Buying Shiny New Things Without The Guilt

By Carlos Portocarrero on 15 April 2009 (Updated 6 July 2012) 16 comments
Photo: creecher94

Around four months ago, I declared I wanted to buy a new computer without spending a cent.

Sure, the title was meant to be catchy and a little playful (were you not entertained?), but I had an actual system behind the hype. The idea was to save up all of my alternative income and use that money to save for a new computer. I wouldn't use any money from my paycheck or my savings. (See also: 5 Money Making Activities You Can Do Today)

In other words, I'd pay for the new computer with money I'd never miss.

The other rule I set for myself is that I wouldn't pull the trigger until I had enough money banked — no itchy trigger for me here. I had to wait until the money was there.

What Happened

Setting this goal for myself was great because it gave me a purpose. I started selling a bunch of my old books knowing that all that money would be going towards my new PC. Every time I wrote a new post on my blog, I knew the income I made from the site would go into my computer fund.

Setting a goal gave me something to work toward instead of just saving for the sake of saving, which was great.

What's This About Guilt?

I'm guessing other Wise Bread readers share this affliction with me: ponying up large amounts of money to buy stuff isn't easy. Parting with money is super tough for frugal people like ourselves, so whenever I have to (or want to) make a big purchase, I get very uneasy.

I feel guilty for spending my hard-earned money. Shouldn't I be investing it? Saving it? Doing anything but spending it?

Sure, but we also have to live our lives, and that's what money is for, right? To help us get what we want? To enjoy it?

Easier said than done, and this budgeting trick has helped me overcome the guilt.

NMG: No More Guilt

When I got close to my goal, I told my wife that maybe it was all a bad idea. Maybe I didn't really need a new machine and that I could probably cope with my five-year-old laptop for another couple years.

The guilt had crept into my foolproof system.

But she was having none of it. She wouldn't let me. After all the hard work I had been putting in toward boosting my alternative income selling books and blogging, she said I HAD to buy the new computer. That was the plan and that was the purpose.

So I did.

And guess what? It feels awesome.

My new machine should be here by the end of the week and I haven't felt guilty at all. Our budget is on track, our savings are on track—it's like I never spend the money.

And the best part is that now I have a system in place whenever I get the itch to buy something else. Until then, I'll go back to being the responsible, frugal (some would say boring), person I am: the side money I make will go into my high-yield savings account, where I'll let it accumulate.

I won't be buying anything else anytime soon...I'll be too busy toying around with my brand-spanking new computer.

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Guest's picture

That's all fine and dandy, but I want to know what kind of computer you decided to buy!

Guest's picture

That is great! I do the same thing, but on a much smaller scale. I really enjoy little snacks throughout the week that I did not budget for (we are on a very tight budget right now). So, with the money I make online through surveys and other little things, I buy my little snacks. It is money that I never accounted for so I do not feel guilty using it!

Guest's picture
Malcom Reynolds

Good Post and approach WC...My space is rather limited and I tend to have the same jitters about big ticket items as you mention in the post. My way of taking the edge off it is to find something to part with as a small sacrifice to the "Retail Gods"...

In your case I would sell my old laptop on Ebay once the new one arrives or donate it to a frugal friend looking for a free MP3 garage machine.

Enjoy the new laptop...Sounds like you've earned it.

Guest's picture
AGuest

Did you get a Mac?

Guest's picture
Guest

*fool-proof

Guest's picture
Dana

Especially if the computer will make your work more efficient, and comes as a result of your hard work.

Guest's picture
Slinky

I'm with Gabe Little - What did you end up getting? I just got my own new computer last week and finished building it Friday. :) It's awesome! I haven't found a game yet that I can't run on ultra high settings. :)

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

 

I’m definitely excited about making my “work” more efficient. I’m tired of the lag between clicking on something and having it actually happen.

As for what I bought: I went with a Dell. Been buying them for years now (three machines, actually), and I’m pleased with them.

Specs are an Intel Quad Core running at 3Ghz, 4GB of RAM, a 19’ monitor, and the GeForce 9600 video card.

Suffice to say I’m PUMPED. And the best part? ZERO GUILT!

 

The Writer's Coin  |  Follow me on Twitter

Guest's picture

I saved up enough money to buy a custom-built computer and paid the whole thing up front. Done. No worries. Now I'm sitting here with my new baby and payment. Life is good. :)

Guest's picture
the guest poster

In one of your past posts, you stated you had a lot of cash, but you were not sure what to do with it. Now you buy this computer. Some people are frugal because they do not have the money to pay for things and others are frugal because they just do not want to spend their money, even though they have the ability to spend it. You state that you saved money to buy this computer, even though based on your past article you already had the money. Is there really a difference how you buy it, when you already have the money? Aren't just finding a different excuse to buy something? It would be different if you did not already have the money and then saved it.

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

True, I did mention that I had a pile of cash before. But it's not my style to use the cash my wife and I have been saving to buy a new computer.

 

The gist of this post was that "wants" like a new computer usually come with their fair share of guilt, especially for a frugal person like myself. But by saving the money on my own, individually of my wife and "our" money, takes care of the guilt.

 

Which is a great thing. By the way, I got the computer today and am typing on it right now.

 

So sweet.

The Writer's Coin  |  Follow me on Twitter

Guest's picture
Part One of Two

Buying a laptop is fine.

Buying a desktop is anti-frugal:

A) Building a PC is easier than stacking Legos. There are hundreds of guides available.
B) For the same money, you get more features, higher quality parts, and better performance.
C) You get exactly what you want: no more, no less.
D) Your upgrade path isn't blocked by a vendor's scheduled obsolescence.
E) You still get a warranty - you just have to keep more receipts.
F) You get to learn something (even if you've been doing this for decades).

That said, enjoy the toy!

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

I thought of building my own machine—it's something I've talked of doing for a really long time. But I just didn't have the energy or patience for it, especially after I wasted so much time trying to fix my old laptop. It was a disaster.

So I'm happy I just bought a finished system!

The Writer's Coin  |  Follow me on Twitter

Guest's picture

Great approach-- a positive lesson for all of us.

Guest's picture

Your battle is an interesting example of something I've recently been blogging about myself. It sounds like you've been battling a mild case of hyperopia - which literally means - excessive farsightedness. For some, this means you're worrying about your savings and your future, while not really living in the present. Being frugal for these people is more like justifying not buying that new mattress while you sleep on an uncomfortable one every night, just because you can save some money.

For you, you need that new PC, and possibly you've been pining for it for awhile. The way to get rid of the 'guilt' associated with it is to ask yourself - am I doing this for the right reasons, that is, necessity or a simple desire to have the latest and greatest?

Take action to remedy regret! I've talked about this a lot more on my own site as I really find it fascinating.

Regards,
Tristan.

Guest's picture

so coooooooooooool