Money Matters: Practical Purchasing Habits

We talked about the practice of frugal flexibility.  It’s a skill that you acquire by going through the steps over and over, until it becomes your standard for your monthly, quarterly and annual expenses.

Taking it one step farther, we’ll look at the day-to-day frugal and practical details:  shopping for household needs.

Recognize “Wants”

It’s easy to go through a day and find yourself $20 short, and it wasn’t spent on lunch, or gas, or bills.

Little “wants” crowd our days; those fancy coffees, packaged cookies, smooth writing pens, fun and colorful lighters, funky key chains and delicious candy bars beg our attention on a daily basis.

When you recognize that it’s a “want”, not a “need”, you can begin to make firm mental separation and move toward practical purchasing.  It’s a matter of looking at the object and removing the emotion.  Then test it:  do you have an alternate drink at home; do you have alternate snacks at home; are you out of pens; would a plain pack of lighters be more affordable.

Practice the test on each object that pulls on your desires and emotions.

Find solutions for those items that you need but could really function well with if they were in a plain and more affordable version.  Buy a snack pack of chips to keep at the office.  Keep a can of peanuts in the car to snack on.  Learn to make your own flavored coffee at home.

Find Your Frugal Diligence

Frugal diligence means you become practiced to keep your money reserved for your necessary things.

It’s not an easy task.  There are attractive, affordable, delicious, handy items everywhere you turn.  Your wallet is constantly being lured by advertisements and display racks; the pure emotional impulse to buy that one product that will make you feel better in some way.

You’ve got to practice telling yourself and your desires and impulses “no”.

You might require a reward system for doing so, such as a once a week treat:  if you made it through the week without being lured by your “wants”, give yourself one of those things at the end of the week.  It’s a practice, a new habit; it’s not an oath to do completely without.

Write it Down

List those items that are priority for the week, and list those items that will be priority in the next two or three weeks.

When you write it out, you create a visual reminder of your goal to help you keep that purchase in mind.  There is something about writing that makes a brain imprint.  It’s not the same as adding a task to your email calendar, or typing it into your shopping list.

Write it down.  It will help train your brain and keep you from spending needlessly and winding up short.

Make a List

Use a shopping list whenever you intend to make a purchase.

List every item that you need for the immediate shopping trip, and on it list only very few items that you want.

Review the list and compare it to your local sales flyer. It’s possible that some of the items on your list are on sale at a great price.  Try to plan your budget to buy more of those, since they’re items you normally purchase.

Prepare for Your Purchases

You’re ready to go shopping for your weekly needs.

Don’t leave home hungry!  Grab a quick snack before you leave the house.  Fill up a convenient travel cup or mug so that you have a drink in case you get thirsty.  Prepare ahead for those cravings and stop them before they start.

Stop!  Before you leave home, make certain that you know exactly what you’re setting out to purchase.  Review the items on the list and give them a quick monetary value so that you have an idea what you’re about to spend.

Stick to Your List

When you’re shopping, keep that list front and center.  It’s so easy to “free wheel” and be lured by the display racks and advertisements and sales notices.  Stay on target.

Stick to your list.  Resist the urge to buy those impulse items.  Restrain yourself from grabbing those bargains that you really don’t need as you go past them.

Make it Your Habit

Practice these steps each week.  Get in the habit of making practical purchases.

Over time, you’ll find that it becomes part of your routine, and you are able to save more to make larger purchases or pay down high debt.

You can do it!

It works.

Dreamin’ Girl


Practice Frugal Flexibility

financially frugal

I’m often called a penny pincher.

I’ve also been told my wallet squeaks when I open it.

I’ll accept it, I’ll concede:  I’m frugal; I’m a tightwad.

It’s a learned habit that has served me well.

Starting off as a single mom at nineteen, I had an instinctual reaction from birthing a child: my son became my priority in practical money matters.  That was my start to becoming financially practical.

I won’t tell you that I perfected financial skills in that twenty-plus years since, but I will say that I feel confident that we can weather difficult situations because I know how to be frugally flexible.

Frugal flexibility means that you have firmly set your priority expenses and always pay those items as soon as your money is available; then you prioritize those needs that remain, and those things that you want, to appropriately divvy the money from there.

This means becoming practiced at making solid choices and having a realistic idea of what your wants and needs are.

Here’s my favorite starting tip:  MAKE A LIST.

First list those things that don’t allow a choice, the monthly have to pay list.

Below that, make a list of the immediate things that you need.

Below that, make a list of the immediate things that you want.

Were you honest with yourself when writing those lists?

Let’s practice:

Static Priority Expenses:

  1. Rent/Mortgage
  2. Utilities (gas, electric, water, trash)
  3. Vehicle Payment
  4. Food
  5. Babysitter fees
  6. Gas


    1. Credit card payment
    2. Clothing
    3. Household supplies
    4. Savings account
    5. Emergency items
    6. Insurance


      1. Savings accounts
      2. Emergency items
      3. Cable TV
      4. Internet
      5. Snacks
      6. Dining out
      7. Entertainment
      8. Clothing
      9. Furniture
      10. Jewelry
      11. Art
      12. Cappuccino/Soda
      13. Smokes/Snuff
      14. Alcohol
      15. Décor
      16. Outdoor Furniture and décor
      17. Garden flowers


Here’s the basic concept:

Pay that first list.

  • Get those priority items paid.  No getting around that.

Now, how much do you have left?  Will what’s left pay everything on that second list?

  •  No?  Then assess what can be held for the next paycheck from that second list, you now have to be frugally flexible.
    1. Do you have a particular clothing need?
      • Can it be covered by shopping at Goodwill or a garage sale?  Make your money stretch by bargain shopping.
    2. Can it wait until the next paycheck?
      • Push it back and make the same choices next time.
    3. Are there household supplies that can wait?
      • Hold them on that shopping list, unless there’s a great sale on those items to help make your money work for you.
  • Yes?  That’s terrific, and you now have the option to make great frugal flexibility choices here.
    1. Shop for affordable and practical clothing:  clearance racks, seasonal sales, or secondhand/consignment shops are great alternatives.
    2. Pay more on that credit card or that vehicle loan if it’s high interest so that you can eliminate that expense in the future.
    3. Stock up on household items that are on sale, so that you can free up money for other things next paycheck.
      • This same method works for your stockable food items.

Now you have the third list to consider.

  • If all your money was used on the first two lists, your choices are obvious.
    1. You have to make your situation work for your budget.
      • In order to have things that you want, you’ll need to find ways to lower your priority expenses and free up some “fun” money.
      • Or accept that you are only able to meet your needs, and find free entertainment alternatives to suffice.
  • If you have some money for that third list, let’s stop and reassess first.
    1. Could you make your money work for you?
      • Is it possible to use some of that money to apply to credit cards on the second list to pay them down
      • Could you apply extra money to mortgage or vehicle loans on your first list to pay them down?
      • Can you reduce your future expenses and free up money that could be used for other items:
        1. Build up a savings account
        2. Stock up on household needs
        3. Create a vacation fund
        4. Establish a plan to buy one big ticket want every year or two
        5. Develop a drastic scheme to pay off your big expenses and retire early

There’s your start; there are your basic questions and lists.

Practice thinking about your needs and your wants and your goals.  It’s easy to find frugal flexibility when you practice.  :)


Dreamin’ Girl