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Sharpen Your Frugal Senses: Keep A Wish List

Is there a book you want to buy? A DVD set? Some designer cookie cutters? Or is your kitchen stove a bit dated and you’d love to buy a new one?

Here’s a habit that helps my family keep the “I Wants” in perspective as well as make us strong shoppers and super savers…

Keep A Wish List

Every time you come across something that you’d like to buy, or know that you’ll have to upgrade in the near future, add it to your wish list. It doesn’t matter how big or small the price tag is. A few things happen when you do this:

  1. It puts the new “I Want” item in perspective. If it’s a new book you want, you’ll notice the ten other books that are waiting in line–and the $200 or so dollars those books will cost you over time. You’ll see that $200 could put a good dent to wards getting that new kitchen stove you want. Suddenly, borrowing from the library seems like a good idea.
  2. By adding bigger purchases to the Wish List, this gives you time to accumulate flyers and sales prices. I’ve known for about a year now that we’ll be buying a new TV for Christmas this year. I’ve had a year to gather flyers, compare specs and prices and will be able to make not only an informed decision regarding the features we’ll want, I’ll also be able to jump on the legitimate “Hot Deals” instead of the “Sale In Name Only” specials. Keep a folder for holding flyers throughout the time you’re saving for a particular item. You’ll be able to track when the best sales are and the best time of year to buy.
  3. By keeping track of your latest “Want”, you’ll free your mind from it and find the impulse to buy isn’t that strong in a few days. You may even forget about the item altogether a month later. When this happens enough, you begin to realize how many purchases you are inclined to make really are based on emotion rather than need.
  4. Cross off or check the items as you buy them and save your Wish Lists. You’ll be able to learn from your spending habits and adjust them to serve you better.

Each Family Member Has Their Own List

No more scrambling for gift ideas, they’re all on the list. Also kids feel their hopes, dreams, wishes are being heard and are important…it’s right on their list! Give kids a spot on the bulletin board to keep their list, or somewhere posted in their room. Occasionally show them that you notice it, and cheer them on while they save their own money to achieve their Wish List goals.

They may not get everything on their list, but they’ll develop a strong life skill: they’ll realize that a lot of time, wants are fleeting. What’s terribly important to have “now” fades over time. They’ll also learn to prioritize their purchases.

Separate The Wheat From The Chaff: Is It A Want Or A Need?

By documenting planned purchases, or hopeful purchases, you sharpen your frugal savvy mind and begin to separate the Wants from the Needs. Chances are there’ll be several items on the list, so you’ll find yourself analyzing the items when choosing where the alloted money will go. You begin to think:

  1. How long will I productively use the item? A new refrigerator purchase can last our family 15 to 25 years. A large DVD or book library will last years too, but how long will I productively use them?
  2. Is it something that will enhance my life in some way: saves time, saves money (for example: a new energy efficient furnace), or improves the quality of my life (ie. a new mattress).

Treat Purchases Are Ok – Sometimes

“Treats” can motivate us, give us goals to shoot for and lift our spirits, they’re good things — in moderation. By keeping a Wish List and tracking your purchases, some financial clarity will develop. Are you spending the majority of extra cash or savings on “Treats”, yet feeling deprived because you can’t afford to buy the items that you “Need”? You won’t feel all that deprived anymore when you realize it’s your very own buying choices that are preventing the needful purchases.

Master Impulse Buying

Wish Lists cut down on impulse buys, yet somehow you don’t feel deprived. It just becomes a way of life for you to mark down items on a Wish List before rushing out to buy them. My family still isn’t perfect when it comes to impulse buys, but we really have come a long way since we started keeping a Wish List. You develop of an automatic thought process for yourself: “Spending money now on this impulse item will delay the purchase of something on my Wish List – is it worth it?” Credit purchases and dipping into long term savings accounts have been cut to near non-existent since we have time (and clear goals) to save for items we know we want or need.

And Finally…

You just find yourself not “wanting” as much. You know there are a few important and a few luxury things on your list already. When the hottest new perfume comes out on the market, it doesn’t stack up to what you already have on your list so you immediately discard the temporary want. Works for me!