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Avoiding the Impluse Buy: How to Buy New Stuff After Getting Out of Debt

New TVBeing in debt pay off mode can be a bit isolating. When you are serious about a goal like getting out of credit card debt, you don’t allow yourself to spend money on things that aren’t necessities. If you stick to your goal, it sometimes takes a long time to get rid of the debt, but it does happen. In our house, it took about two years. During that time, we got used to not spending. It was a good experience and taught us that we don’t need to buy things all the time. Impulse buying was one thing that got us in trouble in the first place. However, through normal wear and tear, household items do wear out or become obsolete. Now that all our debt outside of mortgages is paid off, it’s time to buy a few things for the house, but it’s scary. Since you have to get back on the horse at some point, I’ll share how we are deciding to make purchases after getting out of debt.

What Do We Need and Why?

There is actually a list of things we need or don’t really need, but feel they will add value to our lives. We need a new couch. After several dogs and a small child, ours is pretty much shot at almost ten years old. We wanted a new camera because our current one works sporadically, and I hate missing good photo opportunities. We can use phones, but the quality isn’t quite as good as with a nice camera.

The last thing we want is a big one for our house. I’ve written about how we have never been able to give up our satellite TV, even during debt payoff. Jim was the big holdout. Maybe it was comforting because it’s something we’ve always had. Maybe it was ESPN. Regardless, he refused to let it go. This spring I talked him into getting a trial Netfllix membership because there was some show he wanted to see that we couldn’t find to rent on DVD. He loved it, and has rarely watched TV since. He used his computer at first, but it isn’t the same experience as TV.  We had a Best Buy gift card from Christmas, and purchased a Roku. The problem was that our main TV is too old to use it. The picture quality is still fine on the older TV, but it doesn’t have the connections for digital hookups, which brings us to our dilemma.

Do we get a new TV, cancel the satellite, and use Netflix, or do we keep out current setup?

Yes, I realize, we could give up TV altogether, but that doesn’t seem likely. It’s not like we spend 10 hours a day watching Law and Order, but we do like to watch a show or movie in the evenings, preferably together and not on the laptop screen.

How Much Will It Cost and Are You Getting the Best Deal?

Online, In Stores, or Used/Refurbished-For the camera, I scoured reviews online. Some of the better DSLR cameras, which is what we wanted, were in the $800 range. We decided to look for a refurbished model from a few years back. We found what were were looking for on Ebay for $360. It also has a three year warranty, so I feel really good about that. If you could visit my house, you’d see framed pictures all over from our hikes and travels. We had our last camera for about five years. If this one lasts that length of time, $72/year will be money well spent.

For the new TV, the ones we want tend to be in the $700-$900 range. Again, we’ve been reading reviews. We have also been watching for online coupons and store sales. If we wait for the right deal, I think we can bring the costs down to around $600, which is what we are comfortable with. Netflix will cost $7.99/month. An antenna to get NFL football network channels will be $40, plus $65 installation if we decide not to brave the process ourselves. Our first Roku cost $20 with the gift card. Having one for the new TV would cost another $60.  I’m hoping the TV and antenna will last 10 years. That makes our annual cost for home entertainment about $ 174.50 per year.

Currently we are spending $60 a month on satellite TV or $720/year. If you look at those numbers, maybe a new TV is actually a good investment.

Where is the Money Coming From?

Sell Your Things-We actually have enough money in savings to cover the new camera and TV, but I want to do one better. I believe I can get at least half the purchase price back by selling some things around the house. The older TV and camera will net something even if they aren’t in pristine condition. We also have some outgrown toys and clothes, plus an older camcorder I found in the closet. If you start looking, you can usually find something to sell. A good rule is to get rid of something old before bringing in something new.

Earn More Money- I think a frugal mindset begins to spread and grow once it takes root. Jim used to do landscaping in college, and is actually very good at it. He does a great job on our lawn. My office has always hired a service for landscaping and mowing. I’ve asked Jim many times if he wanted the job, but he always turned it down. I think part of it was mental. With the college degree, he shouldn’t have to toil out in the sun and dirt. Right?

This spring, our current landscaping company was declining in quality, and I offered him the job again. He said sure.  He will get $50 per week until early October, more if he needs to fix inevitable  sprinkler problems. This will more than cover the rest of the cost on the new TV, and will likely buy our ski tickets this winter with no change to our normal budget.  Much like hiring myself as maid, it keeps the money in house, and this job will actually add money instead of redistributing it. Plus, this puts our new found stash of yard equipment to good use!

I’m really proud of our game plan. The old Kim and Jim would have already bought a new TV without a second thought, probably at the first store we visited, and probably on one of those store financing plans. I think if we evaluate every purchase, we will stay out of debt, and actually save money if we look at long term costs. We’ve also decided our old couch can take another year or two. I’m sure there are many more drinks to be spilled and markers to be painted on our furniture. Some purchases don’t need to be made when you consider all the variables. It might not be sexy or packed with adrenaline, but I’ll take methodical shopping over impulse buying any day.

How do you plan big purchases? Do you think we can should give up satellite TV?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

38 comments

  1. I think you would be fine if you gave up satellite TV! We do Netflix/Hulu on a Roku box and we haven’t had cable in years. You will save so much money that way even if you pay for a nice television upfront.

    • The math certainly seems to work that way. I have no problem with satellite if we actually used our money’s worth, but we haven’t for a while. This blog takes up most of my TV time anyway!

  2. You need to have some fun in life and if you watch a lot of the shows on satellite tv then it is probably worth it. Conversely if you don’t watch many of the shows then perhaps subscribing for netflix or just buying the shows you want off itunes might be the way to go.
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..Power Corrupts, and Absolute Power Corrupts AbsolutelyMy Profile

    • We certainly don’t have too many regular shows we’re into right now. We also miss episodes because of all the stuff going on, so being able to watch a whole series on Netflix seems to be the way to go. We just have to not read any reviews or things online before we watch!

  3. We’re going to be giving up our satellite TV as well. Our only delay has been doing the research for a new TV, as ours is too old as well and can’t take the hook-ups. Honestly, it’s just been my procrastination in doing the research that’s held us back. I think that doing exactly what you’re doing, which is making a plan, is how everyone should approach big financial purchases like this. You’ve run the numbers and figure out that the long-term savings are huge. You’re doing the research to figure out exactly what you want and how you can save money for it. Great work! Out of curiosity, I’d love to know what TVs you’re looking at and why.
    Matt Becker recently posted..Help! I Need to Buy a Car.My Profile

    • It seem Sony and Samsung are consistently reviewed as the best. Vizio is less expensive but is a good product as well, but maybe not as good as the other two. I don’t think Smart TV is necessarily worth paying lots more because you can add a device for pretty cheap. Also the hertz and LED vs LCD don’t seem to matter too much unless you are super picky, which we aren’t. We can’t do plasma because we’re at high altitude and that fries them. We also want something in the 50-60 inch range because it fits the size of our room. Cnet has some good advice and reviews if you are like us and not too technical about the stuff and want some common sense advice.

  4. Awesome plan, Kim! I definitely have been working the “make more money” angle for most of my purchases. It’s a great way to finance things like this and feel good about your purchase. I feel like I keep saying this, but I have a TON of stuff to sell, even after the garage sale is all said and done. Hmmm maybe I should put up something on eBay and write a post about my experience…anyway I’d keep satellite ;)
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..Saving Money on your Phone Bill: Search for a Cheap Wireless PlanMy Profile

  5. We do a lot of research before we make any major purchases – looking at things like performance and cost and where we can get it for cheaper. In regards to satellite…I am a bad PF blogger ;). We have DirecTV and do not see it changing anytime soon. We run a tight ship and like you, do not watch ten hours a day…but we do enjoy watching a show before we collapse in bed. I say if you enjoy having it, can afford it and aren’t watching like 12 hours a day then I say go for it.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..Taking the Plunge: 1 Year Quitiversary!!!My Profile

    • I will never think badly of anyone with cable or satellite TV. When our daughter was a baby, that was all the entertainment we had, but we are ready to move on now. We’ll see if it sticks.

  6. I recently got a new flat screen TV, but that’s because someone gave it to me. He also gave me his roku box and I LOVE that! I have a netflix subscription and my friend has a hulu plus subscription so we share (shhh, don’t tell anyone). Its hard for me to say which to do, but I’m just giving my opinion on the stuff I got. I cancelled cable and just use a digital converter box and rabbit ears. Works great for my taste!
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..Random Thoughts about “Coming Home”My Profile

    • We tend to watch more movies and cable shows that are on HBO and Showtime, so Netflix works great for now. I tried Amazon Prime for a month, but I think Netflix is better at this point.

  7. I didn’t realize the older screens weren’t compatible with the roku. I’m surprised there isn’t a conversion piece available like there is for the new digital antennae to connect to older TV sets.
    Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..An Update To A Horror StoryMy Profile

    • I’m sure there might be. Jim was able to hook it up, but we had no sound. He also have to have his speakers and Blu Ray player, and I think it just ran out of ports or whatever they are called. There might be some fancy cable that works with everything, but we didn’t really want to put money into a 10+ year old TV. I think a new one was on the horizon relatively soon. It just got stepped up a bit, and I think it will be a good thing. We do like HD picture with movies.

  8. I think this sounds like a great idea. My wife and I just recently cancelled our satellite tv and it was a great decision. I still need to get an antennae in order to receive normal channels, but I like not having the ability to watch tv. Also, that $700 a year will be put to good use.
    Jake @ Common Cents Wealth recently posted..How Much Are Rising Mortgage Interest Rates Costing You?My Profile

    • It seems we are more about experiences these days, and $700 would buy admission to a water park and a hotel or something similar. Much more fun at this stage in our lives for sure.

  9. Identifying what you need prior to looking around will keep the list to what you really need, and what you realized that you could have. Great insight.

  10. Sounds like a great plan, Kim! I love how even though you have the cash to buy the items you want that you’re so committed to finding ways to earn some money to help offset those costs. What a huge turnaround for your family!
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted..Don’t Let Fear Prevent You From Talking about DebtMy Profile

  11. I know many PF bloggers feel that cable/satellite TV is a waste of money. I am not one of them! I view it as my entertainment. If I needed to cut my expenses, I would just find something else to cut.
    krantcents recently posted..Xanatos Gambit!My Profile

    • I certainly don’t think it was a waste of money at one point, but we really don’t have any regular shows we watch and if the TV is on, it’s usually for noise. When we choose something to watch lately, it seems to be a movie or series we don’t even get on our satellite TV, like HBO dramas. We also don’t want our daughter to get too into some of the shows that are on now. I watched TV lots growing up, so I don’t think it’s all bad, but there is just some things she isn’t ready for that seem to show up on network TV even.

  12. It’s not easy deciding what is a need and a want and for us our Smart TV was a want. In fact it took us a few years to save up the money for our want. We donated our other televisions on Freecycle so others without a tele could have one. We made extra cash doing focus groups that paid $100 cash and dinner for our opinion ( it was great) we even did 3 month testing of products for $300 a piece here and there. We waited until we could get the best deal and we think we did well. We love the TV because we watch cable as our entertainment but we didn’t tap into our savings to buy it we earned money cash on the side here and there. Either way it’s money from the pot and an expense that was a want but in our opinion, well worth it for us. :) Thanks for a great post.
    Canadian Budget Binder recently posted..Pet Budget: Homemade peanut butter dog treatsMy Profile

    • A new TV is certainly a want, but what’s life without a few wants? You also appreciate them lots more when you plan and save instead of impulse buying.

  13. J and I will never give up cable. J also has a big screen TV which he LOVES but I don’t know if I’m allowed to share that fact or not lol. I love your reply to Mr. CBB’s comment about what’s life without a few wants and appreciating the wants more when you plan for it rather than impulsively spending :)
    Girl Meets Debt recently posted..Dining Out Temptations in a New CityMy Profile

  14. I think giving up satellite tv is a personal decision a lot of people say its not needed but we have it and I don’t think we will ever get rid of it. When we are looking to make a big purchase we sit down and discuss do we really need it and how much are we going to spend on it. Once its decided we figure what we are cutting out in order to save for it. Savings, 401k, and the likes are never in the factor as something to be cut. If its a TV we first try to sell the tv we have to get money for the new TV. I think you should be able to have some of the things you want in life.
    Thomas | Your Daily Finance recently posted..What Does It Mean To Pay Yourself FirstMy Profile

  15. I think you guys are on a great track, Kim. You’re contemplating and researching before making purchases. We have a list of stuff that we need/want too, and even though we’re a ways out from purchasing them, I’m always going over in the back of my mind about what’s the best way to purchase them once we’re ready. Isn’t it wonderful to be in control of your money? :-)
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted..Rosemary Thyme Lemon ChickenMy Profile

  16. This is all about self control and living to your means more than anything. Too many of my friends and colleagues buy something they simply can’t afford then pay monthly, which to me is just a false economy. I should forward them this article to take a look at how its done.

  17. We research all of our big purchases and then save the money to purchase them. Right now we are saving money each month to purchase a new vehicle sometime in the next year or so. I know when I take the time and save for the purchase, it makes me appreciate it more. I’m torn on the satellite TV issue. We cancelled ours several years ago and have saved a bunch of money. But recently, I’m feeling drawn back into having it again. We probably will subscribe again once our mortgage debt is paid off next year.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted..Is It Worth It to Be Inconvenienced?My Profile

  18. Looks like a great plan. Pretty sure you could afford it today without blinking but the extra delayed gratification will make it even sweeter to get once you have worked for it.
    I don’t know how much ESPN Jim watches but for $60 a month he could go watch whatever is not streamed online at a local bar, have a beer and still save money. I’d rather my kid watches Netflix too instead of a cable program with ads all the time.

  19. My buddy has Comcast Direct and Netflix, and he canceled his regular TV setup.
    My Money Design recently posted..Why Total Return Investing Is Better Than a Dividend StrategyMy Profile

  20. Not sure what type of TV you are looking for, but there is always the option of getting a model with lesser capabilities. For example, I believe you can still get a 720P TV for pretty cheap. Otherwise, I agree with you in looking at refurbished items. I have had few issues with refurbs.

    I have a roof repair bill coming and, like you, I continue to look for side jobs to pay for it.
    Greg@Thriftgenuity recently posted..An Ode to My First HouseMy Profile

  21. I like to take my time on large purchases, so I know I have done the proper research. I think you could do without satellite, but that is coming from someone that doesn’t have cable.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..Loan Options for RetireesMy Profile

  22. Do you watch a lot of shows on your TV? If you don’t, maybe you can maximize your internet and make use of Neflix instead. Plus, there are a lot of shows that you can watch for free online. When it comes to buying new things, we wait until the urge had settled down and wait after a few months because other models will surely lessen.
    KC @ genxfinance recently posted..Maximum 401k Contribution for 2013My Profile

  23. I already have several purchases earmarked for when I get out of debt. The more I think about it, the more dangerous these plans sound. Thanks for giving me something to think about.
    Michael @ The Student Loan Sherpa recently posted..Meet Colleen: Learn the Cost of 7.25% Interest and Putting Children FirstMy Profile

  24. First of all, getting out of debt is not easy. You have to earn money which is probably the most important. We also have to think about the stuff we need to buy. Avoid things that are not very important. Formulating a priority list of things to buy can help.
    David @ PBC recently posted..Teaching Kids About Money Does Not Have to be a ChoreMy Profile

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