I had to be out of the office this week at an off-site training in the City. I normally get in and get out, but New York City summers are something at which to marvel and savor. I took the long way to the train and caught myself outside of a thrift store whose funds raise money for the homeless and for AIDS patients.
I really had no intention of purchasing a $45 soft leather tan bag, but after much back and forth about whether or not I should buy it, I did a rundown of my current financial situation and decided that it was okay to indulge in this impulse buy.
The only way that I walked out of that store with that bag and an guilt was because I had the following financial structures in place that would allow for such a purchase. When thinking about whether or not to buy on impulse, ask yourself these questions so you be sure can justify the purchase.
1. If I charge it on a credit card, could I pay it off right away? If you don’t have the money to pay your impulse buy in cash, then you can’t afford to splurge. Sixty-five percent of your credit score comes from your ability to pay on time and pay in full. If you are thinking about robbing Peter to pay Paul for a fashion must-have, it’s better to wait to pay for it in cash.
2. Have I contributed to my emergency fund? If your impulse money is coming from your emergency fund money, then you can’t afford to indulge. Sorry. Every pay period you should to stash at least 20% of your income for a rainy day. When you have at least six months worth of living expenses or net income, then you can graduate to it.
3. Have I contributed to my retirement fund? Please don’t fix your face to say that you can’t squeeze out $45 a month to put away for your financial future at the same time that you are fixing to splurge on something that is not a need. Splurging is a privilege and a want. A solid retirement is a necessity. So if you are in the mood to buy what the heart desires, make sure there’s at least 10% of your pre-tax income that is earmarked for your twilight years.
4. Can I pay this month’s bills in full? As a personal finance coach, I’ve read absurd accounts of women using their rent money to pay for a trip to Paris, going to Paris, and ruining their trips worrying themselves about how they were going to find the money to pay their rent. If Paris is on your vision board, then a budget for Paris shouldn’t be far behind. Online banks like Ally Bank offer services that allow you to save for specific goals like travel. Open up an account and systematically save your passage to gay Paris.
5. How often do I do this? If you are in the habit of always impulse buying, then we should call that something else. It’s a pattern. It’s chronic. It’s not on a whim. If your MO is to buy without thinking all the time, then mustering up some discipline or limits to how much you spend will be a saving grace and possibly give you more courage and confidence than you might think.
Impulse buys aren’t dangerous when you have a strong financial foundation. Impulse buys are life’s way of rewarding you for all of the financial hard work you’ve done over the years.
Frugal Feministas- What do you think? When it is OK to splurge?