Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Resist Temptation

Tip #23 - Resist Temptation. It's very hard to not spend money when everyone around you is. When your friends are eating out, you want to join them. When your family buys the latest things at the mall, you wish to go, too. When you hear about neighbors' vacations to Carribbean islands, it's hard to not want to fly away also. But try to resist temptation. He who laughs last, laughs loudest. The more you hold on to your money, the more security you will feel and the more you will have later to do what you want to do.

If you know that friends of yours are eating dinner out at a fancy restaurant and you wish to go along, try to resist by making a special meal at home. Or find a coupon 2-for-1 that makes the cost of eating out pretty cheap. You hear about your family's trips to the shopping mall buying the latest gadgets. Resist by telling yourself, most of them will be sold at a garage sale for 1/4 of the price within a year or two. If you have an urge to shop, go to the cheapest thrift store you know about. A lot of retail therapy can be had for $2 or $3. Or if it's yard sale season, spend the morning going to yard sales. And smile each time you pay $1 for an item that was $10 or $20 last Christmas season. When you see your neighbors come back with tans after Christmas vacation, tell yourself that you will be the tan one in retirement. Or if you really, really want to do a dream vacation, then forgo a vacation for a year or two to save up for a big, expensive one. Or find a cheaper alternative than an island at Christmas time. The Florida beaches in the first two weeks of December or during the month of January is much cheaper than the week of Christmas or in February. And if you can drive there, the vacation can be surprisingly affordable.

Try to resist the spending temptation. Stay home more. Find cheap or free activities. But if you can't resist, give in cheaply. You'll be thankful later on.

In Real Life (IRL). Shopping at the mall does not entice me. Not one bit. I am a mall hater. I hate the crowds, the indoor air, and the prices. Ugh. Give me a thrift store any day over a mall. I never know what treasures and bargains I will find. And the cost is a fraction of the mall. But I know that some people love the mall and the fact is, the more you shop, the more you spend. So if you love the mall or shopping in general, then you just have to stay out of the stores if you want to save money. Or learn to love thrift stores and yard sales. While it is sometimes tempting to buy things you don't need at a thrift store or yard sale because the prices are so good, you usually don't waste a lot of money doing it. And if you do, you can always use earlier advice I gave you and sell what you don't want.

Eating out is a temptation of mine. It's nice to not have to cook and even nice to not have to clean up. And frankly, the restaurant food usually tastes better than my cooking. But when I realize the mark-up on restarant food, I try hard to resist. We generally try to eat out (or take in) just once a week. It gives me a much-needed break and allows us to get the eating out need fulfilled. We always do something that is a good deal. Like we get coupons for Baja Fresh in the mail every few months. They have $5 off $15 deals. We usually get off by spending just about $12 for a meal for the 5 of us. It gives us a break and a change of food for not a lot of extra money. We usually eat Chinese about once a month or when our parents visit. We like it and I cannot recreate their food at home very well. With lot of people, the cost per person isn't too bad (usually about $5 per person) with leftovers for another meal or part of one. We do other deals when we see them - coupons for Indian food or pizza, etc. When a meal is $15 or less for our family, we usually do that for our one night per week of eating out. This one night of eating out is in our budget so it's fine for us to do it. The one thing I often resist is girls' night out events that some of my mom friends partake in. If I go, I know I end up spending much more than I'm eating and because I don't drink, I often pay for others' drinks. I end up not having a good time because I know the evening will be an expensive one, so I often just bow out.

Vacations are a big temptation for me. I hate the cold, and the thought of a warm island in winter sounds very good to me. But Florida is even better - financially, that is. We always go in January when our kids have a 2-day school holiday. For some reason, "high" season in Florida is February. We usually drive to Florida from our Virginia home in about 15 hours. We usually spend one night on the road at a decent hotel for in the $60 range. We've also stopped in Orlando for a day or two and gotten hotels for $75 per night. We just spend one day at the park and then go on our way to visit family in South Florida. Hotels there cost about $100 per night including breakfast. For activities we go to the beach which is free. Swimming at the hotel is free, too! We go to some nature preserves - also free. Flea markets - free or can be money-making if you find some goodies to sell on ebay. We even just enjoy going to playgrounds in the sunshine. That is a big treat in January! For a week's vacation to Florida in January, we spend about $300 in gas (if it's $3 a gallon). We spend about $125 for hotels on the ride down and back. And $500 for hotels while we are there. Breakfast is included in the hotel cost. Lunch is often sandwiches that we buy at the local supermarket and dinners are eaten out. I will admit that our family usually treats for dinner, but even if we pay, restaurants are very cheap in South Florida. There are diners and delis and all-you-can-eat places that are $6 per meal with kids even cheaper or free. Our whole vacation costs about $1000 to $1200 for a family of 5 for a week. Not bad when you consider it's a getaway to sunshine in the dead of winter. Plus we get to keep our heating bill down back home (we lower the thermostat but don't turn it off). This vacation is in our yearly budget not just because it's a getaway for us but because both sets of our parents are there so we like to visit them once per winter.

By taking a cheaper way of doing things you enjoy, you can resist more expensive temptation. You will fulfill a need but not spend a lot of money. Make sure that even these "cheaper" items are in your budget, too.

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