Updated on 06.05.14

Master the Thirty Day Rule, Too (7/365)

Trent Hamm

Yesterday, we talked about the ten second rule, which you can use to protect yourself against impulse buys that are well within the limits of your pocket money. We’re talking about things like a pack of gum, an inexpensive board game, or something like that.

As I know all too well, though, many of the purchases we make are much larger than that one. I’ll give you an example: our blender.

Master the Thirty Day Rule, Too (7/365)

We use our blender for a lot of things: making smoothies, beating eggs, making pesto, and so on. A while back, one of our beautiful children did something incomprehensible to the blender (as children sometimes do), rendering it very difficult to use. You could still use it, but you had to hold something over the top of it while also holding the entire machine firmly in place.

Our initial instinct was to just rush right out and replace the blender with a similar model. It did a decent job, though it would often leave big chunks in the blender and had other little design issues that we didn’t like. It would also take forever to blend certain things.

Instead, we made the decision to buy a better blender.

Now, we could have easily still ran to the store and bought a better blender, but the decision to buy a better one meant that the cost of the blender likely jumped up into the “more than pocket money” category. We weren’t going to just buy a $20 blender.

Instead, we gave it a month. During that month, we researched a lot of blenders. We did some evaluations of what features we actually needed and which ones were superfluous. We settled on a few models and did a ton of price comparisons.

In the end, we wound up with a top-notch blender for far less than we ever expected to pay for it (meaning we did not pay anything close to Amazon’s price for that blender).

That month did a lot of things for us.

We had time to figure out if this was something we really wanted to do. Did we really need a nicer blender? Could we just use a simple replacement for the one we already had? Did we need one at all? These questions are often enough to talk you out of an unnecessary purchase. Try doing this with, say, an iPod Touch, and you’ll find yourself not spending $200 or so on a portable music player.

Obviously, this question didn’t fill all of our thoughts for the month, but it was something that we thought about.

We had time to actually identify the specific item we were looking for. We identified all of the specific features we wanted as well as features we deemed unnecessary. We were able to research a lot of models using tools like Consumer Reports and, eventually, we were able to whittle our choices down to a handful.

We had time to carefully shop for the right item. Instead of just charging ahead once we had an item in mind, we spent some time shopping around for that item – and waiting for the right price. We set up some notifications for prices on the items we were interested in and looked at a lot of different options.

Eventually, the blender we picked up popped up with a large discount, so we pounced.

Give yourself thirty days to go through this process. Most of the time, you’ll talk yourself right out of the purchase, which is a good thing. Even when you don’t, your research and price investigation will often lead you toward getting the best item at a very nice price, rather than just getting whatever item happens to be at your local department store.

You should also set a price threshold for the thirty day rule. What do you consider to be the line between an impulse purchase out of your pocket money and a more significant purchase? For me, it’s usually between $20 and $40, depending on how much of my alloted “pocket money” for the month that I’ve spent. It’s going to be different for each person depending on their income level, behavior level, and other factors.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book 365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

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  1. Andrew says:

    OK, I’ll be the first to jump in.

    This is generally a good procedure to follow when making large purchases. Just be careful not to fall into “paralysis by analysis,” wherein you gather so much information, and take so long to do it, that no decision is ever made and your quality of life suffers as a result. I don’t know that a blender qualifies as important enough for a month’s worth of thought.

    Also, much better photo choice this time. The article talks about blenders, and you show someone examining a blender. No jarringly wrong juxtapositions here. (BTW, a good pair of shoes often costs many tmes what a blender does–perhaps shoes should also be subject to your 30-day rule!)

  2. Julie says:

    If something breaks, I’m not going to wait a month to replace it. I will research the item I am buying, but it is not going to take me a month.

  3. Steven says:

    Oh crap! A blender. Wait for it!

  4. lurker carl says:

    Wow. It wouldn’t have taken me a month to decide that a professional blender was overkill. And I thought the enamel casserole dish was overpriced.

  5. Alice says:

    Any possibility you could share the price paid, specifically how you got the discount, and how the higher-end blender compares in terms of your use to the $20 model? My initial inclination would be to buy the $20 model, and just replace it in a year or two if necessary (assuming the high end model cost $200, it would take ten years before it was more cost efficient). I’m interested in the cost analysis for the high-end blender, as maybe it’s actually a better deal than the $20 model; my fear, for me, would be that it would get broken in a way not covered by warranty.

  6. Johanna says:

    So paying an undisclosed amount for a top-notch blender is OK, but the only reason anyone would buy an iPod touch is that they haven’t thought the purchase through?

    I don’t know why you don’t seem to understand that you’re not the only one who buys expensive things for reasons that aren’t totally ridiculous.

  7. Kyle says:

    So if you go out and buy something right away, you will buy a $30 blender. But if you dwell on it for thirty days and think of all the stuff you want in a blender, you will buy a $300 blender.

    And the old $20 blender was fine except that a kid destroyed it. And you still have the young kids.

    I must be missing something here.

  8. David says:

    Worse, you might wait for 30 days and then talk yourself out of buying a blender at all. After a month of eating nothing but solid food and with no kitchen implements to vandalize, your children will set fire to the sofa.

    “Could have run”, not “could have ran”, although I suppose these days one is grateful not to see “could of ran”.

  9. Kate says:

    I guess that I will be the second one to jump in and say that this reminder is a great one for people who are just coming to the realization that they need to make changes in their financial thinking and also for those who struggle with temptation. I was under the impression that these posts were aimed toward those groups of people? Julie: Trent said the blender still worked so he isn’t really going 30 days without a blender. The thirty day rule has saved me from several impulse buys and I was glad of the day that I learned of it.

  10. deRuiter says:

    “…we could have easily still ran to the store…”
    There’s that passion for writing again, manifesting itself in perfect grammar! Seems like “…we could have run to the store…” would have been correct, and done without the superficial “easily” and “still” as well as using the correct tense.

  11. Amanda says:

    OK, let me get this clear. My constructive comment about how adjusting the white balance would be the sales slip picture a far better picture (which is true, and your intern should know it) gets stuck in moderation for *days.*

    But comments #11-16 about oral sex in a public bathroom “contribute to the growth and thoughtfulness of other readers”?

  12. Dave M says:

    Gentlemen, nice test of the new site management! Good luck.

  13. Nate says:

    Someone is clearly having fun at Trent’s expense. And Trent obviously isn’t moderating his replies anymore.
    HAHAHA Is this what happens when you let someone else run your website????

  14. JDS says:

    I’d like to know more about the “price notifications” you set up. Where is a good place to start? Maybe you’ve covered this in a previous post, but I don’t see it in the index.

  15. Jaycee says:

    Pretty disturbing comments left and very rude. I have been reading Trent’s blog for awhile and would never think to leave him comments left by J.D. and Jim. Get a life guys and do this somewhere else.

  16. Andrew says:

    All right, guys, you’ve made your point.

  17. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    I cleaned up the comments. All of the foul comments were coming from one person. I marked them all as spam.

  18. kc says:

    You’ve got another one in the comments on this morning’s post.

  19. Jules says:

    She was allowed to take pictures in stores? That’s usually a big no-no.

  20. Evita says:

    30 days to make such a simple decision ? isn’t that overthinking in a big way ? (I must be missing something there…..)

  21. kc says:

    The odd thing is that the Blendtec is rated 12th out of about 50 blenders rated by CR. The 1st is the Vita Mix, which costs $450. The 2nd? The Ninja Master Prep Professional QB1004, which sells for a mere $60.

    Many users compare the Blendtec’s noise to a lawn mower or leaf blower.

    As to why Trent felt it was something he needed, I can’t say.

  22. I totally agree with not making purchases with out time to think about it, its amazing how many things you find you don’t need once you take a few days to think about your motivation. That conditioning to buy NOW is really ingrained. I also find sometimes a crazy low price tricks me into thinking its something I need, but again a little time leads to clearer thinking.

  23. Katie says:

    My innocuous comment is still in moderation after 3 months…

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