some friends so from early summer onward we should be producing some of our own fruit, veg and herbs.

    Things we have invested in include new bedding (the old quilt was falling apart, we couldn't put that one off) and nice plastic tumblers for when our nephews and niece visit. And we plan to get some of our own photos printed and framed to go on our walls, which should help the place feel more like it's ours, in lieu of actual redecorating.