When we feel the need for a particular item, our first instinct is to run out and buy it. It’s all too easy to “solve” our problems (or satisfy our wants) with the swipe of a credit card.
What if we resisted that instinct for a day—a week—or even a whole month? I suspect we could significantly curb our spending, and add a nice chunk of change to our bottom lines.
I propose a “Make Do” Month, in which we try everything possible to avoid shopping. Let’s go into survivalist mode, and approach each situation with a “make do or do without” attitude. (If it helps, pretend some crisis has forced all retail stores to close their doors for the next four weeks.)
Here are some situations that may occur, and some money-free ways to address them:
1. You’re invited to a party or formal event. DON’T buy a new outfit! Chances are, you have something in your closet that will work. Nobody will know (or care) if your ensemble is brand new or ten years old…so don’t let an event that lasts only a few hours put a dent in your bank account.
2. Your friends are raving about a fabulous new book. Instead of heading to the bookstore, surf to your library’s website and reserve it. If you’re not first in the queue, they’ll notify you when it’s ready for pickup. If your library doesn’t have it (or you don’t want to wait), borrow it from a friend or family member.
3. A blockbuster movie hits the theaters. Wait until it comes out on DVD…this is a fabulous opportunity to practice delayed gratification. Read, take a walk, or go stargazing in the evening instead.
4. You’re accustomed to buying coffee, or going out to lunch. Consider yourself lucky, because you’re going to pocket a lot of extra money during your “Make Do” Month! Brew your java at home, and take your lunch to work—the extra savings alone will perk you up!
5. Something in your home breaks. Ahh, a great chance to show off your resourcefulness and creativity! If you can’t immediately buy a replacement, you may actually be inspired to fix it. Otherwise, try your best to do without the item in question. If your toaster breaks, use your oven; if it’s the hairdryer, go au naturel; if a button falls off your shirt, mend it.
6. A holiday or birthday occurs. Instead of a store-bought present, give the gift of your time or expertise. For example, present the recipient with a voucher for a massage, computer repair, or night of babysitting.
7. Your kids are clamoring for a new toy. Take the opportunity to explain to them what you’re doing—it’s a great way to introduce the concept of wants versus needs. If you intend to indulge them at the end of the month, turn the waiting period into a game: have a countdown, or give them a small “allowance” so they can save up for the coveted item.
8. You hear about a great new restaurant. Resist the urge to eat out by making a special meal at home (ideally, with what you already have in the pantry!). Prepare it as a couple (or family), serve on your best plates, and enjoy it slowly. Light a few candles, or put on some music, for extra ambience.
By turning such situations into saving opportunities, we can use our “Make Do” Month to pad our finances (or pay down some debt). And who knows…we may develop some frugal habits that’ll serve us well the rest of the year!