The budget is tender with limited funds that need to be focused on housing and utilities. Even grocery resources are limited to necessities. Yet, we as Americans are still swamped with sales flyers and daily emails that shout “sale”, “save 20%”, save 40%”, “Buy 2 get 1 free” and more. How do the gimmicks affect you?
Sometimes the sales can be rather tempting most especially if there is an item you have been waiting for quite some time to go on sale. But, one thing to keep in mind when the flyers and emails arrive is that the companies offering the sales are not the ones who will be paying your bills. They are not interested in knowing whether you will have a roof over your head, food on the table or whether your utility bills will be paid on time. So, if the item is something you have been saving for, it is definitely worth the investment for the deal you find fair to your spending.
The pressure to spend is everywhere we turn. From the coupons and store flyers that arrive in our Sunday papers to the email alerts from vendors we love to shop with. There are other options to spend when we think about our entertainments “needs” for culture and relaxation. Just because there is a one-time event, a special deal or coupon to entice you to spend, it is not a necessity for one to pass out their resources as if there is a never ending supply of cash.
My first question to ask would be: To attend that one-time event, purchase that one-time deal, take advantage of those “wow” coupon savings, will you have to forego paying a utility bill, your rent, or worse, use your credit card? If you answer is “yes” to one or all, then I will bluntly share “you do NOT need the item(s)!” If you really need the item, consider how you might be able to cut back on groceries or reduce your utility usage so that you can acquire it next month. Or, consider asking it to be a gift from someone during the holiday season, birthday, etc.
Somewhere in society, the adage to “have it all” has become the norm. It has fueled the retail establishments to overprice their goods, because they have found that offering a 40% coupon will awaken the minds of many to spend, even when they do not even have the resources to do so. Think about the insane Black Friday sales events. Did you know that many of those same deals are happening year round? Actually, if you plan well, you can have your gift shopping done prior to the holiday decorations are even being displayed in the store.
Unfortunately, the value of the dollar has gone out the window in America. My current focus is to pay our basic bills – Mortgage, car, electric, phone, cell, water, fuel, ..yup, that’s it. We are fortunate not to have any credit card debt. I want my Mortgage Bank to be happy, my utility providers to continue to provide me service (I am not talking about a TV service as which is not an expense that fits within our budget – we consider this a “want” vs. a “need”, we also consider it unfortunate that we can no longer get the local news for free), and the ability for my husbands’ vehicle to have a full tank of gas so that he can get back and forth to work each day. We then focus on basic groceries, followed by necessary clothing, then what we call luxuries (the extra’s). Sometimes this means going without “new” clothes for quite some time.
If we all took a look in our closets, we would probably find plenty of clothes that would last us longer than a year. Sure, we have our favorites that get worn out, but consider wearing the items that are in the back of the closet. If you find you are not interested in wearing them, then either re-fashion, get alterations, sell or give to a charity. Make room in your closet so that you can see the potential your wardrobe has for you.
I recently shared with my hairdresser, who by the way I had not seen in over a year, that we had not shopped for clothing, extra’s or even at JoAnn’s in over a year. She was amazed at my willpower. I never really thought about it being “willpower” but rather a necessity and having my priorities in line.
Not having a haircut in over a year was difficult. Yet, the resources did not allow for it, plus I tend to trim in between cuts. Although I do not normally go a year without her fixing things up, this year I needed to stretch the visit as far as possible. To save even further, I only got the wash and cut which saved $4.00, in addition the girl who booked my appointment gave me her $2 coupon off my cut. Sometimes waiting allows one to experience God’s generosity of others.
There will always be a sale, a 40% off coupon, or better yet, the potential item you have been so patiently waiting for goes to an incredible 80% off clearance price. The “want” will always be there, but we can soften the desire by rationalizing whether it is an actual “need” vs. a “want” in addition to saving in a separate account or savings jar.
Try for one week to avoid shopping for anything more than your “basic” groceries. And on this trip avoid the candy, ice cream, potato chips, etc. also known as the “junk” food items. Purchase only the basics and make do with what you already have in the cupboards and freezer. Make a dessert from scratch, go without a dessert. Play a board game, read a book or watch a DVD you picked up from the library. At the end of the week, decide for yourself if it was worth doing without.
So, during a time of needing to watch our spending, how do I avoid the sales gimmicks? Well, I certainly glance through the flyers and breeze through the emails, and have become quite good at using my delete key on my keyboard and looking for “necessary” items on sale at the grocery store. There is absolutely no room to “stretch” in order to have something that is not needed.
These are gimmicks that drive me insane:
- $50 (or more) rebate after purchase. Stores no longer give you a discount at the register. Instead they want to hang onto your resources, in a bank, that gains interest for “them”, while you prepare the paperwork to submit your rebate. This can sometimes be done online saving you a stamp, yet many times you still need to pay the postage and fill an envelope with a variety of paperwork. You do not regain your cash for at least four to eight weeks. They do this to discourage you as well as hope you forget about it when you get home. Then, when all this is done, the new gimmick is that the consumer now receives a credit card to spend, versus a check to put back into one’s checking account. Seriously? You told me that I would get my money back, and now I need to use this to buy something. You cannot use this on a credit card bill (if you have one) Why? Because they want to be “sure” they are getting their hands on your money. Buyers do not despair. We all need groceries and gas for our vehicles in which we can use these cards for. I simply do not like it when stores offer these incentives then send a credit card.
- Buy TWO and get ONE FREE: Well, I only need one, or I only have sufficient funds for one, so there goes that option. Or, in the case of a shoe store, you can only find one pair that fits you or all members of your family. What does one do? Purchase two more, in a size that does not fit or a color that is unappealing? Okay, there are a few products that we will use more than one of, such as shampoo, but if I only need one and things are tight, I only purchase what I need.
- 3 hour sale, 1 day sale, 3 day weekend sale. So, you normally shop on a Thursday, but the grocery store is offering an amazing deal on fresh fruit for this Sunday. This causes one to either dip into the funds necessary for other bills making it necessary for you to wait until the next pay period to pay the bill you borrowed from. Or, how about that craft store that is enticing you to run in and stock up on scrapbooking supplies. I would rather wait until the sale lasts a week, allowing me to make one trip into town, not causing gas to be wasted, allowing for a well thought out shopping trip used to its advantage. One of our local grocery stores lost me as a customer because I just did not find that their “sale” was worth the wasted gas to run into town each day of the weekend, unless I was already down there.
We are coming close to the holiday season, the email deals are coming in daily, and store flyers increasing the desires in our minds to spend. Consider trying a week at a time to go without. Put the extra in an account for a “rainy day”. In doing so, you will be amazed at how much you can save over the course of a year or two. For us, it gave us an extra year of resources to make ends meet.
As always, living a frugal life, does not mean living a “cheap” life, but rather a fullfilling one instead.
~ Enjoy ~
Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading & editing, Freelance contributor
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