This summer, I picked up a couple of items that I felt great about buying. One was a pair of leather shoes, and the other was a set of bunk beds for my son (who is still currently in a crib). Both were essentially impulse purchases that I had no direct intention of buying that day, but neither were accompanied by that sinking dread feeling of having spent money hastily or thoughtlessly.
How did I pull that off? I have three little kids, live in a moderately expensive city, and our family job titles over the past 5 years have been student/stay-at-home-parent/entrepreneur. How did I have the money to drop $300 on a bed without pre-planning for it? How do I shop well for great value items with longevity and feel confident & satisfied with my purchase? Here, I present humbly, are my three steps for shopping without buyer’s remorse.
Here is my ultimate back pocket trick for shopping well: just don’t shop! This sounds ridiculous, of course, but bear with me. If you rarely spend money on non-essential things, I promise you that you will have more money to spend on the really good things when they come along.
Death to the $20 Purchase
One of my husband’s mantras when we married was that the ~$20 purchase would make you go broke. It’s low enough that you don’t think too much about it – an album, a knickknack, some organizing bins, a picture frame or candles, a quick dinner out, etc. but if you do it 5 times, that is one hundred dollars! What else would you do with $100? Would you be happier with the one $100 expense, or the five $20 purchases? There is no right or wrong answer here – the value is in the question.
Personally, I had not been asking these questions about my spending habits, but I started to. Now it has become my mantra as well, and a major contributor to the financial freedom that’s allowed us to take risks like starting dignify.
Note: Maybe $20 really isn't an issue for you, financially. But, this money-disappearing act can take many forms at different price points, like when I “pick up a few things” at Ikea and it is always, somehow, $80. Costco is another culprit, or for others it’s The Container Store.
I had zero intention of furniture shopping the day we bought the bunks, and a “big boy bed” was not really on the radar. We found the bunks on a family daytrip to our favourite mountain town, after wandering into a clearance centre of a local home & furniture store. It is solid, stained wood, with a double bed on the bottom and a twin on the top; they were used as a floor model, and listed with a scratch & dent price tag of $300.
Three kids, two moves, and a decade & a half into my adult life: I have seen the price of furniture. I knew a good deal when I saw one.
I have searched furniture on kijiji (our local craigslist), I’ve window shopped, and I have pinned. Oh, how I have pinned. In fact, this is exactly why I am a firm defender of pinterest, because it saves everything you might like, and it allows you to compare across stores & across products what the actual price is.
If you have been looking for music speakers and 9 out of 10 of them is in the $100 range, and one set is $1000, it becomes fairly clear that it is in a different spending category. You may decide in the end that it is totally worth it. Or, you may find it somewhere else cheaper. The point is: you can save it, think about it, and buy it when you are ready, or when a great deal comes along.
Now, I’m not saying spend your time doing constant price comparisons, endless browsing, etc. But, as you actually pause more and spend more mindfully, you’ll find that the prices start to stick in your head. And as new opportunities to buy arise, you have more context for the “is this worth it to me” questions.
So, now that you have the money in place (available more freely because of cutting out the less thoughtful expenses), and you are educated in comparable ways to spend it, you are ready to actually shop, and shop well.
You may not be keen on damaged goods (and the discounted price tag they carry) like I am, but I promise you, there are So. Many. Opportunities. that come along for great, high value shopping if you are looking for them and ready to seize them.
Maybe it is a floor model, as I purchased. Perhaps it is a one-day sale. You can often find excellent things if you are looking at the wrong time, like buying decorations after the holiday, or shopping for stocking stuffers year-round instead of in December. Or maybe it is not about a deal at all, it is just about buying something you are completely sure you really want.
Are you guilty of buyer’s remorse? Do you think that these tips could be helpful in your shopping life?Comment below with your experience; we’d all love to hear it.
The Enneagram is super popular right now as a typology of nine interconnected personality types. I am familiar with the Enneagram and while it hasn’t been a particularly impactful tool for me personally, I value the depth of the insight and the common language it provides.
Similarly, Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework provides definition and a vernacular to what is already present in ourselves. For me, this one has resounded like a deafening gong in my ears & in my life!
Over the last year or so, I've made a conscious priority to read books written by — or written from the perspective of — people different than me. As a white, rich person (and I have a job, a bachelor's degree, a house, 2 cars, and 3 computers, so that sounds pretty rich to me; maybe not in the 1%, but high enough), I have a pretty limited perspective. Also, our culture is essentially designed for me to thrive, so it's easy to take that all for granted.
Books, both non-fiction and creative stories, have a way of landing you right in the viewpoint of an other, and I am so grateful for that gift; it's one of the best things about reading.
Conversations about money can be awkward, but having uncomfortable talks, at age appropriate times, will set up our children's essential, lifelong skill in handling money well. Allowance is a key tool to teaching these money management skills.
Money, along with politics and religion, is often considered impolite conversation to have outside of yourself & maybe (hopefully?) your spouse. How much do we spend on groceries, gas bill, or date nights? Is this car payment normal? We are often afraid, or at least reluctant, to compare any of these details… R. Paul Stevens said the proverbial fig leaf from the Garden of Eden has moved from our naked bodies to our bank accounts!
Add kids into these conversations, and there is an additional layer of hesitancy: kids can be notorious loud-mouths!