Tip #16: Cancel any large purchases this month

Ramit Sethi

This is Tip #16 of of the Save $1,000 in 30 Days Challenge.

Today’s tip is to cancel/defer any large purchase you were planning for this month. You’re basically using time as a strategic barrier against yourself.

It’s very simple:

New lawn mower – wait .

New TV – wait.

New dishwasher — wait.

You can set a calendar reminder to check on it in 30 days.

A couple things will probably happen when you do this: First, prices will probably drop. Second, chances are you’ll realize you didn’t really need it — especially as your savings start to grow. How much easier do you think it’ll be to save once you have $1,000, or $5,000, sitting in your savings account?

Let’s also take this tip from an iwillteachyoutoberich reader:

“We have a coffee can at home that we put all of our change into. Even our kids help with this. If I have cash, I don’t ever pay for anything with exact change. All change that I get back goes straight to the coffee can. The entire family is excited about this saving’s idea because they know that we are going to use the money to go on a family vacation. It’s amazing how much more excited they become when they know the end result. On average, we save $600 a year in change.”
Judy Schaffer, Mankato, MN

Look beyond the obvious tip of saving change (which is a good one). The deeper point is to get your family/friends involved. If you’re canceling getting a new BBQ, get your family involved to show them why you’re doing it and what payoff they can expect. Maybe you take $10 (of the $200 you would have spent) and put it towards a vacation fund. The point is to borrow from each of these tips and tailor them for yourself.

Total savings: $50 to $3,000

Last thing to do
1. See other tips in the Save $1,000 in 30 Days Challenge
2. Leave a comment on this post describing how much you’re saving with this tip and any unusual techniques you use to make this tip work.

If you found this post helpful you’ll probably like my new Ultimate Guide to Personal Finance. This is an excellent place to learn more simple ways to improve your personal finance and money management.

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  1. stephanie

    Mine isn’t really a major purchase, because I don’t need/want anything major right now, but I did decide to refrain from getting my nails done this month. I usually get my acrylic nails filled and a pedicure every 2 to 3 weeks, spending about $60 total (nails, pedi, tip) each trip. At the end of October I just didn’t have time to go, so I decided to get rid of my acrylic nails. I then made a conscious decision to wait until at least December before going back to start getting my nails done again. I’ll probably get my nails done next month, but I might wait until spring to resume my pedicures.

    Savings from not getting nails done this month: ~$120

    Total savings this month: ~$135 (+ who knows how much by not eating out as much this month, probably at least another $50 – 100 so far)

  2. Beth

    I don’t necessarily agree with this tip if the purchase can save you time, money and your health. For instance, a family member bought a snow-blower this past week. Great! Because we’re getting lots of snow and it’s safer for his heart to not be shoveling it all. I had to pay for a little work on my old car — which potentially saved me the time, hassle and expense of getting stuck somewhere.

    I agree — skip the big things you don’t need. But you can’t put a price on prevention.

  3. Peggy

    We’ve always done this, and go a little further. We buy less stuff. When the kids get the “gimmies,” we’ll write down what they want on a piece of paper. I file these away for birthday and Christmas ideas, but for the most part the “gotta have” item is long forgotten in two weeks.

    I use a similar strategy with myself. A new mattress has been on my need list for about three years now. It’s sitting there on my “want list” and eventually will be crossed off, but not anytime soon. It’s funny how often things that go on my list cross themselves off after a couple months due to a change in situation.

    We also only pay cash for anything less expensive than a car or house. If we don’t have the cash, we don’t buy it. Cash must be saved and earmarked for a minimum of 90 days for an item before we use it for that item.

    Today’s Tip: $0
    Cumulative: $90.75

  4. Todd

    I think this is a good tip because it’s directed at behavior. The specific behavior is developing the ability to delay gratification. Meaning you don’t need to have everything right NOW. By delaying large purchases you are saving short term money but also learning that you can wait to have certain things. Very good.

  5. Denise Fisher

    I was going to voice mild disagreement with this suggestion, but I think it’s sometimes a matter of context. I just purchased storm doors for my house and a new water heater, along with some additional plumbing work. But I realized that I’ve put off buying the storm doors for a couple years already, and that they’ll help reduce my heating costs. I could have waited to have the water heater replaced and the other plumbing work when the situation reached crisis mode, but in this case, I’m satisfied with my financial decision as a calculated tradeoff and a deliberate choice.

    Also, I opened two new credit card accounts for each of these purchases, both of which offered a promotional plan of one year with no interest and no payments. These can be tricky financing plans for some buyers, but I know that I’m conscientious enough to pay off the balances before they are due (when they’ll rack up interest charges with back payments). It can easily happen if you’re not careful – you have a whole year in which to forget about it.

  6. Karen

    We had our 13 yo washer repaired instead of buying a new one. I spent $160.00 as opposed to buying a new one for $600.00. Many things can be repaired instead of replaced, therefore saving you a considerable amount of money. An example of this is the Webber grill we bought when we got married basically fell apart–the legs came off. My husband held it up with cinder blocks. When the grid fell apart, I found a piece of wire mesh placed out with the trash, took it home and put it on top of the Webber. Worked for 3 more years. Finally found a nice BBQ set up on sale and bought it for DH for his birthday.

  7. Jules

    Awesome tip! I good reminder about the power of delayed gratification. Thanks for this great 30 Day Challenge, Ramit. I have enjoyed reading all the tips.

  8. How Am I Doing With Ramit’s Save $1,000 Challenge? Part 2 — Green Panda Treehouse

    […] Tip #16: Cancel any large purchase this month […]

  9. Amrish

    I have a slight variation of this tip.

    If the item is something I will use everyday, I defer the purchase to next month

    If the item is something I will not use everyday, I defer the purchase to the next significant date (anniversary/birthday etc).

    So effectively the most utilitarian stuff that I can enjoy everyday (and that doesn’t get stuffed into a closet somewhere) gets bought *eventually*

  10. agung

    wowwwwww, good tips

  11. eileen buxton

    Delaying gratification is fine if you can – but if you need to make a large purchase, then get it at the best possible time and at the best possible price. I am having a new roof put on my house right now. It is necessary, should not be delayed, and will save me a great deal of money and agony this winter when it starts to rain again. Watch out for the no-interest, no immediate payment items. Even if you pay it off in a timely manner and avoid the interest, you will hurt your credit rating. Stores sell the paper to finance companies. Your credit report looks as if you borrowed money from a finance company even though you did not. I found this out the hard way. Years ago, when interest rates were higher, it made more sense to me to keep the money in a savings account rather than paying in cash for my washer and dryer. I paid no interest and paid the full amount when it was due. My credit report reflected a loan from Beneficial Finance Co. If you need to buy a house, car or do anything else that would involve your credit score in the future, pay in full. Put it on a credit card to get the rewards and the assurance that you get what you pay for (unless the store gives you a cash discount and you can get the same quality assurance), and pay the total credit card bill when it is due.