Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tightwad Tuesday: Patience is a virtue (and it usually pays off)

Where does the time go? Oh wait, I know, there's a time-eating machine sleeping in his crib above me. Check.

Welcome to tightwad Tuesday. I started writing a tightwad-themed Tuesday post a few months ago when I realized that the more I write about the money-saving convictions I have, the better I am at following through with said convictions. Does that resonate with anyone else? It's kinda like a diet, you know? When you tell a bunch of people you're cutting calories and making a
concerted effort to lose weight, you're much more likely to do just that.


It should come as no surprise that there are a lot of things I would like to own. I'm sure you're the same way. Whether it's a hairbrush, or a dresser, a wall painting, or a food processor, we all want something. And it's up to us to decide whether we should buy it, or live without.

But I've found a third option. And it seems to be working swimmingly.


What? Yes. Patience. Ok, let me explain. Over the last few months any number of purchasable items have come into my mind. You name it, and I've probably pondered buying it. But instead of heading out to search for the lowest price, or greatest deal, I've written said items on the whiteboard in our kitchen.

See? Some of them are still up there. There were more, but over time I came to the conclusion that I didn't need, or even want, some of them. And yet, some remained. One of those was a George foreman Grill. Yes, B&B, we still have the one you gave us, but honestly, it isn't big enough any more. I began searching out a bigger one a few months ago and kept coming up empty handed - until yesterday.

Yes, it was a quick and unscheduled trip to Goodwill that rewarded my patience with the granddaddy of double sized George Foremans. Would you believe it's hardly been used? Would you also believe it was 50% off, and set us back about $3.27? Indeed, it made for a good buy (and an even better replacement) which will save me oodles of time on dinner prep. We do, after all, use this little appliance 3-4 times weekly on a whole variety of "quick meals" I prepare and stockpile in our freezer.

... but I would be remiss if I didn't point out the potential for such a bargain hunting system to quickly turn into a system for accumulating things we don't need. You know, the "I found such a great deal, I just couldn't resist" stuff. So here is where the buck stops for me:

I will quote the book that I oft. do; "The Complete Tightwad Gazette", by Amy Dacyczyn. In it, a reader submitts a list of buying criteria which I found utterly helpful. It encourages patience, and diligence, and puts to rest haste, and greed. It also facilitates a better understanding of the difference between "want" and "need" - and couldn't we all use a little help in that department?
  • Can I live without it?
  • Does it do more than required?
  • Does it cost more than it's worth?
  • Can we do what it does with things we already have?
  • How often will we use it?
  • Where will we store it?
  • Will using it be more work than we're apt to want to do?
  • How many ways can we use it?
  • Have we checked with people who own one and with consumer ratings?
  • Would I be smarter to resist, and put the money toward another goal?
  • If an item doesn't satisfy 8-10 of these criteria, could I at least sell it for the same price I paid (or better) should it fall short of my expectations?
I will add to this list the point "will it save me money, or the equivalent in time doing another task?" When I say equivalent, I'm actually referring to a mathematical equation. What I mean by that is, quite simply, my time is worth money. By doing something like, say, making my own yogurt, I'm saving roughly $3.64 each time I make a half-gallon batch, which takes about 20 minutes of my time. Therefore, I'm "earning" $10.92 per hour of "yogurt making". So, I measure a product's "time saving value" on the value of the time I would spend doing a similar task.

All that rambling to say that USUALLY, it's better to go without buying what first comes to your mind for two reasons: First, if you write it down and wait long enough you'll probably decide that either you don't need it, or that something you have will suffice. Or second, you'll maintain that you do need it and something gently used will turn up when you least expect it.

Why go to all this work? Why bother? Aside from saving money, it comes down to discipline, and stewardship. I want to model both of these for my family, and what better way than to put them into practice, to the very best of my ability.

Sure, my son may be left to play with MY childhood train set, on a table we salvaged from a curbside (both clean, and sturdy, might I add) But maybe, just maybe, that will instill in his little brain the notion that brand new is not essential, that we don't purchase on a whim, and that patience is indeed a virtue.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Wow still using the ol' Foreman, eh? Glad you got some good miles out of it! And WOW what a deal on that big one! Sheesh! I have an ever-growing list of "wants" but I don't have to go through a list of questions to find out if I should purchase it or not. I just need to look in my wallet ;-)