Justifying Major Purchases

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Friends and family tend to think of me as the scrimper, the saver, the one who will make something last until it’s completely outlived its usefulness. For instance, when the ketchup level is so low that the condiment cannot be easily squeezed from the bottle, Mr. Saver will automatically pass it to me. Because he knows I WILL get the last sugared-tomato-cream drop out of the darned thing. I’ll shake, then squeeze. Repeat over and over until it’s almost all out. If there’s anything I can’t get, I’ll twist off the cap and use a butter knife to scrape the remains onto my Taylor ham, egg and cheese sandwich.

I’ve patched a pair of my maternity jeans three times so far — and trust me, it hurt me to have to buy any maternity clothes, since they’re used for so little of a time in my life. I’ve also got a pile of socks with holes that I need to repair, thanks to my big toe going right through them after a while.

But I digress.

So how does someone justify the purchase of a new sectional sofa, coffee table and TV cabinet? It’s hard, trust me. Our living room is currently set up with frathouse-like furnishings: one small sofa, a coffee table with a broken leg that’s being held together with duct tape, and a TV stand that’s too narrow for the big-screen TV sitting on top of it.

I don’t want to wind up making an impulse buy (or three), but sometimes, the time it takes me to decide on a purchase stretches out over months. With this purchase, it’s actually more than a year. And I’ve always wanted a nice living room. I have yet to buy more than a sofa or a table here and there. While the sofa was purchased new, it was from a discount retailer. The coffee table was thrifted, and the TV stand was from Target. Here is how I’m trying to justify the expenditure.

The Justification Process

Consider the age of the item to be replaced.
TV stand: 8 years old
Coffee table: 8 years in my possession; likely 20+ years old
Sofa: 4 years old

Can the item still serve a purpose in another form or in another place?
TV stand: It’s in good condition, so it will be used in place of an older TV stand in the basement.
Coffee table: As one of the legs of the old table has lots of duct tape around it, this is a no-brainer. Old table is garbage (and embarassing).
Sofa: The current couch will be put in our porch “bonus” room, where currently we only have a futon. And the blue color matches the decor back there.

Will the new items improve our lives somehow?
TV cabinet: We’ll feel better that our little one won’t hit the edge of the TV once she gets mobile, and that it won’t fall on her.
Coffee table: It’s broken and unstable — self-explanatory.
Sectional: We’ll be able to sit together as a family in the living room.

Determine if the new item is really necessary.
TV cabinet: YES. The current TV stand wasn’t made for today’s flat-screen TVs. The current setup will be unsafe for our daughter.
Coffee table: YES. The current table isn’t stable.
Sectional: SORT OF. While not essential, additional seating will make it easier to spend time together as a family and entertain guests.

Obviously, we’ve made up our minds to get the new furniture. Although we could easily wait, it’s something we’ve thought long and hard about. As we’re not in consumer debt, I think it’s a solid decision.

How do you justify your major purchases? Do you go through a similar thought process?

6 comments to Justifying Major Purchases

  • I really enjoyed your post. It’s so easy to impulse buy especially with all the advertisements we are constantly being bombarded with. I enjoy your common sense advice. Personally, I usually wait awhile before I buy something to see if it’s something I really need or if it’s a reasonable purchase. For example, I just bought myself a new winter coat last week after I had thought about it for a few days. I also realized how old my current coat is and how badly I needed a new one. It was also a great price. Now I enjoy wearing it and am not experiencing buyer’s regret which I might have had I bought it right away!

  • Our decisions have been based on having two factors in place. The first is having a good reason to replace it that will up the quality of our lives, and the second is having a cash windfall of some sort, like a bonus or a tax return.

    We used our George Bush stimulus money to buy a new sofa, for the same reason of having more space for our growing family. I have an old Ikea side chair that I HATE, but I haven’t gotten around to replacing it because there isn’t as much of a functional reason to spend for a new one.

  • I love Crystal’s take!

    We haven’t really chosen to replace many things. I still have the same bed, desk, etc. Replaced laptop and tv due to theft. Replaced car when we decided it sucking money and time past the tipping point.

    The one thing we do replace (and more often than we’d like) is cellphones. BF is hard on his phones and has lost/damaged far too many. The most recent change though was due to me hating my phone, and a good deal coming up.

    • Nicole

      @eemusings: Most of our furnishings, other than our current couch, are thrifted or handed down. What was purchased was done so on sale or clearance. Even our bedroom set was my grandmother’s and is about 50 years old. I’m also holding on to my car for as long as I can, which is why I’ve been putting some money into repairs for the first time in the 7 years I’ve owned it. Cell phones can be expensive, and they’re not easily found secondhand (or the technology is out-of-date). Everyone has their ‘breaking point’ where they no longer want / can use their “things.”

  • We ask ourselves if whatever we’re buying is more important to us than wherever the money is coming from. That helps us put off most big purchases until things break since we like where our money is going right now, lol. For intance, I dislike my car but I like our retirement savings, so I keep driving my stupid Aveo…

    • Nicole

      @Crystal: That’s a good way of looking at it. Sometimes you do want to put comfort over frugality, but it doesn’t happen often in our house.