One of my kids’ favorite children’s books is “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Numeroff.
“If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” tells the story of a boy and a little mouse who wants a cookie. When the boy gives the mouse a cookie, he wants a glass of milk. When you give him a glass of milk, he wants a napkin, and so on. The idea is that one thing leads to another, which leads to another and then back again.
It is a story that really rings true when it comes to money and purchases. We recently bought a new TV for our family room. It’s not huge, but it’s a lot nicer than our old one, and most importantly, we got a decent deal on it.
But all of our peripherals (satellite receiver, DVD player, etc) are getting pretty old. The old cables don’t work with the new TV without some adapters.
So…. if you buy a new TV, you’re going to need new cables. And if you buy new cables, chances are you’re going to want new equipment to go with those cables.
Suddenly the deal on the new TV doesn’t seem like such a deal.
This happens with a lot of purchases. The new dress you bought now needs the perfect pair of shoes to wear with it. New cell phone? Well, now you need a new car charger and a new case and a screen protector. Bought a new house? You’ll need new a new shower curtain, a new area rug for your new hallway, etc.
The list of things you want to buy always seems to grow with each purchase.
Our new TV purchase was actually a result of a family room reorganization project. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to organize the family room so that it felt more like a family room and less like a toy store exploded down there. In my dreams, we were able to buy all new furniture and shelving, and a home theater system. I spent many hours drooling over home furniture websites and wistfully admiring family rooms on Pinterest.
It was looking like our family room project was going to cost a lot of money.
So I stepped back from the project, took a deep breath, and reminded myself that I am the Northern Cheapskate. This kind of expense was just not going to work for us. I realized I needed to do this room makeover with as much creativity and as little money as possible.
And when we did it (without buying any new furniture at all!), we decided that we could afford to upgrade the TV.
And then there was all this new component cable business.
So I’m stepping back, taking a deep breath, and figuring out what it is we really need. The thing I learned from this project is this: Just like one purchase leads to another, one act of frugality can lead to another.
It is all too easy to just rush out and buy whatever it is you want that you believe will look better or make your life better without really thinking about what that purchase really means to your wallet and your life. Ask yourself what you really need. Ask yourself if there is something you already own that could serve the same purpose. Ask yourself what harm would it be to just wait a little bit.
You may find that asking those simple little questions leads to saving a bit more money, which leads to saving a bit more money, which leads you to be able to afford the things you really want.