Buying Big Purchases Frugally and Mindfully

I'm in the US now for the first time in five and a half years, and while I was here, I decided to do some shopping of items that would be beneficial for me to buy here instead of buying where I live. I'm writing another post about what I bought here and why, but I wanted to write a post specifically about one thing that I bought. Not even what exactly I bought, but the thought process that goes behind it, because I think that is more important.

When you're buying a large purchase, how do you know that its a frugal thing to do? I mean, you can say that if it costs a lot of money, then it isn't frugal, because spending money isn't frugal, right? Wrong. At least in my books. Everyone is spending money on something, the question is whether you're getting value for your money, in addition to living within your means. My focus in life lately has not been "Just how little money possible can I spend, period?" (because honestly, buying just the absolute cheapest now often means spending more money again and again and again later, for various reasons), but more: How do I make sure that the money that I spend is being spent in a way that I would like it to be spent, that I'm getting what I want for my money. That my money is being spent in ways that reflect my values, my desires, and my goals in life. And of course, doing that while living within my means.

For me, my focus is not "what is the absolute cheapest" but more "mindful money spending" or as I like to refer to it, the pursuit of money mindfulness.

So how does this work when it comes to making larger purchases?

First of all, we have to make sure that we're living within our means and not buying these large purchases via credit card or putting them on layaway.

When you have large purchases that you know will be coming up, or you plan on getting, you start a sinking fund. Decide how much money you'll be spending on each of them, and then each month set aside a little bit of money towards each of those things, so that by the time you go to spend on it, you'll have it already funded. For example, my computer that I need because it is what I use for work has been dying quite quickly, despite it being relatively new. So what I did was make myself a sinking fund, earmarking money every month and putting it into that fund, so that I'd have the money to buy it when needed. Same with the sneakers that I wear, that need to be high quality because of my plantar fascitis.

Ok, so that's how you get the money to pay for it, but how do you make sure that it's something that aligns with your values?

First of all, the fact that you have decided to earmark money for it and save for it over months or longer already shows that its important to you, and not an impulse buy. That's really the biggie.

My biggest "trick" about mindful money spending is to not impulse buy. If something is a larger purchase, think about something before you get it. Think about it at least overnight. The bigger the purchase, the longer you should think about it. Maybe mull over it a week? A month? After that time, do you still want it as much as you did initially? Great! It means that that's something important to you, and you won't feel like your money slipped through your fingers into an area where you'd rather not spend.

But sometimes, things can look like an impulse buy, even if they aren't, and even if they suit your values.

What inspired this post was actually my picking up a pressure canner while shopping yesterday. I'd made myself a shopping list of things to buy in the US and a pressure canner was definitely not on that list. "Miss Frugal, Penny Price, you're buying that? Wow, talk about impulse buys!" my friend Michelle, shopping with me, pointed out.

But it's not.

Yes, it sort of was. But its the kind of impulse buy that is totally in line with my values. Because I've literally wanted a pressure canner for years. I looked up old posts on this blog, and at least as long ago as 2016 I wrote about wanting to buy a pressure canner, and I started writing about canning in 2010 and referenced pressure canning then. So this is something I've wanted for 9 years already.
Not an impulse buy even if I didn't have it on my shopping list. (And yes, I had the funds to cover it, fortunately, now that I was able to have access to my money in the US.) Because the fact is, if I've been thinking about buying it for so long already, buying it is in line with my values. (And yes, Miss Frugal Penny Price is buying it, because its in my values of making things from scratch and saving money- with it I'll be able to can non acidic things and preserve foods without the need for a freezer.) Oh, and for the record, five years ago when I came to the US it was on my shopping list of things to bring back with me, but I didn't end up bringing anything back with me nor did I have time to shop.

I actually had a similar thing happen to me when it came to getting a dog. When my son and I were in Romania, we discussed getting a dog, and already the next week I was looking into getting a dog. I was worried that I was making a very impulse decision, getting a dog within one week of discussing it with my son, so I brought it with my therapist. But during our session, I mentioned that I've wanted a dog since I was a child, and my parents always told me that I could get a dog when I had my own home, but then I had my own home and little babies and it was too much work, and then I had no yard, so timing wasn't right. At the time Lee and I were discussing getting a dog, all the factors were working to our favor: the youngest kid was four, we had a house with a yard, and my children were old enough to help take care of the dog. So yes, even if I made the decision to get a dog, which is a life long commitment, within a week, it wasn't an impulsive or unhealthy decision.

Same with larger purchases. Are you buying it because it caught your fancy and you said "Why not?" or was it something you actually wanted? Someone I know has been coming back to a certain store for months, every single time looking at something specific and longing for it. I convinced them to go and actually buy it, that it wasn't a waste. If they have been longing after something for that long, clearly its important to them, and buying it fell in line with mindful money spending.

Time. And commitment to a decision. And saving up in advance. That's how you make larger purchases both frugally and mindfully.

What is your method of ensuring that larger purchases are frugal and in line with your values? Do you follow a similar method as I do? If different, please share how you do it.

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. I do as you. I save up for what I need and do tons of research to find the best fit for my home. The oven part of my stove is no longer working, so I bought a toaster oven. Other than not being able to make anything in my 13x9 pan, it's worked out quite well. Meanwhile, I'm saving up for a stove.

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