Before I begin this post, I want to state the following disclaimer: This may be the craziest post I will ever write (hopefully). I encourage you to bear with me and think outside the box. My way, may or may not work for you, but it sure does work for me ;-).
I understand that the job of a budget is to set limits. When you shop on a budget you are supposed to spend only whatever you have set in your budget for that item or category. The amount you set is supposed to be based on what things are (realistically) going to cost you, right? Well, my system of doing things works a little differently. Yes, I have a budget that I should not (or cannot) exceed for whatever – this much for food, that much for toiletries, etc. The amounts will vary from month to month because, if I stock up this month on certain items, I will probably not have to buy these items for the next couple of months, so (sometimes) I borrow from one category to supplement another.
The thing is, I am not so realistic as far as what I am willing to pay for stuff – I generally want to pay as little as possible. Actually, I really prefer to get things for a dollar or less and I always say 3 is a magic number. Don’t get me wrong, I like quality, style and new things. How do I do it? I’m going to try my best to explain…
First of all, it starts in your mind – if you can dream it, you can achieve it! I set out with the goal to pay as little as possible for whatever I need (or want) to get. Just as it is a good rule of thumb not to go food shopping when you are hungry, it is a good rule of thumb (whenever possible) not to shop for something when you have a pressing need for it. That way you can pass up on the opportunity to buy something when it is priced higher than what you want to pay for it, or gamble that you can get it for less. I am constantly turning up my nose at things that are above my price point.
Secondly, shop where you are likely to find what you are looking for at the price you are looking to pay – I’m talking the clearance section at your favorite stores, thrift shops, outlets, garage sales, eBay, etc. Quick Tip: When you shop at a place that is SUPPOSED to have rock-bottom prices, do not ASSUME that EVERYTHING you find there is super cheap, either. Always keep in mind your price point or budget – you have mouths to feed and stuff to get, so the better you get at this, the better life you will be able to provide for those counting on you (just saying ;-)!
Lastly, take advantage of opportunities. Again, what I am going to say next probably runs counter to the rules of frugality. If I see something I want priced for a dollar or less I will jump on it, even if that’s not what I am shopping for at the moment. What I mean is, there are opportunities that will never come again and you can usually spare a dollar. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when you may not be able to. You have to cover all the bases first. If all the money you have is earmarked for absolute necessities then, you will just have to let it go. The rules of frugality may say if its a want, rather than a need, just don’t get it. My rules say, getting my wants super cheap gives me the satisfaction of affording a luxury. Still, you should not indulge too often. Nine times out of ten you should put whatever it is right back on the shelf. An occasional indulgence can make you feel good but if you do it too often it will affect your budget and bring you down. If you feel guilt about a purchase, chances are you should not have made it. In the end, living a life of abundance on a budget is a balancing act. In the immortal words of Kenny Rogers, “You gotta know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, know when to walk away, know when to run..”