In the past few months, we’ve had many successes to report. But recently, we’ve also had some expenditures that feel out of line with our new goals. And yet… it’s surprisingly hard to tell.
I used be on the e-mail lists of a few of my favorite clothing stores so I could get notified of all their sales. I would then rush over to the websites and troll the sale section, trying to get work clothes or other stuff for a good price. Inevitably, though, I’d fall prey to their well-honed marketing tactics and wind up buying things I didn’t reaaaaally need because the price seemed good. Then, since I was shopping online, I wound up with lots of items that didn’t look quite like they did on the website, or didn’t fit quite right, but I kept them anyway because they were basically ok, and I convinced myself I would use them.
I long ago unsubscribed to all of these retailers’ lists after deciding I was probably spending more on things I didn’t really want than I was saving on things I did want. I wonder whether we’re now experiencing another version of this. Let me explain.
We both belong to several neighborhood groups from which we can get used things rather than buying new. These are particularly good for kids’ items, which can be so expensive new, and often don’t get much use because they’re grown out of so quickly. We have picked up some real gems on these lists — last summer, a bike trailer for two babies that we used all summer long (and will use again this year), which we got from a neighborhood family for less than half of what it would have cost new. A kid’s bike helmet for $15 that would have been $40 new. A diaper genie for $5 instead of $20 new.
I’d been feeling pretty good about these purchases… until… we set our new spending goal, and two big purchases on these lists have caused us not to hit that goal. First, we bought a double stroller. Given that we have a second baby on the way, it seemed like this would be really helpful to have. Someone on one of our neighborhood lists was selling a great one in great condition for $350 — HALF of the $700 retail price, plus it included the $60 carseat adapter! I was (and actually still am) convinced that this was a great idea. I expect we will get a lot of use out of the stroller. And from what I’ve seen, used ones are in high demand on these neighborhood groups, so hopefully, when we’re finished using it, we’ll be able to re-sell it to someone local for close to what we bought it for. BUT, that big purchase caused us not to meet the new, ambitious spending goal in the second half of May.
Then June rolled around, giving us a clean slate on my budgeting spreadsheet. But lo… a gym two blocks away from us closed, and was selling off all of its equipment for cheap! Annnnd…. we bought a rower, an olympic barbell and some plates to go with it (since, before I got pregnant, I used to do Crossfit), and, randomly, some benches that happen to fit perfectly on our deck. All for the low, low price of… $800. Which leaves basically nothing left for the rest of June’s spending. Again, we rationalized — the equipment is used, it’s stuff that’s generally in high demand, and we can probably re-sell it later if it turns out we’re not using it. If we do use it, we now have a pretty sweet setup to knock out some killer workouts in our very own basement, rather than paying a gym membership. We didn’t even have to trek all over creation to get all this great gear — it was two blocks away, and the nice gym owners helped us get the stuff back to our house with their truck! And yet… we blew our June budget on stuff that was prettttty far down on our list of things-we-want-to-purchase-if-we-have-extra-cash-lying-around.
So the question is… are we totally sucking at being frugal? Or not so bad? Are our rationalizations sound, or are we just deluding ourselves? Are we avoiding changing our attitude towards spending and consumption, and instead just finding new ways to consume? Honestly, I can’t tell! Maybe these two big purchases are just aberrations that happened to come on consecutive months. Or maybe, despite making huge strides in so many areas, we still have a long way to go in training that frugality muscle… I guess time will tell!