Updated on 04.09.07

Talking Yourself Out Of Unnecessary Spending: How I’m Doing It With Five Things I Really Want

Trent Hamm

Many people (myself included) often want items that they can afford, but by buying it they are really hurting their potential savings for the future. I know personally that

Item I Want: A Nintendo Wii
Tactic I’m Using: Realizing I’ll rarely use it

Whenever I think about buying a Wii, I picture playing it with friends and also with relatives during holiday get-togethers. I’ve played with one and really had a lot of fun with the sports games with it, and I can see it being a barrel of laughs with some of my friends and relatives.

In order to avoid buying this item, though, I ask myself how much I would play it in a very honest fashion. The truth is, except for when friends are over, I probably wouldn’t play it much at all. Using that, I start calculating the costs associated with the system, an extra controller, and potentially a few more games (particularly the downloaded ones, which I would enjoy for the retro appeal), and I realize the cost per hour of enjoyment on a pure entertainment project is really quite high.

Item I Want: A Treo 700p
Tactic I’m Using: Unneeded item replacement

This gadget gets my motor running every time I see one. The plethora of features (mostly the PDA-related stuff) really make me want one quite badly, as I can see tons of uses for it, even on a daily basis.

However, I avoid buying this item by using a mixture of my pocket notebook and my current cell phone. The efficiency of using these items makes a Treo into just a replacement for them, and a very expensive one at that. Why would I want to replace a pair of items that do the job quite easily and for little cost with an expensive item that does both? That’s really, really ineffective and doesn’t generate any additional productivity.

Item I Want: A tailor-made suit
Tactic I’m Using: Repeatedly hinting at it as a gift

I’ve wanted a really well-fitting suit for a long time. My body build (very, very broad shoulders makes my body look like an inverted triangle) makes buying suits an adventure and I’d love to own a suit that actually fits well for a lot of occasions.

My current tactic for this is to hint at it as a gift. My parents, in-laws, and wife are currently insinuating that they’re getting together to get me a birthday gift, so I believe (hope) that it is this. I have no qualms about specifically hinting for gifts – they would buy me something anyway, and this way it is know that it will be something I want or like.

Item I Want: A Dance Dance Revolution setup
Tactic I’m Using: Waiting for the right price

This DDR home setup is basically a home aerobics system. I want something highly interactive that can get me in shape, track my progress, give me some clear challenges to meet, and also work on my balance and footwork (because, well, I lack grace).

So how am I not buying it? I set some very low thresholds for what I’m willing to pay for each piece of the setup (the Playstation 2, the mat, the games, and the memory card) and now I’m waiting for opportunities to buy at the low prices I have in mind. When I see a component at that low threshold, I’ll buy that component; otherwise, I’ll save the money.

Item I Want: A KitchenAid Professional 600 Series stand mixer
Tactic I’m Using: I’ll buy it when…

This has been the hardest item to resist buying because of my love for cooking. I have been making do for years with a hand mixer that has been a very sturdy one, but it has made it difficult to mix a lot of things, especially bread doughs and mashed potatoes, and also to mix complex things thoroughly and evenly. A really good KitchenAid will handle that with ease, making it possible for us to make even more foods at home. I’ve also identified some very good prices on the one I’ve been eyeing, a price point I’m comfortable with.

So why haven’t I spent my money yet? I’ve made an agreement with myself that when I reach a specific savings goal this year, I’ll buy this for myself at the end of the year. Thus, not only will I be rewarded with a very healthy start to my investments, I’ll also have something I’ve wanted to own for a long time.

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  1. moogs says:

    The Wii is a very dangerous machine. Not only do you have a micro payment system with the Virtual Console, but there is also immense peer pressure to spend more money on new games and accessories every time you see your friends flailing around having the time of their lives. (Though you can only have so many wiimotes) Also, the wii point system people have said is stupid, but it’s real purpose is to dissociate money from the process of buying VC games.

    As someone who has played video games for 20 years, lately I’ve become extremely frugal with my video game purchases. I don’t have time to play as much as I used to, so I only purchase the top of the line titles.

    I have a Wii now, and while I don’t regret purchasing it, there are plenty of reasons for you to wait. An upgraded version is already in the works, and right now we’re in the post launch game drought while everyone panics because the machine didn’t flop as expected.

    Plus it’s not like you can find them, at least where I live.

  2. Tyler says:

    I splurged on the Wii also. My use goes in spurts. I played it w/ family on Easter and now I want to play it more. I have also been renting games instead of buying them. You can beat most of them during the rental period. Some people have been using it to lose weight.

    It is really easy to sink a bunch of money into games and extras though.

  3. El Indio says:


    Check out this promo by Kraft


    they are giving out free game pads and you can find free PC alternatives to play games similar to DDR.

    I’m hoping to get my pad pretty soon!

  4. vaguelyamused says:

    Buy the mixer. It will easily last 10-15 years and very well may outlast you. I have one and I love it. If it encourages you to stay in the kitchen and skip eating out, processed foods, etc. It’ll pay for itself.

  5. Linda says:

    I totally agree with your strategy #1 (with the Wii). I recently came across a chance to buy a Nintendo DS-Lite, cheap I know, but I hesitated because while the game console was cheap, games weren’t, and I knew I was going to start out by getting sucked in and spend all my time playing, then leaving it in the closet collecting dust. My strategy is going to be borrowing it from a friend who has every game console under the sun whenever I need a game fix. =)

  6. Amy says:

    My boyfriend bought a wii, and I have to say that, skeptical though I was initially, the cost per hour of entertainment provided has already become very reasonable.

    But then, we live in a city where an hour or two of bowling for four people could easily run to $100 or more (not counting snacks or beverages). Insofar as the Wii replaces evenings out drinking expensive drinks, and insofar as not all of our friends like Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble as much as I do, it’s not as ridiculous a purchase as it first seemed to me.

  7. Zachary says:

    Who needs a Wii while the World of Warcraft is alive and well? lol

  8. Bruce says:

    I own a KitchenAid Pro, and it’s not worth it unless you make a lot of cakes and cookies. My wife is a pastry chef, which is the only thing that makes it worth it for us. But now that we have it, we do love using it.

    And while you can make bread with it, I find that working doughs by hand produces better breads (and is faster if you include cleanup time). As for mashed taters, I recommend a good hand blender (if you like them whipped), or a plain old hand masher. I like lumpy mash, so I opt for the hand tool.

    I did get some of the add-ons for a gift a few years ago, and the meat grinder and sausage maker are handy (even if I don’t use the often enough). I save meat tailings in the freezer and make my own hamburger every 6 months or so. It’s a good value, but something that can be done about as easily by hand.

    I’d also consider buying the mixer used, as it rarely goes on sale. I’ve seen restaurant auction houses with the pro units on sale for half price (and in the paper for less).

  9. Clever Dude says:

    I agree fully with the Wii and Treo, which I want for myself. I’m using the same justifications as you are as well.

    Luckily, we got the mixer (probably the same exact one you want) for our wedding 3 years ago, but we’ve only used it about 2 times. We just don’t cook, but we hope to change that.

  10. GradGirl says:

    Ugh. I am so with you on the KitchenAid mixer. Really want one, but they’re so expensive. I like your idea of working up to it, like a reward.

  11. liz says:



    $3.99 for controller converter, $20 for a cheap starter pad (much, much more for a hard pad, but it’s a great investment — I know people who’ve owned and abused theirs for 5+ years, and it still runs well) and the game itself is free, and people will make song files all the time – not only do you get all the standard ddr songs, you get a lot of other great popular music and techno selections.

  12. Bob says:

    Your strategy #1 is really useful. It’s very much applicable to some of the things that I want. If only I can remember it everytime I have come across some of the wonderful things that I want.

  13. Erica says:

    We are now limiting expenditure on house jobs and purchases to one thing a month, we are tackling needs first like a new bathroom floor, new lightshades before purchases like a new bedroom tv.

    This means that we will eventually get the wii but not before more important things and hopefully by then the price will be down too (and our savings will be up!).

  14. Derek says:

    Only two of those things are “investment” pieces – the suit and the mixer, meaning if treated well, they will be with you for decades. The tech gadgets will be out-dated in two years or less.

    For the mixer, keep an eye out for a used one, but good luck. People don’t get rid of those things for a reason – they pass them down for generations. They are also like a Honda or Toyotas – since they run forever, they also keep their value, so a used one might not be that cheap (but most likely as good as a new one. Some might even argue if you could get a older Hobart model from before Whirlpool bought the brand, it would be better – the “they don’t make them like they used to” argument so to speak). Also, consider if you truly need the “pro” 6qt model, or could go with a smaller 5qt version. They are both bulletproof. Either way, if you are going to use it (and most people that even know why they’d want one will) it is a worthwhile investment.

    For the suit – and extreme way to get this would be to fly to Hong Kong and contract with a tailor there. GQ ran an article a year or so back where they sent a report to do exactly that. He flew to Hong Kong for two nights, and got two tailored suits – not made-to-measure, but honest to goodness tailored suits for less than $500 for both. Factor in getting a deal on the airfare (not to mention the flight to Hong Kong nets you a ton of miles) and you could have two custom suits for less that off-the-rack.

  15. PF says:

    The kitchen aid mixers are overrated. They aren’t what they were “back in the day” as someone else mentioned (made by hobart). If you really want a mixer, get a Bosch. You can make 8 loaves of whole wheat bread at a time. Not as pretty, but much better.

  16. erniertl says:

    I was waiting for a cheaper price on DDR. Then I asked myself, how much is my health worth?

  17. ispf says:

    Great tactics! Another tactic I use is to ask myself, “what will you give up for this?” For instance, I have wanted a reallllly big screen TV for a while. It’s a want and not a need, so I have been putting it off. I use all the above tactics you mentioned and when all else fails I ask the question of whether I will give up my vacation for it, and usually the answer is no :)

  18. John says:

    For big spenders, it’s probably hard to control. Others are already making it as a habit. I guess it wouldn’t be a habit anymore if run out of funds.

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