I just received two questions from a Frugal Living reader and I thought it may be helpful to answer them on the site and also get your input. I will answer her second question in a later post.
Rachael asks the question (paraphrased):
When do I know when to stop buying? It’s difficult to stop taking advantage of deals even when we don’t need the items. I especially enjoy giving our extra deals to others, but we need to get out of debt.
Great question! Here are my thoughts:
:: Set a monthly food & household budget and stick to it. I cannot stress this enough. Right now my budget is $265. My husband pulls that amount of cash from our bank account and I put it in the food & household envelope in my Dave Ramsey wallet. Once the money’s gone, I stop spending. If I have extra, I feel the freedom to stockpile a really great deal or to buy for other people or organizations.
When we first started spending money this way, it was difficult for me to know how to pace myself. If you’re just starting out with an envelope system, I suggest you split your monthly allotment into 4 weekly envelopes. This keeps you keep from spending it all in the first week and end up having no fresh food at the end of the month.
:: Cut your food & household budget back a little each month until you find a comfortable amount for your family. The longer you stockpile, the less money you will need to spend each month. This will help you keep your stockpile spending under control.
We started out at $400 a month and, as I stated, we’re at $265 now. We arrived at $265 over more than two years of budgeting, couponing and stockpiling. If I was still at $400, there would be WAY too much stuff in our pantry. That’s when stockpiling has the danger of turning into hoarding.
:: Set financial priorities and have these priorities guide every dollar you spend. I personally believe that giving to one’s local church comes first (if you’re a Christian) and then the next priority should be getting out of debt as quickly as possible. Cut your food & household budget as much as you can to free up money to pay down your debt. Once the debt is gone, reevaluate the budget and consider using extra money to give to others.
Until you are debt-free, take this challenge — only get the free stuff for a period of time (one month, three months, six months) and give those items away. You are still able to bless others while focusing on taking care of your family.
:: Realize that the honeymooon will be over soon. The first months of couponing and stockpiling is totally addicting. It’s so much fun to get as much for as little as possible. In the beginning, I used to go to Safeway and troll for clearance stickers three or four times a week.
After a while, I came down from the couponing high and now no longer feel the overwhelming compulsion to get every deal. There are some weeks that I don’t even go in a store. I let deals pass all the time.
The longer you’re in the game, the more confident you are in knowing which deals will come around again. Free toothpaste? That deal will be back soon. Free or cheap diapers? Oh, jump on that one immediately. You plan your week around free diapers.
What do the rest of you think? How do you “know when to say when?”
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