When I was a kid, one of my favorite annual events was the arrival of the Sears Holiday Catalog. This was a giant book, multiple inches thick (at least in my childhood memory) filled with all sorts of wonderful gifts that could be purchased. Of course, I ignored all the boring household and clothing sections and immediately turned to the toys. Oh, the glorious toy section. So many awesome things to look at and bookmark and wish and hope for Santa to bring.
I still sort of do that, though not with the Sears catalog. I don’t even know if it still exists, and if it does, it doesn’t get delivered to my house.
These days, much of my shopping is done online and let’s be honest, it’s all too easy to just press a few keys and boom! The item is on its way to you. But that’s not really the most frugal way to shop, nor is it great for anyone trying to stick to a budget.
So what I do is a lot like what I do when I was a kid. I make a wishlist.
I do this in a couple of ways. In my paper planner (yes, I still keep a paper planner), I have a running list of things I want to buy. Not specific brands or styles, just things I want. A deep freeze for my basement. A power meter for my bike. Et cetera. The list is there for me to refer to and save for.
But then there are the things that I know that I want, I’m just not ready to buy them. They might be big things or they might be small inexpensive things, like a new book. In that case, I keep an online wishlist. Mine happens to be on Amazon.com. They have a great widget that you can install on your browser so you can just click and add an item to your list, regardless of whether it’s sold at Amazon or elsewhere. I’m not shilling for Amazon in this post, it’s just what I use. I know other people use Pinterest in a similar manner.
It’s a great way to keep track of items I would like to buy, and then, when I’m looking to purchase a book for a trip, I know where to go to figure out what I want to buy. It also keeps me from the small impulse purchases. I don’t need it now, I’ll just write it down and wait. Many people use this to determine whether or not to make larger purchases as well. Write it down and wait. If you still want it in a few days, then consider it.
Try the wishlist plan for yourself. It’s amazing how such a simple plan can save you money.
Megan is a 40-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.
I remember the Sears catalogue too! So many toys to wish for! Now my kids scan the barcodes if things they want and send them to me. Not quite the same.
Love the wishbook! My husband has a constant list on the go.. i need to get better since it makes gift buying for him a breeze and I can never think on the spot!
Catherine – Exactly! I love using someone else’s wishlist to buy gifts.
Tre – They scan the barcodes? That is crazy! Also a good idea, but man, this future is nuts.