Four years ago, during our first year of marriage, my wife and I bought a new bedroom set. After running some errands on a Saturday we swung into a furniture store to “browse” with no intention of buying. We left with a deposit down on a new bedroom set.
The rationale was that “we got a great deal” but in reality, these newlyweds made probably the worst purchase they’ve ever made to date. Why? Several weeks later the furniture arrived and since we never measured our room or the furniture, our bedroom was taken over by this over-sized cadre of dressers and drawers. We fell victim to the impulse buy. Four years later and portions of this “great deal” now reside in our basement, another piece will be used by our soon-to-arrive son. We’ve made the best out of a poor decision, but in the end it remains a poor decision.
Since that fateful Saturday we’ve learned a lot and have worked hard to assess what we truly “need” and what we just flat out “want.” Often times what we want masquerades as what we need. Over time I’ve adopted a few strategies to help us fight against the “wants” hiding as “needs” and here in the U.S., I think we could use the help. Recently, the average U.S. unpaid credit card balance was $3,389, with over 98% of all U.S. consumer debt buried in credit cards.
So here are a few strategies:
There Will Always Be a Better Deal
Somewhere in our pursuit of the “deal” we’ve bought into the lie that the deal we find is the one and only, supreme deal of the century. It will never come around, be replaced or be outmatched by any other deal, so we must act fast. There will always be a better deal – 3 weeks, 6 months, a year – better deal. The Bedroom Furniture Debacle of 2007 was a prime example. A week or two later we could find comparable furniture for substantially less at a couple other stores around the metro. Don’t buy the lie, there will always be a better deal.
Avoid Being An Early Adopter
I am a big fan of technology. A man and his gadgets. But if you want to be an “early-adopter” of technology, cell phones, computers – anything electronic, know one thing…you will pay for it. Technology that is new will probably never cost more than it does when it’s new. Once a new model or new version is released, the prices drop. Once competition piggy-backs on similar technology, the prices drop. If you can buy the “1st generation” of a piece of hardware when the “2nd generation” is released you’ll usually save big. Wait for six months or even a year. You’ll let the manufactures get the bugs out, allow competition to catch up and you’ll hopefully save big. There is one caveat – when it comes to phones running Windows Mobile don’t wait – no generation of Windows Mobile is worth waiting for….personal experience, still rocking WM 6.5.
Sleep On It, Then Sleep On It Again
We’ve all hear the old adage, “sleep on it,” when considering a purchase. This usually gives us time to consult some wise counsel, maybe even some Heavenly counsel and get some perspective. If you wake up the next day and feel good about it, sleep on it again. Research the product, compare prices on Google Products, research similar products, ask around on Facebook, the office, etc. This extra day or two has been incredibly helpful and has saved us a few repeat poor performances.
Save Then Buy, Not Buy Then Save
With many stores offering 18 or even 32 months of no-interest financing, buying stuff seems to be a lot easier. Spread over 32 months, big purchases can be chunked down into $40-$75 a month. While this seems like a good deal, when disaster strikes the $75 each month could really come in handy. Save first, then make your purchase. You could end up spending less because in the time it takes to save, the price of the item could decrease. You bypass the credit card companies. You have more financial freedom and you get to enjoy the confused look the sales associates gives you when you tell them you won’t be using their financing.
Buy Used Instead of New
So if you’ve narrowed down your item, passed up the sales, waited for the “2nd generation”, compared prices, done your research, and sought counsel, one more strategy to consider is buying used, instead of new. Now, there are some things you shouldn’t buy used – but in terms of electronics, furniture – even clothes – you can save a bundle buying used. It might take a little more work but we’ve found great success buying used.
As 2011 gets underway, may you be wiser with your finances this year than you were last year and may we all fight the urge to clearly distinguish our “wants” from our “needs”.
Got more ideas? Feel free to reply with helpful strategies or tips.