Alright, alright… you're totally rolling your eyes at me right now! I'm being serious. I'm about to teach you how to buy anything you want… regardless of your budget with the 3 month rule!
One of the best parts about being a Fun Cheap or Free Queen is the fact that with patience, a little practice, and some mad frugalista skills, you can have just about anything you want. For realzies.
A gross misconception about “frugal people” is that we don't spend money; that we pinch every penny, never buy anything expensive, only shop at Good Will, and live a miserly, boring, and overall “cheap” life. While some of that is true (there is nothing wrong with shopping at thrift stores!), the overall misconception is… well… a misconception!
Remember my differentiation between “cheap” and “frugal” HERE? We are frugal people… we still know how to have fun and recognize value!
Alright! Now I'm about to teach you a financial principle that will make you rethink everything.
HOW YOU CAN AFFORD ANYTHING
I am living, breathing proof that you CAN be frugal, live reasonably, practice self-control and delayed gratification, follow a tight budget, be thrifty in every sense of the word… and still have, do, and own just about anything you want.
“Just about” being the keyword. We've got to be reasonable here, folks! As FCF Queens in training (if you will), you all know how to:
- Set and track a monthly budget
- Organize your money into 7 bank accounts to stay on top of your finances
Sooooo….. what happens when you want to buy something that doesn't fit in your standard monthly budget?
I'll give that a big HECK NO! My hubby and I live by a simple rule that allows us to buy the bigger, more costly items (that you're inevitably bound to need in your life – furniture, appliances, new carpet, whatever it is), while STILL following a tight budget. As well as respecting our tight finances, practicing self-control, enjoying delayed gratification, and spending wisely. Wheew! That's a lot of awesomeness!
I now introduce to you…
THE 3 MONTH RULE
You're going to be blown away by how simple this is.
Whenever you want or even need to buy something that doesn't fit within your standard monthly budget…WAIT. THREE. MONTHS.
It's that simple!
BENEFITS OF THE 3 MONTH RULE
- Gives you time to set money aside
- Allows for holiday and season changes – can you say sales?
- Eliminates impulse buys
- Ensures you find the perfect product
- Gives you time to find the best deal
- You can change your mind!!!
- Teaches delayed gratification
THIS GIVES YOU TIME TO SET MONEY ASIDE
You with me still? You may be wondering how you set money aside. Let's break it down. First, find out how much money you need for the item, divide it by 3 months or longer if needed, and set that amount aside each month.
Where do you find the money to set aside?? The money you set aside should be money leftover at the end of the month after paying all your bills and debt.
If you don't have any money left over (living paycheck to paycheck) then the money needs to be cut from somewhere else. Cut down your eating out, entertainment, or “fun money” budget for example, and set that aside.
This money then goes into your “Family Regular Savings” account.
If it takes you longer than 3 months to set the money aside for extra large purchases, or if you simply need to space out the setting aside because of a tight budget then change the title of “the 3 month rule” to “the 6 month rule” or “the 12 month rule” and all the same rules will apply.
ALLOWS FOR HOLIDAY AND SEASON CHANGES
Holidays = holiday sales. Season changes = new inventory, making “old inventory” cheaper! Taking your time will give you a chance to anticipate upcoming holidays and take advantage of the holiday sales.
Also, the 3 months might fall on Christmas, your birthday, or anniversary. This will give you an opportunity to ask for cash instead of gifts, pool the money, and use it to help buy your item. (Like I did with my favorite Roomba vacuum seen HERE.)
ELIMINATES IMPULSE BUYS
By setting the “3 month rule” as a hard-fast rule, it WILL eliminate impulse buys! This will not only save your family THOUSANDS in the long run, but will ensure you're buying the perfect item for you, and not just the best of what's available right then.
ENSURES THE PERFECT PRODUCT FOR YOU
Waiting 3 months forces you to slow down, take a breath, and do your research! You know you can't have it right now, so it gives you time to ask around, shop around, and research.
Research what? The best brand, size, type, color, style, price, look, and functionality for YOU. If it's a couch, go to 10 different furniture stores before deciding. Bring a swatch of fabric home and see what it looks like with your decor… the lighting in your house… your paint color… see if it stains easily.
If it's a new stroller, ask every mom you know what they love/hate about theirs. Borrow theirs. Take it for a spin around your neighborhood. See if it fits in your car. Test the wheels.
Whatever it is, this timeframe will give you time to do proper research to make sure you'll be 100% happy with your purchase, and that it will accomplish all your needs.
GIVES YOU TIME TO FIND THE BEST DEAL
Along the same lines of avoiding impulse-buys, finding the BEST deal is key. It's not always about bottom-line price, either! Finding the best deal needs to include return policy, warranty/repair, delivery/set-up, brand, make/model, and if it's used, wear and tear.
Plus, it gives time for you to find coupons that will help with your purchase. It also gives you time to search for cheaper versions of the item through classifieds, yard sales, thrift stores, and even DIY.
GIVES YOU TIME TO CHANGE YOUR MIND
If you're anything like me, you get an idea about something you want, you lock your mind onto it, and hardly sleep until you have it. BUT…if you're anything like me, you also change your mind as quickly as you set it!
If you simply wait before buying that thing that you “just HAVE to have!”…you'll find that after a few weeks you might just not want it any more! See? Just saved yourself mucho dinero. Doesn't that feel good?
TEACHES DELAYED GRATIFICATION
Look at it this way…the longer you wait, the more time you have to look forward to having it, which will make you appreciate it all the more. Fabulous, eh?!
This practice will benefit you in many other areas of your life, not just in purchasing products. It will make you a stronger person, a wiser shopper, and will give you patience.
Plus, these are the types of skills we should be teaching our children to stop the “entitlement generation” trend that we have created. Teaching our families that it takes patience and hard-work to get everything we want in life is a priceless lesson they will learn, that will benefit your family for generations. Can you imagine what our economy would be like today if everyone just took a deep breath and had some patience before buying something?
SEE THE 3 MONTH RULE IN ACTION
We have used the 3 month rule time and time again! For big pictures like our DSLR camera, entertainment center, furniture as well as smaller purchases like kitchen appliances and dance bags. The 3 month rule has saved us in more ways than one!
Here are just a few examples:
When my son was born in 2010, it was time to buy a DSLR camera. We had been setting money aside for MONTHS (if you remember HERE, our finances were a MESS back then). We didn't have any extra money to spare so we pooled our Christmas, birthday, anniversary, Valentine's gift money (from each other as well as other family members) for a year. He was due in January, so we started shopping for the camera a few months in advance. We looked at stores, online, Costco, you name it.
We took our time before buying, so we learned that if we were patient, then we could take advantage of an additional rebate AFTER Christmas at Costco. We almost purchased the camera elsewhere because we calculated that the price would still be higher at Costco. But upon further research we learned that the Costco camera included a bag, second lens, and a killer repair policy. Their RETURN policy has been shortened, but because we bought the camera with our American Express credit card then Costco and AMEX would repair the camera for years. And guess what? Over 1 year later I broke the camera, and they fixed it… for free!
We used the 3 month rule to buy our entertainment center for our new house. We had a furniture budget when we moved in for couches, a bedroom set, and entertainment center. We had been setting aside money the entire 18 months we were house-hunting.
However, once we moved in we still abided by the 3-month rule even though we had the money set aside. Because we waited for a few more months before actually buying any furniture, hard to do when you have the money sitting in a bank account!! We found great deals on our furniture, and ended up having money leftover for a few accent chairs for our formal living room – an unexpected benefit!
OUTDOOR PLAY SET
We used “the rule” to buy our play set, but we had to set money aside for longer than 3 months. After doing our research, we saw the perfect playset at Costco for a little over $1000. We took time to price-compare online and at other stores, and found that it was by far the best value. We didn't buy right away though, we told ourselves we'd wait another few months, just to be sure. This is scary because things at Costco don't stay long… but we learned that patience pays off.
A few weeks later I went to Costco and the play set had dropped to $799! We jumped on the deal, bought it with the money we had set aside (putting the purchase on my AMEX to get the rewards cash, see HERE), and saved even more money by assembling it ourselves. We felt great when we went back to Costco a few weeks later and it was back up to $1000.
COMPETITIVE DANCE BAG
We travel A LOT with Priya and her competitive dance. I knew we needed a good bag with all of the traveling and costume changes. I waited until I had gone to a few competitions before deciding on which one to get. After going into the dressing rooms and peeking around at everybody’s bags I had a pretty good idea on which one was the best. I would even shake them and ask to zip the pockets to feel the quality before finally deciding on a bag.
The one I chose never really goes on sale and there were cheaper options out there. BUT, the one I got seemed like the best quality and was worth waiting for and saving up. Now I’ll have it for years, for all 3 of my dancers. Worth the investment!
When Instant Pots started becoming popular, I knew I had to have one! They are the definition of fast cooking, which is my style! Because of our three month rule on purchases over $100, I waited. By the time I was ready to buy, there was a sale and I jumped on it. I ended up saving money AND getting one of my now favorite kitchen appliances at the same time.
If you know anything about Apple, they come out with new, bigger, and better gadgets every single year. When they released the Apple Watch, my productivity loving heart about beat out of its chest. This was a hard one to not RUN and buy immediately, but I stayed strong and saved up! I still use it every single day.
HALE CENTER THEATRE SEASON TICKETS
Let me tell you about one of my most recent purchases that I looked forward to for a very long time! This one took some collaboration and creativity! I’ve ALWAYS wanted season tickets to the Hale Center, but those babies are expensive! I about fell over when I saw the price! Instead of just purchasing it on my own, I had it on my Christmas list for a year. Bubba, my parents and my in-laws all went together and got it as my one main gift. That’s how we afforded the most expensive gift that I had been wanting for an ENTIRE YEAR!
As you can see, it IS possible to be frugal, live on a budget, and still be able to buy things – nice, quality, and even BIG things – responsibly!
This rule is REEEEEEEEALLY simple. Almost embarrassingly simple. But, it works!
Just. Wait. That's all I can say.
Keep the big picture in mind, take a step back, take a breath, and simply wait. The actual time-frame is not as important (though, certainly wait at least 3 months for best results). What's key is the art of looking before jumping.
So there you go! When it's time to purchase something “big” that doesn't fit within your standard monthly budget, wait 3 months!
You'll be happy you did… just wait and see 🙂
Don't forget about my Secret Sauce online budgeting program, Budget Boot Camp! BBC is a super fun 27-video program that makes money easy to understand. All you need is a screen and you're set!
And don't forget, if you don't save at LEAST what you paid for the program, I'll refund every dime. You've got nothing to lose (except your debt)! Use the code FCFBLOG to get an extra 10% off, because I love you 😉