Tag Archives: budget

Taking Advantage of Back-To-School Specials

It’s that time of year again, where the economy picks up because families across the nation are stocking up on pencils, protractors and pants. Also, merchants are offering all sorts of deals to lure customers in even more.

You've busted your tail to finish back-to-school shopping, but did you also bust your budget?

Despite what they say, stores aren’t being altruistic with their sales and specials, they’re trying to make an extra buck, any buck. If you go shopping, make it work to your financial advantage.

In Illinois this year, the state sales tax was suspended for 10 days on most school supplies and clothing items under $100. Logan’s in preschool, so no protractors for him, but I stocked up on clothes.

It’s easy to overspend when retailers tout “BIG SAVINGS!” In fact, my hubby feels that sales are a bad gimmick to make people spend more money than they intended. I believe there’s a way to enjoy the sales without hurting the pocketbook.

  • Hatch a shopping plan and follow it. This weekend, I didn’t want to shop simply to shop, so I treated it like a grocery store trip, making a list of what he needed in the coming months. He’s fine for shorts and all things warm-weather related, which is why my aim was fall and winter gear.
  • Hit the store early. There’s a competitive nature among some of us that comes out when shopping. You see an item in someone else’s cart and it nonsensically becomes a must-have. If you go early, you avoid the crowd that can bring out the hunter inside, it’s easier to make better buying decisions because the displays aren’t disheveled and it’ll be a faster shopping trip with less people, available dressing rooms and shorter lines. (You know you’re a mom when you hit Kohl‘s at 7:30 a.m.)
  • Go alone. No kids equals less distraction, making it easier to stick to your plan. This weekend I couldn’t do that, but it worked out well since we got there early and for entertainment brought everything a fire department could need: ladder trucks, a water truck, ambulance, apple juice.

When checking out, the sweet, plump grandma behind the counter asked me if I found everything OK because there were a lot of summer clothes on clearance. After all, the counter was filled with jeans, long-sleeved shirts and fleece PJs. I explained to her my plan (which also accounted for unpredictable growth spurts) so that now all I need is a few sweaters and then for Christmas we can ask the grandparents for summer clothes. This would, effectively, make sure we had the basics covered for the next several months. She paused. “That’s a good idea, never thought of it that way.”

I know many moms who shop a season ahead, but I also know many moms who bemoan that there’s clothes in the closet that still have tags on them. The key to making the most out of back-to-school sales is a strategic plan: develop one and execute it. That way you’re taking advantage of the retailers more than they’re taking advantage of you.

Lying To Your Partner About Your Purchases

Ever told your hubby that your new killer boots were on clearance and by “on clearance” you meant on the way to the clearance rack you stumbled upon the store’s hottest items? Or what about you guys, did you secretly wait in line, procure the iPhone4 and try to pass it off as your old iPhone?

Lying to your spouse about what you spend happens. Actually according to one survey, it happens a lot. The one done recently by credit debt management firm CESI Debt Solutions says 80 percent of married respondents lie to their partners about spending.

Why is that? Some say it’s because their partner needn’t know everything. Marriage is full of compromises and it’s a lot of hard work. On some things people don’t feel like ceding ground, so they shop in secret, or at least delay the truth until the bill arrives.

Hubby and I have a different set up. We don’t have joint accounts, mostly because we never got around to setting one up after we got married. And now, eight years later, this is our normal. Thankfully he takes care of all of the bill-paying, so I just give him a sizable amount of my check for the household and the rest is my play money.

Most of my “extraneous” purchases are clothes and usually I’m so stoked about them, I show him my latest finds. Poor guy, he just patiently nods and smiles. The biggest purchase he’s made that I didn’t know about was when he got the car chipped (to make it drive faster.) But that was also a sort of surprise “gift” for me since I’m such a speed demon.

Another example is when friends of ours were climbing their way out of debt and the husband began squirreling away money. Instead of putting it toward old credit card bills, he spent thousands on new golf clubs. Ouch.

If you’re keeping money secrets because you’re embarrassed about bad spending habits, try to get your partner to help you make better decisions without judgment or condemnations. Also, get a financial planner, we’ve used one and it was helpful.

If it’s about wanting to feel free to make your own decisions, if you can afford to, create a small discretionary fund. It can be all yours, but keep it small, and be open and honest about the purchases.

“They” always say communication is key to a successful marriage and a good chunk of marriages end in divorce over money troubles, so stop lying about your spending people.

Conversations about money are hard, but they’re essential in a relationship. Besides, no one said marriage was a cake walk, they just said you could get cake at the wedding.