Waiting to Ex-sale

Just this morning, I was having a dialogue with myself.

I found out about a Land’s End 2-day sale that ends today, for free shipping and 20% off your whole order including clearance. I took a look around there yesterday and saw some perfect pea coats for the girls for next year. Put them in my cart with a few other things for a huge discount, all great deals, and then left the site to think about it overnight.

Here’s where the plot thickens. I had budgeted money for April children’s clothes, at the end of March.  We made a pretty lean budget because we are still trying to finish paying off the debt (and have some renewed energy about it since we are close enough to taste it!). And… I had visited Target on Saturday, only to spend the kids’ entire clothing budget then (plus whatever cash I had in my wallet of my spending money!). And that’s all we’d planned to spend for this month on clothes.

So I’m faced with a choice. I can either forget about the coats for now, planning to make do/wait until the last minute like I did last year (and got a pretty good deal on puffy coats). Or, I can talk to my husband about it, so we can adjust the budget – which means taking money allocated toward our debt and putting it onto the clothing. A third option does not really apply in this case due to lack of time, which is to make some extra money from sewing, etc  so that I can apply it toward over-budget items.

I thought you would find it interesting that even after being on this mission to get out of debt for over four years, I still have these kinds of dilemmas and need to talk myself down. I even wrote out an email to my husband explaining the situation (because when we’ve agreed on a budget, we need to discuss any changes before rearranging) and thought to myself, “This is about coats… it’s the beginning of summer… what a ridiculous conversation.” Then I abandoned the email – and the shopping cart.

One of the most revealing things about doing this sort of talking-through regularly (and I’ll be honest, I’ve fallen in and out of the habit over the last four years – it’s a long time to remain truly intense about it without letting up) is how it really brings home the fact that God provides. I have learned a lot about myself and how I spend money and it’s been good to develop some new habits.

Here are some of the tips I have learned along the way about unplanned purchases.

True needs will occur to me apart from seeing an advertisement or display. If I am working in my kitchen day after day and I keep thinking, “Man it would be nice to have a citrus juicer,” chances are I probably do “need” it and would use it and that it would make my life a little easier.  But I’ve noticed that something funny happens to me every time I look at a catalog or look online at a one day sale. I get the same feeling that I “need” something. I’m not saying when I look at a catalog and find something great I didn’t know I needed, that it’s always a bad decision to buy it. But I will say that if I didn’t think I needed it before seeing it, most of the time I’m being manipulated by the advertiser. I can’t afford to spend money based on manipulation.

There will always be another sale. One of the ways that we get caught up in purchasing something right away is with the thought, “It’s such a good deal! The sale ends today! I will never see this deal again!” That may be true, but what I’ve found is almost the opposite. We have really discovered that whenever I decide I need something, no matter how urgent it seems, most things can wait for a period of time while we think about it some more, try to find a better deal, and make do in the meantime. I have noticed that more often than not, I will run across the same item in a chance drive by a yard sale, or even brand new at a store or online for the same deal or better – if we don’t realize first that we don’t even need that thing at all, really! And for the few times it doesn’t hold true, all the money we save by not buying in the heat of the moment gives us more disposable cash to pay a little more for those items we need to buy at full price.

Making do is super fun. We have loved the challenge of it, the creativity it has fostered, and we wear the associated stigmas with pride. Some of our friends see that we use pickle and peanut butter jars instead of glasses, for wine and water, and feel sorry enough for us to buy us a set of wine glasses or plastic cups. 🙂 Which, of course, is so kind of them and we receive it gratefully.  But we actually kind of like using a wine bottle as a rolling pin or an amazon box lined with a grocery bag as a trash can in the bathroom. Why? Maybe it’s because we’re “sticking it” to the consumerism that got us into this jam. Maybe because it’s a reminder wherever we look that we’re getting out of debt and it helps us stay focused. It’s a season of our lives, and it’s tough, but we can enjoy the little things. We can have fun at our own expense about it. Maybe it’s because when we looked into our cabinets and china closets full of beautiful things before, they pointed their little crystal fingers at us and taunted us with the fact that we hadn’t actually paid for them (or things like them). Those humble little mason jars are actually kind of symbolic of our commitment to one another and to working together toward a goal. 

Waiting gives me perspective on my priorities. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get so excited about a deal or a product that I go into a little bit of a frenzy. Even if I think I happen to be thinking straight, it’s difficult to know for sure if I’ve flipped on my “must-buy-now!” switch, or if it’s a wise purchase. When I give it some time to settle, hopefully sleep on it, discuss with the hubby, I have more confidence in my purchase. I sometimes ask myself questions like “In a week (month/year) will I wish I had the money or this item?”

Waiting, even on things we truly need, gives us some room to see God provide for us directly. A few months ago,  I decided that I needed bunk beds for the big girls’ room so I could transition the littler girls into sleeping with them eventually. So I started looking around on Craigslist.  I immediately found two or three listings for just the kind of bed I was looking for. None of the listings happened to work out for me, so we had to make do with the twin size bed we had, plus a crib mattress on the floor. This was working out okay, so I put it on the back burner. A couple months later, I got a phone call from a friend saying “Do you need bunk beds by any chance? I have a friend who offered it to me and I can send them to your house instead.” Within the hour we had a brand new, free bunk bed delivered to our door.

It sounds like a fluke but I cannot count the number of times I’ve had something in my shopping cart (real or virtual), decided we could go another week without it, and then visited my mother in law’s house or a friend’s house and they were giving away just that item for free.

So, no pea coats from Land’s End right now. But that’s okay. We can always burn our stacks of old credit card bills to stay warm next winter. 🙂

(I’m still composing the blog post about our debt story continuation, and I also have plans to write more on the details of budgeting! Hope to finish those soon.)


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11 Responses to Waiting to Ex-sale

  1. ann kraeger says:

    I can so relate to what you are saying. I cannot count the times that we have needed something and the Lord has put it in front of us. I often think he is blessing us for waiting to buy or simply taking the time to talk over the decision by sending us an “angel” with just what we needed. You keep it up. The time spent with your children is far more valuable than matching dishes or new clothing.

  2. Nathanael says:

    We have a manual citrus juicer. It’s got some frustrating design flaws, but you’re welcome to borrow it for an extended amount of time.

    • Sarah says:

      ha! thanks! funny enough, my kids finally prevailed upon me to buy a manual one at the grocery store a couple weeks ago and it really does save a lot of time. Totally worth the $4.

  3. Sue Schieman says:

    I totally had to check out the pea coats you were talking about, they are super cute! Thank goodness it would probably cost much more to ship to Canada. That alone saves me from buying things, it would have to be totally worth it to pay the extra shipping! Paul recently lost his side business, and we have had to cut out $500 of our monthly budget and there are no credit cards to rely on! It makes you really rely on God’s providence! It felt so great though, to pull out the kids bikes this past week, check how much they had outgrown them, and hearing my sons willing to make do with spray painting the girl colored bike so we wouldn’t have to search for a second-hand one somewhere else. Now if I can just find the time to spray paint it for him while we are packing up to move!!

    • Sarah says:

      What a good solution about the bike! So sorry that Paul lost some business.
      Your comment makes me consider how debt is providing an artificial barrier between our needs and God’s provision. Maybe some people (like me) have to get so far into debt that they hit bottom before they even think to rely on God for their daily bread! I hope to teach my children to rely on God first!

    • Sue Schieman says:

      I’d also like to hear your thoughts on saving. I’m a little bit torn on that subject. It is prudent to save some money for car repairs, unexpected expenses or an upcoming occasion but I also think it can get excessive. If we worry about saving for everything, we lose sight of the fact that God gives us our “daily” bread, not our “annual” bread and we’re not to worry about our future. I always find it coincidental that whenever we get a little in-flood of money, something breaks and we have to use the money for that instead of the new “whatever” we thought would be nice. I think it’s God’s way of saying “I kept your van running for you until I knew you could afford to have it fixed!”

      No need to be sorry for Paul’s loss of income. It really was something we had been on the fence about, and I really feel like it was God’s plan (of course it was – I just needed to convince myself!) and has propelled us forward with a plan that I have been thinking about for a while. It is difficult to suddenly lose income but we traded it in for some peace of mind.

    • Sarah says:

      Sue – that SAME thing happens to us when we have any kind of windfall! Tax refund, etc – guaranteed car in the shop. So funny. Maybe you’re right! 🙂

  4. Aunt Carol says:

    I’ve used the same trick on myself for years: I ask, “What will happen to me if I don’t buy this?” If the answer is “nothing,” I don’t buy the item. If, however, the answer is more along the lines of “I will have to go bra-less to church,” I make the purchase.

    Yes, waiting gives much better perspective to proposed acquisitions. If you wait till you can pay in cash, you’ll be amazed at how many items will sell out in the sizes you wanted before you can buy them. I’ve had many needs prove to be mere wants this way.

    Funny story about not trusting God’s provision: When I was a Freshman in college, I really wanted a certain pair of swede pumps (so cute!), but all the cash I had was my offering money. I figured God wouldn’t mind waiting a week, and made the purchase. Once I got back to the dorm, I put them on and headed out the door…I got about 15 feet and the left heel snapped off! I’ve never spent God’s tithe on myself since!

  5. Sheila says:

    Your posts about debt and budgeting have resonated with me. I was in quite a bit of credit card debt back in 2009, and I made a concerted effort to pay it down. I was out of debt in 2010. I was absolutely giddy. No more lost money on interest rates. Using a credit card now is anathema to me, and it is a rare occasion; and then, only when I know I can pay the balance in full. I keep myself under $200 when I do that. I have been out of work for over a year, and I thank God for His help in paying down that debt prior to the loss of my job. I have a friend who has eight children, and she always handled her budget the way you are doing now. She is a home-schooling mom. She re-uses her plastic bags over and over until they literally wore out. She bakes her own bread. She made her own baby food after weaning from the breast. She never had caller ID or even an answering machine. No air conditioning. Clothing often came from yard sales. God did indeed provide for her and her husband. God never failed to provide money for college as the children grew, or any other expense. She and her husband served our Lord oversees for a number of years, and they always had what they needed. I wonder how many people who laughed at her frugal lifestyle now wish they did the same. I know I do!

  6. Carol Womick says:

    Sarah, I am very interested in this post. We stopped using credit cards two or so years ago, and I have been amazed at how God has lovingly taken care of us through a few layoffs, a dead furnace(which we were able to pay cash for!!!!!), and many other happenstances which seemed to be crises at the time, but we got through…so that in retrospect, I see that it’s all a learning experience, and a way to appreciate God even more. :-))))
    Right now we are currently dishwasherless, and I muttered at first(I wanted to replace it right away,and Don wanted to wait) but I am adjusting to the new schedule, and the kids are helping. I want them to see that working together can be fun.

  7. Esther says:

    I can also attest to what Sue and Sarah said. When we have any “extra”, something usually breaks! But when we have nothing and a need arises, God gives us the EXACT amount we need. This has happened so many times it’s funny now! Another thing I’ve noticed, when we don’t have the $ to replace them, God keeps our broken, worn-out things going, and going, and going. They last way longer than they are supposed to. (We’ve even had things break, only to begin working again after they’ve been pronounced dead by us.) It can be exciting to be “poor”. 🙂

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