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As a personal finance blogger, I feel the need to evaluate all of my expenses as if one of my readers were following me around. Incidentally, some of you are real-life friends and do see my every day expenses. This morning, I was purchasing my husband’s Christmas gift. It is a piece of workout equipment from Rogue that I would classify as a semi-expensive item. It’s more than I would spend on Valentine’s Day, but less than a vacation. As I was purchasing the gift, I asked myself if this expense is consistent with the money practices I teach here. This led to a series of questions that I pondered throughout the morning: Is it okay to have expensive things when I am trying to save money? How much is too much to spend on a gift? Would Dave Ramsey buy this? Does Dave have a home gym? If I spend this much on him and Chris spends this much on me, is that definitely too much? Can I live a frugal lifestyle and still buy expensive things?
After thinking about it, I came up with the following “rules” for buying expensive stuff. I decided that if a purchase meets the following criteria, it’s okay to spend the money and still practice a frugal lifestyle.
Do I have the Money?
This is always going to be my number one question for anyone about a purchase, including myself. If it requires financing, lay-away, or credit of any kind, put it back or choose something cheaper. The joy that the gift will bring is not worth the stress, extra work, and headache that will follow as you try to pay for it. Save the money beforehand and then you can buy it later if you choose. We have money saved for gifts and this item is pricey but affordable for us. Here’s another tip: if the item is a “need” and not a “want” (like a vehicle), buy the highest quality you can afford and start making a savings plan to replace it with an even higher quality item when this one wears out.
Is this a Great Gift?
Before you drop the big bucks, are you even sure the recipient will love it? I don’t mean a casual, “Aww, thanks! This is so cute!” kind of response. I mean the type of gift that they really, genuinely want or need. My attitude about exercise is pretty neutral. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I do it just for the health benefits, and sometimes I skip it because I’m not really feeling it (this typically happens six out of seven days on vacation). Not so for my husband. He’s pretty hard core about that mess. He does a bajillion burpees and then lifts a million pounds in the back yard while I do yoga with a YouTube video in the air conditionined living room. The weirdest part about it is that he really loves to nearly kill himself like this. He says it’s stress relieving which I don’t understand. It all looks very hard to me and everything out there is really heavy. I will never use this Christmas gift, but I’m expecting to see him out there in his workout shed sweating it out with this particular form of exercise torture at least a few times a week. Also, it’s something he has asked for in the past, so I know this will be a great gift that is truly appreciated.
Can I Find a Better Deal?
I have looked for this particular brand of fitness equipment on Craigslist and Ebay in the past and I know that it is typically not available and if it is, the price is still pretty high. The items last a lifetime and they don’t drop much in value even after being used. Also, giant, heavy things are not cheap to ship. That mostly rules out Ebay unless you are super lucky and a seller lives nearby. Even so, I scoured surrounding Craigslist ads and Ebay and did a quick Google search to see if I could find this equipment used anywhere nearby. My search turned up empty. If I didn’t already know that this stuff is VERY hard to find at a deep discount, I would have definitely kept looking until the last minute. Last Christmas, I looked until the actual last minute on Christmas Eve and I had to give an IOU because the glorious deal I hoped for was not to be found. Lesson learned. Do your homework or you will have nothing to give your husband on Christmas day.
Let’s say, like me, you have looked for a discount on a refurbished or used item and could not find one. My next three resources to scour for deals are Honey, Ebates, and Raise. Read my post about How to have a Frugal Christmas to learn more about how to use these websites for maximum savings.
- Honey– Download this browser extension and it will automatically scan the internet for promotional codes and apply any that can be used on your order. Sign up here.
- Ebates– Use this website to get cash back on your expenses on qualifying websites. Almost all websites are on Ebates (except the one I was using this morning, of course. Sigh.) Sign up here and get $10 with your first purchase greater than $25.
- Raise– Look on this website to get discounted gift cards to apply to your purchase and save money that way. Sign up here.
Is the Item High Quality?
We have never been ones to spend money on a brand just for the sake of the brand. Aside from a few peer-pressure-induced purchases during our teenage years, we do not buy expensive trendy brands. We will, however, look for certain brands that we know have a good reputation for quality and durability when we need them. We have Keen, Rogue, and Asics footwear, Abercrombie and J. Crew jeans, North Face and Columbia coats, and Bolle and Smith sunglasses. We have found these brands to be long-lasting and properly fitting and we have not had to replace anything that we have purchased in the past several years except for shoes. I used to buy cheap $10 sunglasses, but the lenses scratched and the screws came out and got lost and the nose pieces bent all wonky and I had to replace them annually. Not to mention the fact that I still had to squint under my Walmart glasses because the UV protection was minimal. I have not had any of those problems with my Smith sunglasses. They fit great and stay on my head and, best of all, they provide actual eye protection. Chris used to buy his blue jeans from Old Navy, but they only lasted about a year before ripping. He’s an active guy and he needs clothes that can withstand some running and jumping in his every day life. Likewise, his exercise equipment needs to be high quality. Not all brands and cheap deals are worthwhile. We trust a few brands that have proven themselves to be trustworthy and durable enough to warrant the expense. We would rather save enough money to pay more in the beginning for a better product and avoid having to shell out again later to replace a junky one.
I’m going to tag on a follow up suggestion to this because it’s so important: take good care of your stuff. We have croakies for our sunglasses so that we don’t lose them. Our phones are in protective cases. We have kept up with our winter coats for years. We only have a few pairs of “good” blue jeans each, so we don’t do yard work or paint in them. We use our ratty, ripped pants for that kind of stuff. We keep up with maintenance on exercise equipment to keep it in good working condition. Don’t obsess over your stuff, but do everything you can to prolong the life of your high quality items and teach your kids to do the same. Here are links to our items very similar to ours*.
I wear these exact Keens at work at least a couple days a week. I do a lot of standing and they provide adequate support and a cute alternative to a clog or tennis shoe. I wear a half size larger in these than most other shoes.
Will it be Cheaper at Another Time?
Certain items are discounted the most during specific seasons. Grills go on sale in the spring. Jewelry deals happen around Valentine’s Day. Clothes are cheapest at the end of the season. Right now, we all need to buy something for our loved ones for Christmas and we can’t don’t currently have the luxury of waiting until Memorial Day. I understand that. Whenever possible, try to buy the more expensive things at the time of year when they are cheapest and save them for the next gift-giving occasion. It’s pretty hard to hide a grill for six months, but you can save that gift idea and give it cheaper for Father’s Day instead of paying full price now. In the case of my gift, I honestly have no idea whether or not they will feature a sale later in the year. If I could predict a spring sale, I would wait. Historically, I have not seen seasonal sales on this item and I, like you at this point, don’t have time to wait for one. As far as I know from my previous research, this item will not be cheaper later. Just in case there is a price drop in the next few weeks, I have an account with a very special website called Paribus*. This website will track your purchases for the past 90 days and will automatically request a refund from the seller if the item goes on sale. Paribus is paid a 25% commission for any refunds you receive. If you refer your friends and family, they reduce that amount by 5% for each referral. Now is an EXCELLENT time to join this website because we’re all making a lot of purchases that will very likely go on sale in January and make us want to pull our hair out. Join now with this link.
I tested the gift against my rubric and it passed. Paribus will track it for me and try to get me a discount if it goes on sale next month. I bought it and we can all enjoy it guilt-free because I know it was a money-conscious purchase. Most importantly, I think I can still classify my lifestyle as “frugal” and so can you if you stick to the above rules. Consider your purchases, spend wisely, and have a very merry Christmas, friend.
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