Concepts in Frugality: Know What You Want

by Kelly · 14 comments

in Concepts in Frugality,Series,Thoughts On Frugality

Today’s post is the first in an occasional series called ‘Concepts in Frugality’.

I’m not an expert on frugality, for a myriad of reasons. My family can’t survive on one income, we don’t save enough money, we have too much debt, and it’s well documented that I have a hard time resisting Ikea’s magic lure. I fully admit that I could be more frugal in many ways, and I’m trying to improve every day.

But there are many ways in which I am frugal, exemplified by the things I do and what I believe in. For the past few months I’ve been thinking about these choices, and why I make them, and I’ve found that they fall into several categories of frugal thinking… guiding principles if you will.

I’ll be writing about these concepts of frugality every so often because I believe that, when learning to live a frugal life, it is just as important to think about the why as the how. In other words, lists of frugal tips are fine and good, but all your frugal efforts are ultimately doomed to failure if you don’t truly shift your way of thinking.

Concept in Frugality: Know what you want and be willing to wait for it

It used to be that if you wanted to buy something, you saved up for it and paid cash. Or you waited until your paycheck or you got a bonus. You might have even put it on layaway (do stores even offer layaway anymore?).

Now things are different. Western cultures are built on the principle of spend, spend, spend, France less so than the United States, but catching up fast. And I think that it’s hard to be immune to this urge. See the pretty, shiny thing! Want the pretty, shiny thing! Buy the pretty shiny thing!

I have it as bad as the next person, but I am slowly beginning to try and retrain myself. I still want stuff- lots of stuff- but I’m putting off buying it. Until when? Well, that depends. Sometimes it’s until I find a really good deal on the product, usually used. Or I might wait until I can pay for it in cash. I imagine how I will use what I am buying, and what it will look like with what I already have.

Often, it turns out that I don’t really want it any more, or I forget about the item entirely. But in any of these situations, if I wait to buy and don’t just open my wallet automatically, I feel confident in my choices. I have noticed that I feel bad about spending money when I buy on impulse, or without imagining how this new purchase will fit into my life.

A few examples from my life: I had been lusting after a certain couch from Ikea for a few months, with curved arms and big, squishy pillows. The only problem was that it cost a lot of money, much more than I could afford, many hundreds of euros in fact. So I quietly lusted, dreamed of how nice it would look in my living room; I would even go to visit it. Until one day when I stumbled across it on Ebay, for รขโ€šยฌ43, for sale by somebody living the next town over. I’ve furnished much of my living room like this: the couch, two armchairs, a rug, all bought for a fraction of their original price.

Just before I started school, we bought a laptop. I knew that I would need one for my work, and I had been looking into different models for a few months. We found a good deal and then? We paid cash. It’s a good feeling to pay cash for a big purchase, I discovered.

As I have been transitioning from teacher to stay-at-home-mom to student, and next professional marketing consultant, my wardrobe has been having a hard time keeping pace. I know that I need nice work pants and tops, and I took advantage of the semi-annual sales that are on in France right now to find some good deals. I didn’t even look at other types of clothing, and consequently I feel good about what I bought: I kept within my budget and I bought things I truly need.

What are you willing to wait for? How do you feel about spending money on impulse? When was the last time you paid cash?


1 Nancy January 12, 2009

I saw several stores during the Christmas holiday that were offering layaway. Guess it was a way for them to move merchandise and deal with the fact that folks were willing to spend less and not use the plastic.

Currently, we need a new dishwasher. When asked by hubby’s folks what we wanted/needed for Christmas, we said a gift card to the store where we will purchase the dishwasher. They sent cash and it’s stashed away and we’re adding to it so we can pay in full for that new dishwasher. I agree, it feels good to pay cash for big puchases.

Nancy´s last blog post..Menu Plan Monday | January 11 – 17

2 Nicki at Domestic Cents January 12, 2009

Waiting. Definitely a tough one. Separating what I want from what I actually need is tricky when I’m standing in the store. I’m still working on this one too.

I’m a little better at doing this when I grocery shop though (at least I try to be). I don’t put something extra, like a treat, in the cart until I’ve filled it with everything I need and I’m still within my budget.

Nicki at Domestic Cents´s last blog post..Anatomy Of A Thoughtful Person

3 rachella January 12, 2009

I’m fixing my house bit-by-bit as I can afford it. My housemate and I do what we can ourselves. The rest is done by builders who, luckily for us, prefer to be paid in cash. When we save some money, we call them in. After each project, they go away until we gather more money.

rachella´s last blog post..

4 neimanmarxist January 12, 2009

I am willing to wait for most things. We don't own a lot of furniture yet, and what we do own is cheap and/or second-hand, mainly because we're waiting til we pay our debt, save for a down payment, and finish our emergency fund in order to buy things like furniture. I'd be happy with nice second-hand stuff forever (I figure when we have kids, they're just going to destroy it anyway) . I'm proud of the relatively frugal lifestyle that we lead (all our friends own property, have car payments, shop for new things at pottery barn, and eat out three days a week. We don't wash ziploc baggies, but we budget and are conscious of our spending). I wasn't raised frugal, so it's been quite the revolution for me.

That said, I recently spent quite a sum rather impulsively . I guess i felt guilty for a while (what's the point of scrimping and saving if you're just going to break the bank with a sunny holiday?) but I found other things to cut out of our budget to pay for our indulgence . I guess part of wanting something is being willing to give up other things for it. So I did ,and feel better about it now.

Living frugally is kind of like living healthfully. Once you have a diet of nourishing foods and a good exercise routine, you would never want to live otherwise. I feel the same way about our spending habits. Living like our friends in the JCrew elite do can probably never be appealing to me again.

<abbr>neimanmarxist´s last blog post..January Goals: Week One Check-in</abbr>

5 Abigail January 12, 2009

I know the agony of having to wait. I have one or two expensive hobbies, and so when I want to indulge in one, it requires the waiting game. Very painful.

And I definitely feel you on the “ooooooh, shiiiiiny” front. Whenever we go to Sam’s Club, my husband and I stop to drool at the large LCD/plasma TVs. Sometimes also at the jewelry sections. (Which is more “oooooh, sparkly!”) But we know that we’d rather get out of debt and then reward our hard work than put ourselves further in the hole.

Our new deal is for us each to get $10 per week to spend however we want. Given that we both have expensive hobbies, that money will almost certainly go there. But it’s nice to know that when we do buy items, the money will be in our hot little hands.

I suppose what’s both gratifying — and mortifying — about waiting is just how easily it turns out you don’t need an item. Gratifying because you held off and didn’t spend the money. Mortifying because you really thought that it was a life necessity. It’s a little terrifying and embarrassing just how easily your brain can trick you.

Abigail´s last blog post..Another sale of interest

6 Lucie @ Unconvention January 12, 2009

Kelly, I feel your pain on needing an updated work wardrobe! I have been going through that myself. I am no frugal queen (far from it) but since I have been paying more attention to how I spend I have noticed a marked difference in my attitude towards shopping. I am thoughtful about every single purchase I make, and that helps a lot.

I like this series – it's good to remember the concepts that motivated us to be frugal in the first place!

<abbr>Lucie @ Unconventional Origins´s last blog post..Amos and Andy Come to Dinner</abbr>

7 Craig January 12, 2009

Nice post Kelly, I am trying to retrain myself as well. It’s all about getting in the mindset and establishing a routine. When you can establish with the mindset not to buy, then it helps one become frugal and can help save money.

8 pam munro January 13, 2009

I wait with a shopping list in my head – as I never could find what I was looking for on a specific shopping trip, anyway – let alone at a good price! So, in the meantime, I look and I look and I look – and bingo! the bargain usually appears. I know shopping in Europe for clothes is generally more difficult – as they go for more enduring styles at higher prices – Have you thought about getting things online? U.S. prices are a bargain in Euros.

9 Jason January 13, 2009

Layaway (called layby here) is still commonly available in Australia (and sometimes even advertised – “layby now for Christmas”), but not surprisingly store credit is being pushed more and more ๐Ÿ™‚

The last “big” thing we bought was paid for with cash – we got a Playstation 3, which we’d been waiting to get for 8 months (bought with part of my tax return at the time). The next big thing I’ll have to get will be a new computer, which will also be paid for with cash.

Jason´s last blog post..Do You Have The Best Bank Account?

10 Eponine January 13, 2009

I waited a year and a half before buying a new, larger TV after I moved to Texas. Until I got it, I used the 15-year-old TV which I had had since grad school. It was about the size of an old computer monitor. I admit that I didn't actually save for the new TV: I bought it with part of my stimulus check. But the fact that I waited until I had cash in hand instead of running out and using my credit card was still a victory for me!

<abbr>Eponine´s last blog post..First Day Back</abbr>

11 Ste[j January 13, 2009

I wait for everything, it seems. Right now I’m trying to teach myself *not* to wait so long on the small stuff. I just bought myself a whisk because it was the second Christmas in a row that it was on my wish list and didn’t get it. A $5.99 whisk. (And for the record, I’m really enjoying having it.)

12 Fabulously Broke January 13, 2009

I never had restraint before, then I got my real job, realized I had $60k in student loans, and buckled down…

Now, I feel better if I buy myself something (like an iPod shuffle) if I really wanted it with justified reasons, and if I could do a task I hated to get it (like organizing my corporation)

Fabulously Broke in the City
Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver…

13 jodi @ bpr January 13, 2009

Great post – we only buy with cash and it’s such a great feeling! I have gotten to where I don’t spend much time in the mall or other stores, unless I have a need, and that has greatly diminished my wants! I also try not to buy much of anything the first time I see it…if my mind continues to go back to it for days/weeks afterwards, and it’s in our budget, I can buy it with confidence…but oftentimes I find that I never think of it again and it would have been a total waste!

jodi @ bpr´s last blog post..Looking Forward at 2009

14 Roshawn @ Watson Inc January 14, 2009

I loved the honesty in this post; interestingly, I just wrote a post on whether frugality is hurting the economy. Best Regards,


<abbr>Roshawn @ Watson Inc´s last blog post..Thrift Paradox – Is Frugality Hurting Economy?</abbr>

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