Being frugal when temptation strikes (is really hard)

by Karen on August 23, 2008

Sigh. Being frugal is hard enough without the constant testing.

Today, Tony (the husband) and I were on a routine shopping trip at Target. Dish detergent (bought with a coupon), dog treats (also bought with a coupon), Raisin Bran on sale, and deodorant. We picked up our items, and because we’re masochists and we’re not doing anything else until we head out to a cookout later, we decided to browse a bit. Big mistake.

I don’t even bother looking at high ticket items anymore, so Tony saw it first. The Calphalon cookware we’ve been eyeing for over a year. On clearance. 50% off. Gulp.

As you know, we cook a lot. Aside from two Calphalon skillets we bought at Bed, Bath and Beyond with a gift card we got at the wedding, we’ve been using the same cheap cookware for two years. It’s still functional, but we’ve been dreaming of a new, high-quality set of cookware since before we moved.

So there it was. The exact set we’d been dreaming about for two years marked down from $200 to $100. It’s like the fates were trying to tempt us.

We stood in the aisle for about 20 minutes just looking at it and drooling. Tony, who I know wanted it more that I did because he does most of the cooking, tried to make it easy on me. “Let’s just go,” he said, gently pulling me away. “We don’t need it.” I knew he didn’t mean it, though. And I knew, despite his heroic attempt to save me from myself, that he was hoping I’d override his veto.

Mostly because it was something that I knew he wanted, I started making the standard excuses. “We’ve been so good this month. We deserve it.” Then the little frugal voice in my head that’s been getting louder and louder lately said, You want to celebrate the fact that you’ve saved money this month by spending money? How does that make sense?

“But because we’ve done so well, we should end up having about $300 left over at the end of the month from cutting corners in our budget. We could afford this without even breaking our budget!” To that, the little voice said, Um, up until two minutes ago, you couldn’t wait to put that toward your last little bit of credit card debt or your savings.

And of course, the excuse that used to trump them all: “We need it.”

But this time, that excuse wasn’t going to work. I reminded myself of the $100 Target gift card we received at the wedding. We discussed putting it toward new cookware, but ultimately talked ourselves into using it for an ice cream maker attachment for our stand mixer. Yeah, dumb.

To be fair, the cookware cost $200 at the time, and we didn’t want to spend money in order to use our gift cards. We did receive cash from relatives at the wedding, but we decided to use it as the first deposit into our savings account.

The fact remains, if we really needed that cookware, we wouldn’t have bought the ice cream maker first. You didn’t need that cookware so badly when there was something frivolous and fun you wanted two months ago, the frugal voice said. After all, gift cards never expire. Nothing was stopping us from saving up money to pay for the rest of it or saving the gift card until we saw a great deal like this one.

After I had talked myself out of it, it was Tony who started having second thoughts. “I guess when you think about it, we would easily spend $100 by going out to eat only four times. For that price, we can get brand new cookware that will help us cook hundreds of cheaper meals at home.”

As much as I hated to admit it, though, that’s not the point. We can easily make hundreds of meals at home with our old cookware without spending another $100.

Besides, do we really want to undo all of our hard work and restraint this month by spending money now when we’re so close to our first month of budget success? Celebrating your financial successes by spending money is a good way to keep yourself from ever really getting anywhere.

It was the hardest decision we’ve made since we decided to get serious about living frugally, but we walked away from the clearance cookware. Even though we had the money for it, and even though it was an amazing deal. Sigh.

I’m still questioning our decision. Eventually, we’ll need to buy new cookware. Will we end up paying twice as much for it and regret our decision to wait? That thought has definitely crossed my mind. But I just can’t risk getting off track now that we’re so close to our first successful month. We need to know we can do this, and we need to walk away from some good deals for a while if we’ve ever going to get ahead.

I’m sure someday, after many months of budgeting success, we’ll be able to make exceptions for things like that when the deal really is great and it’s something that we really could use. But right now it’s just too early to start making those exceptions. If we give in to every temptation from the very beginning, how will we ever get anywhere?

What do you think? Did we make the right choice? What would you have done?

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{ 5 comments }

1 Kacie August 23, 2008 at 9:27 pm

Oh man, Target can really get me too. We were there today and spent a lot more than we expected to ($60!).

I stand by all of our purchases, though.

$10 was for batteries for our flashlight and smoke detector, $16 was for “sensible” flat shoes I could wear instead of teetering around on high heels when I dress up (church and a birthday party coming up), $15ish for car wash supplies (mitt, wax, and rainx, and we have plenty to use again later),

Some underthings for me (can’t help it–I’m a growing preggo!) and the most necessary thing: A bag of dark chocolate. Heh.

Those little purchases really add up, and I was kinda bummed at the $60 total.

But, whaddya do?

Regarding your Target experience today, I think it’s a tough call. Like you said, you got along just fine without the cookware so far, even though you hope to replace it soon. It is a fantastic price, and maybe it’ll go on sale again in the future.

Give it a few more days to think about, and if you still want it, I’d say go pick it up if it won’t break your budget (and if you won’t feel terribly guilty about it).

But if by Wednesday or so you still would rather see that $100 go into savings or toward debt reduction, then that’s where it should go.

2 moneyloveandchange August 23, 2008 at 9:43 pm

I agree with Kacie – think about it for a couple more days. If you’ve been wanting it for over a year, and it is a great deal, and you have the money, I would consider it.

In the meantime, I would check online to see if you can find the same cookware for a comparable price. If you see it for anything close to the deal at Target, I might be more inclined to wait. Then you can save the money for that specific item and use your current money to pay down debt.

3 Kasey August 23, 2008 at 11:03 pm

Wow girl, you almost talked ME into buying the cookware with your rationalizations (and I don’t like to cook!)! I have to agree wholeheartedly with the other two comments though, the best things to do are 1) Walk away and sleep on it and 2) Shop around to see if that’s really the best deal.

I’m very proud of you for walking away! I’m terrible about stuff like that so I’m not sure if I could have done it. Another bit of advice that I have for you if you’re still craving a little reward for your effort is to maybe take $5 and buy something else you’ve been wanting- if you’re a chef at heart, then maybe a fun little kitchen gadget. Sometimes you can just enjoy one bite without eating the whole cake, and then your appetite is satiated without the stomachache afterward. ;-)

I’m going to be doing a post on a similar subject in the near future (how we almost plunked down $12,000- yikes!), so check back on my blog for that story soon! I think that sharing personal stories is one of the best ways to learn from one another!

4 tiffanie August 26, 2008 at 8:33 pm

i think that you need to sleep on it. if, after a few days, you still feel that it’s a purchase that will be worthwhile (and it sounds like it would be), then maybe it isn’t such a bad idea? i would hate to pay more down the road when you can get it now for such a good price. but that’s just me :)

5 chris August 28, 2008 at 12:46 pm

don’t do it.cookware lasts forever.
All my pots and pans are someone else’s cast offs.
I haven’t bought a pan in 23 years from a retail outlet.
Put your $100 in the bank and forget it.
When you have an emergency and need it,you will be glad you didn’t buy yet another pan just to fill up your kitchen

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