How I kept to my budget and still have everything I want

This guest post is from Darlene Bauer, who works from home in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. She created BlogBoldly.com as a platform to help newcomers learn to build their own profitable online business.

Years ago, when I was single and on a tight budget, I devised a fun way to get practically everything on my wish list and have money left over! I was in my twenties and waited tables for a living, so obviously I wasn't rolling in riches. But having a limited budget didn't shut down my desire to make certain purchases. The challenge, of course, was how to buy what I wanted when I had so little discretionary income. So I created a super simple system that worked like a charm. And best of all, it met this criteria:

  • I got to buy what I wanted.
  • I saved a ton of money.
  • Anyone can use this system.
  • It's lots of fun!

How to Set Up Your System

  • Everything you want that costs over $50 goes on a list that I very creatively call “Wish List.”
  • Put an estimated dollar amount of what you expect each wish item to cost.
  • Write the date next to the items. You'll be adding to this list, so as you're adding your wish items, you'll put the current date next to each one.
  • Then, you'll put a circled (3) or (12) next to each item. The (3) goes next to items under $200, and the (12) next to items which cost over $200.

Note 1: Your Wish List is not for big-ticket items like a house or car. It's for things such as a Kindle, bicycle, computer, jewelry, tickets, workout item, camera, expensive clothing or shoes, household items. Note 2: Of course, you can easily adjust the dollar amounts to better suit your financial situation.

Here's How the System Works

For the items that have a (3) next to them, you'll wait three months before purchasing. The items with a (12), you must wait 12 months. But you don't wait idly. Nope. Here's where the fun part comes in, and this will help you separate what you truly want and what's just a whim. Spend your “wait” time researching. Find out everything you can about this potential purchase. Research, wait, research, and wait some more.

I started this system way before Google, so it's actually a lot more interesting today with the easy access to so much information. As you go through this process, you'll start to notice that some (or many) of the items aren't as appealing as they were when you first put them on the list. As this begins to happen, cross them off. The combination of researching and waiting is a beautiful thing. I think you'll be surprised at how few items are left to buy. You just start to lose interest as time goes on, and you'll find that the few items left after the allotted time are things that really matter to you.

My Experience

I eliminated impulse buying. I did not feel deprived one iota because I knew if the item was still on my wish list in the end, I could buy it with no guilt whatsoever. I felt at that point I had earned it. I found the research to be a lot of fun and a big eye opener; I realized I didn't care as much about owning a particular item as I originally thought. By doing this, I cut my spending.

In case you're curious, here are some of the items that got scratched from my wish list: A moped, new camera, expensive purse, a painting and a gym membership. Items that did make the cut: A gold necklace, extravagant desk, and an elliptical machine. Don't let the simplicity of this stop you from trying it. I truly believe if you give it a shot, you'll be amazed! At the very least, you'll save a bunch of money.

So, what do you think? Are you up for the challenge? If you've ever implemented some variation of what I've outlined, please share! Or maybe you can add a twist that we can all benefit from.

More about...Budgeting

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Aimee
Aimee
7 years ago

I love this idea. I am a shopper, so I will still get to poke around a choose what I want, but will be saving At the same time. Love it.

Darlene with BlogBoldly
Darlene with BlogBoldly
7 years ago
Reply to  Aimee

Hi Aimee!

You kinda get the satisfaction of shopping without spending the money. Hah!

Then when you do actually take the plunge, you don’t feel guilty because at that point it’s definitely not an impulse buy.

darlene 🙂

nicoleandmaggie
nicoleandmaggie
7 years ago

I find if I put things on my Amazon wishlist, often folks will buy them for me at Christmas. And sometimes in November when I flip through the list, I find I don’t really want things anymore and take them off. That obviously doesn’t work with $200+ items, but with <$50 stuff. (Luckily I don't tend to want $200+ stuff anymore unless it's something like new carseats, which are necessities.) My DH has a small weekly allowance and gets 10x his allowance at Christmas and birthday– that allows him to save up for things like his ipad. I think he… Read more »

Darlene with BlogBoldly
Darlene with BlogBoldly
7 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

“I find if I put things on my Amazon wishlist, often folks will buy them for me at Christmas. And sometimes in November when I flip through the list, I find I don’t really want things anymore and take them off.”

I love it. darlene 🙂

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago

Your husband sounds like me — I have a small monthly allowance and I set aside any money I receive as gifts too. That’s one thing I wondered about in this post. Sure, if she still wants that bracelet a year later, she can go buy it — but where does the money come from? I can see some people (not the OP) still charging stuff to credit cards after the waiting period as if its an award for passing some kind of test. I’m sure others think “I may want this $300 item in a year, so I’ll set… Read more »

Darlene with BlogBoldly
Darlene with BlogBoldly
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Good question Elizabeth.. First off, I don’t suggest charging anything you can’t pay off at the end of the month. In fact, I take that even further.. only finance appreciating items; never depreciating. For example, if you have $2000. for a car, you buy a $2000. car; not put $2000 as a down payment for a $20,000 car.. (Do this long enough and you’ll find you have the cash for that $20k car) Actually that’s a good subject for another post! OK.. back to your question: 2) I budgeted all along.. kinda like Dave Ramsey advocates saving money all year… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago

Thanks for the reply! I think we sound a lot alike 🙂

I think sometimes I wait too long for items on my wish list. For instance, I just ordered a rain coat now that it finally went on sale. If I’d been smart, I would have just paid full price and avoided getting drenched this spring and summer!

Tina in NJ
Tina in NJ
7 years ago

For any most purchases, I try to sleep on it. If I see something in the mall I might want, I’ll sleep on it. If it’s worth going back to get it, I will. Most of the time it isn’t worth it.

Darlene with BlogBoldly
Darlene with BlogBoldly
7 years ago
Reply to  Tina in NJ

Hey Tina!

Sleeping on it is definitely huge and I bet you save a LOT more than the average person.

Reason I had to “sleep on it” for an extended time is because I flat out didn’t have the money to buy everything I wanted the next day. 🙂

darlene

Priswell
Priswell
7 years ago

I think the “research and wait” idea has merit. It also educates you about what you are to buy, and you end up getting a better “thing”. Back when VCRs were new and all the rage, I went shopping for one. I went to many places that sold them locally, and asked questions about them. For example, I learned that a 4 head VCR was better than a 2 or 3. I learned what brands were best, and more reliable. As I asked my questions, I also decided where I would buy the item. I deliberately didn’t buy from jerks… Read more »

Darlene with BlogBoldly
Darlene with BlogBoldly
7 years ago

Yeah.. and I bet it was fun to gather all the info and you felt confident when you made your purchase.

darlene
p.s. Noticed your homeschool blog. We homeschooled our little ones. 🙂

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago

There’s certainly something to be said for patience 🙂 I think this strategy would work well for a lot of people — especially for items that are always going to be around. For instance, there’s always going to be a newer model of electronics, there are new clothes every season, there are always new books coming out.

Besides, if you wait long enough you can often get things on sale or buy them used.

Stefanie
Stefanie
7 years ago

I like this idea- though I sometimes find I need expensive items sooner than I’d like. For example, I just bought a new computer out of necessity. I waited a few months and did some research, so I certainly wouldn’t call it an impulse buy- but I don’t know that my old laptop would’ve survived to the 12 month mark.

David Salahi
David Salahi
7 years ago

Thanks for this column. I had been using a similar system and it worked well to eliminate impulse buys, desires that didn’t stand the test of time. I had become lax but plan to start doing things this way again. However, I’m not sure about the 3-/12-month division. I need/want a new laptop which is in the 12-month timeframe. My current 5-year-old model is painfully slow but maybe I can make do with it for another year.

Carol C
Carol C
7 years ago

I love this idea. My version is similar to Nicole&Maggie in that I make an Amazon wish list. I seldom order (only when travelling to the States) so I have lots of time to change my mind and delete items. Also, since I have only a certain amount that I want to spend, usually around $200, it helps me prioritize what I’ll purchase now, and what I’ll continue to wait for.

Kurt @ Money Counselor
Kurt @ Money Counselor
7 years ago

I think any system that works–meaning helps you reach your goals–is a good system! Different people will find different systems most effective for them, so it’s good to experiment. But not to procrastinate! 🙂

Debi
Debi
7 years ago

I agree completely. One of my most used axioms is “Having a plan is better than no plan”. Meaning that if it’s incomplete or imperfect, it’s still better than no plan at all. At least you have a starting point to improve upon. It applies on the job, around the house, to life goals, spending goals, etc. What I’ve always used for these types of purchases is a journal entry similar to Darlene’s list. Funds are saved in my regular savings and designated to serve these types of wants via another journal entry. For instance if I plan to save… Read more »

Maria at Pocket of Money, LLC
Maria at Pocket of Money, LLC
7 years ago

Great article. I love the research the product idea. I research most purchases and all big purchases such as electronics before buying. You learn more about the product and any potential deals which let you save money.

Darlene with BlogBoldly
Darlene with BlogBoldly
7 years ago

Yeah.. and for me the research really helped sift thru what was important and what was just a whim.

darlene

Jessica V
Jessica V
7 years ago

It’s always surprising how much we can decide against, given enough time. I can’t tell you how many things I “needed” in the moment that I took a night to sleep on and eventually decided against.

Overall, I like the idea, but do you include setting aside a percentage or amount each of the three or twelve months along with researching and waiting? Eliminating impulse buying is wonderful. But an additional $200-$300 cost for any given month is something I would definitely want to be saving up for.

Nina
Nina
7 years ago

A lot of the items on my Amazon wish list–where I had listed items I once desperately wanted to buy–now seem so silly. I’m almost glad I didn’t buy them and feel relief that I avoided another expense.

However I struggle with doing the same with some items, namely clothing, that run out. For instance, right now I’m eyeing a pair of boots and a dress, and while they’ll be there tomorrow, I’m not exactly sure when they’ll run out of my size or remove them completely.

Try New Things
Try New Things
7 years ago

I love this idea! I just left my high paying job so I could do more than watch my life go by, so this is a great idea and I know how it would work for me also. Thanks for writing!

Darlene with BlogBoldly
Darlene with BlogBoldly
7 years ago
Reply to  Try New Things

Kelly, I love your blog..

Congrats on leaving the job.

darlene 🙂

Matt
Matt
7 years ago

I’m stealing this idea to save up for the computer that I want to buy. Sometimes it can be tough stopping the “impulse” buying especially if you have the money to do so… My wife and I have a rule that we need to write down what our wants are, talk about them (talking prevents impulse buying), and then waiting and researching comparable products before spending any money on a want.

Roy
Roy
7 years ago

This is a very sensible way to approach to home budgeting. I am impressed that you find impulse buying is suppressed by your methods. Making impulse purchases combined with easy credit are a quick route to financial ruin.

bemoneyaware
bemoneyaware
7 years ago

Simple, Practical and good tips
Loved the idea of date next to the items.

Thomas | Your Daily Finance
Thomas | Your Daily Finance
7 years ago

You have to find what works for “you”. This seems to work for you and could probably work for many others. The goal is the find something that you can stick too. Don’t care how good a budget is on paper if you can stick with it it won’t work. I like anything the will help decrease impulse. Its funny how things that are simply wants become needs and must haves when you see them in person. The idea of researching more is something that is great and hey if you ca go 12 months without something and still say… Read more »

Derek @ MoneyAhoy.com
Derek @ MoneyAhoy.com
7 years ago

Great idea.

I think for anything over $50, the old adage of wait a week or two, research it, and make sure you are making the most frugal decision is the way to go for sure!

It’s funny the things that are on old wish lists that drop off after a little research.

Darlene with BlogBoldly
Darlene with BlogBoldly
7 years ago

Hi Derek..

“It’s funny the things that are on old wish lists that drop off after a little research.”

Exactly!

And for me, the research gave ma a lot of satisfaction and fun while waiting.

~darlene 🙂

Tracy (the Other One)
Tracy (the Other One)
7 years ago

Good idea!

AA
AA
7 years ago

I’m curious how you might handle items that should go on the list but may not be around that long. For example, I do a lot of shopping at Goodwill. If there is a nice piece of furniture – it will be gone the next day. So, if it is over $50 but under $200, waiting 3 months isn’t really an option (a year even less so). Did you have a system for thinking through purchases where waiting isn’t an option? Were those items automatically just not something to buy, or did you use a series of questions to help… Read more »

Debi
Debi
7 years ago
Reply to  AA

You could save ahead for the list items so that when you find the perfect boots that you’ve been looking for for 2 years you will have an option to buy them for the sale price rather than the $200 that you know they usually cost. At that time you’d have to ask yourself what item(s) on the list can I put off longer or cross off the list to make way for them. Having cash in hand gives you the flexibility to save on the items you really want.

Darlene with BlogBoldly
Darlene with BlogBoldly
7 years ago
Reply to  AA

Hi AA..

Debi has a good idea..

And the thing about waiting.. I believe waiting is always an option.

If you happen to see a piece of furniture at the Goodwill you like, if you purchase it then, it’s an impulse buy.

But if you’ve decided you want that particular piece of furniture, then it goes on your list. Once the allotted time has passed, THAT’S when you’re free to keep your eyes open for one you like.

~ darlene

AA
AA
7 years ago

Thanks, Darlene! I initially went a little rigid when you called that an impulse buy, but realized that the rest of your comment is what I’m actually doing internally – especially for big purchases like furniture. And you are right, seeing a new sofa and just buying it when you don’t need it is indeed an impulse buy! I don’t have a written list like in the article, but there are a few things I know would be nice to have that I keep in the back of my mind. And, as Debi suggested, I do have an “ok to… Read more »

Julie Barnes
Julie Barnes
7 years ago

Great post Darlene! My big thing is books, so I use the Amazon wish list as my “waiting” list. If I see a book I want, but I’m not really sure about it, I’ll add it to my wish list why I think it over.

David Salahi
David Salahi
7 years ago
Reply to  Julie Barnes

One nice thing about Amazon is that you can get a free sample of any book to check out if you’re not sure about a book. You can have the sample sent to your Kindle, iPad, or other device or to the free Kindle PC reader. Then after you’ve read the first chapter or two you can decide if you like the book.

Jake @ Common Cents Wealth
Jake @ Common Cents Wealth
7 years ago

This sounds like a great plan. I’m the type of person who has a tough time waiting, so this would be difficult for me. That being said, it would probably save me quite a bit of money because I would no longer want some of my items after 3 months or a year.

Darlene with BlogBoldly
Darlene with BlogBoldly
7 years ago

LOL

Appreciate your honesty Jake, and yep that’s exactly why you should challenge yourself to try it.

darlene 🙂

HKR
HKR
7 years ago

I love researching the things I want or need to buy. The only problem is that I’ve gotten to the point that, often as not, the researching is more fun than the buy. Sometimes the loss of the thrill of the chase is even more painful than the lightening of my wallet! I guess in a way it’s good, because it’s one more roadblock between me and bad spending decisions… I also used to get dissappointed when I did all this research and found the best combination of quality and affordability, bought it, and then found a better deal shortly… Read more »

Alexandra @ Real Simple Finances
Alexandra @ Real Simple Finances
7 years ago

This is a great reminder that things do not have to be bought *now* to make them worth while! I love that your waiting period isn’t idle at all, but that you spend that time getting excited about your purchase and allowing yourself to change your mind. Thanks for sharing!

CalLadyQED
CalLadyQED
7 years ago

Her claims at the beginning are misleading. Just saying you can have everything you want by changing what you want. If you haven’t since the research, how will you be sure you want it? Ta-da! (For that matter, howwill you know how much it costs?) And what if you still don’t have enough $ for everything on your list when 3 mos. or a year has passed?

Darlene with BlogBoldly
Darlene with BlogBoldly
7 years ago
Reply to  CalLadyQED

Good questions! “Having everything I want” turned out to be just that.. once I followed this process, I eliminated SO many purchases that I was able to buy whatever I wanted. The point is to delay and research so in the end you are left with what really matters. “And what if you still don’t have enough $ for everything on your list when 3 mos. or a year has passed?” Hmmm. well that’s not how it happened for me but if it had I probably would have hustled for a short amount of time to generate the $ or… Read more »

Mel
Mel
7 years ago

I’ve done something similar, where I would keep a list of the things I wanted to purchase in my wallet. If I was out somewhere and contemplating an impulse buy, I would pull out my list and ask myself if I would rather have that item than all of the items on my list – because ultimately buying it now would further delay buying any of those. Helps a lot with impulse shopping!

Danielle
Danielle
7 years ago

What if I make too many purchases of items that are under $50?
I find myself buying multiples of clothing at a price point of around $30. For example, I own 4 of the same cardigan in different colors (I wear them all). I bought them at different times and they were all $29-35.
I tend to follow your rules for larger items just because I’m waiting for them to go on sale, and that is roughly how long it takes.

CalLadyQED
CalLadyQED
7 years ago
Reply to  Danielle

Ms. Danielle, that is me too! It’s too much of the small stuff that seems to get me.

Darlene with BlogBoldly
Darlene with BlogBoldly
7 years ago
Reply to  Danielle

Hi Danielle! Well, remember the $50. is a benchmark. If you find yourself buying too many smaller items, you’re going to have to regroup here because the little things can often make or break you. Lower your number to $25 if you have to. Try that for six months and form a new habit. After six months, I think you’ll notice that you don’t buy like that anymore. Sidenote: It’s tempting when you see something on sale or a situation where it won’t be available once you’re free to buy it. That’s OK.. After you do this for awhile, you’ll… Read more »

CristinaS
CristinaS
7 years ago

Dear Darlene, I absolutly loved your system. I´m starting my wishlist today.

I linked you all the way to Portugal.

Cristina

Darlene with BlogBoldly
Darlene with BlogBoldly
7 years ago
Reply to  CristinaS

Thanks Cristina!

Ahhh.. how I’d love to see Portugal.. I hear it’s absolutely gorgeous.

darlene 🙂

Camp System
Camp System
7 years ago

I think that you were right on with this article. I also like “How I kept to my budget and still have everything I want” for the title. I appreciate you sharing this with the rest of us Ellen.

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