Today I was scrolling through Craig’s List. Because I’m an idiot. Just kidding. I was scrolling through because it’s sort of my hobby to scroll through. BUT, just because there are awesome deals to be had in every corner or Craig’s List doesn’t mean they are necessarily awesome for me at a particular time.
Case in point. This week we are ahead on our budget by a few hundred bucks. So we have a couple hundred bucks to spend, right? Well, not really. For one thing, when I log in to the health insurance web site, I can see $140 of bills coming down the pike (the Explanation of Benefits is sitting there, but we haven’t yet received the bill). Furthermore, we’re getting a quote Wednesday morning for some maintenance that needs to be done to the furnace. We don’t know what that will cost.
We have a crummy Ikea bureau in our bedroom. Two drawers can only be opened by the right pull, else the front pops off. Wouldn’t you know, Craig’s List has a solution that I absolutely love. An antique. Gorgeous. Well-made. Matches our beautiful bed. It’s been sitting on Craig’s List for 8 days, and is only 20 minutes from our house, just two towns over.
Ain’t she a beaut? The sales post explains that the family is downsizing. They bought the bureau at a “certified” antique store in Maine in 2012 for $2,800. They’re”heartbroken” that they have to sell. They’re asking $600.
At this point I’ve bought a few bureaus from Craig’s List. This puppy is right up my alley. It’s in beautiful shape and I love it. $600 is more than I’m willing to pay. But $400 – I would love to offer these folks $400. After 8 days on the market, they’re probably getting a little antsy to sell it. And there’s no harm in putting in an offer, right? It’s such a great deal. Passing it up would be plain dumb. Right? It’s arbitrage – their loss is my gain!
Here’s the problem: it’s not in my budget today. I haven’t been setting aside money for a piece of furniture. I didn’t anticipate this cost. Do I have enough money to buy this? Yup. But is it a smart choice today? Nope. Damnit.
I’m about $250 “ahead” of my budget for the week. The “week” ends Thursday. But this “ahead” mindset has gotten me in to trouble before. Between now and Thursday, I’ll need gas. I’ll make a quick trip to the grocery store. We have that furnace appointment Wednesday morning. I’m not actually “ahead” until I hit the end of the week, you know?
I want this bureau. It kills me not to make an offer. I can justify it in so many ways. An opportunity like this might not ever come up again! I might end up paying more for a less perfect bureau down the road! $400 will not derail our long-term financial goals! I deserve nice things, I work hard and I hardly ever “treat” myself (not true, actually, but for the sake of arguing with myself, it’s a strong thought, haha).
So why not buy it? I can “afford” it.
Well, it’s not in the budget this week. Or this month. My husband and I talked about what was important to us this month, and “beautiful antique bureau” did not come up.
What did come up? A new pair of dress shoes for my husband. He’s worn the same pair to work each day for 5 years, and had them re-soled twice. He thought it was time for a new pair. $185.
What else? The furnace. We know there’s an issue, and we need heat. So we’ll get it fixed. Not sure how much that will be. It’s such an un-sexy way to spend money… but sexier than a mid-winter problem, that’s for sure.
The property taxes. We got the quarterly bill two weeks ago. It wasn’t due for a month and a half, but we figured we’d go ahead and pay it so that we weren’t dealing with it December 1st. That was $1,019.
Some plants for the backyard. We bought a few plants marked down for the end of the season last weekend (“no guarantee” the salesman helpfully repeated a few times). We’ve got an uggo back fence situation that I’d like to camouflage. End-of-season plant discounts are a couple magnitudes less expensive than a new fence. That “took care” of another $130.
And Salem. Every October we go to Salem. So yesterday we spent the day with a nephew walking around and window shopping. Gas, Dunkin Donuts, burgers for lunch – another $50.
Even though I want a new bureau in general, I didn’t want it enough at the beginning of the month to figure out a way to work it into our budget. So that means – no bureau 🙁 I don’t want to be making $400 impulse buys.
I think that’s the trouble – we want it in general, we happen across an amazing “deal,” and we justify a purchase to ourselves, but not to our bank accounts. That’s the wrong way to go about things.
If something is important enough to justify a purchase, make that decision ahead of time. Determine what you want to spend. Then set aside the money, over whatever course of time. Then find something that fits the budget you’ve ear marked for that purchase. Too often, I get the order of operations mixed up, and it bites me in the end.
The other big trick is to stay off Craig’s List when I don’t have a Craig’s List budget set aside.
So long, beautiful bureau – we hardly knew ye.