Avoiding the Impluse Buy: How to Buy New Stuff After Getting Out of Debt

New TVBeing in debt pay off mode can be a bit isolating. When you are serious about a goal like getting out of credit card debt, you don’t allow yourself to spend money on things that aren’t necessities. If you stick to your goal, it sometimes takes a long time to get rid of the debt, but it does happen. In our house, it took about two years. During that time, we got used to not spending. It was a good experience and taught us that we don’t need to buy things all the time. Impulse buying was one thing that got us in trouble in the first place. However, through normal wear and tear, household items do wear out or become obsolete. Now that all our debt outside of mortgages is paid off, it’s time to buy a few things for the house, but it’s scary. Since you have to get back on the horse at some point, I’ll share how we are deciding to make purchases after getting out of debt.

What Do We Need and Why?

There is actually a list of things we need or don’t really need, but feel they will add value to our lives. We need a new couch. After several dogs and a small child, ours is pretty much shot at almost ten years old. We wanted a new camera because our current one works sporadically, and I hate missing good photo opportunities. We can use phones, but the quality isn’t quite as good as with a nice camera.

The last thing we want is a big one for our house. I’ve written about how we have never been able to give up our satellite TV, even during debt payoff. Jim was the big holdout. Maybe it was comforting because it’s something we’ve always had. Maybe it was ESPN. Regardless, he refused to let it go. This spring I talked him into getting a trial Netfllix membership because there was some show he wanted to see that we couldn’t find to rent on DVD. He loved it, and has rarely watched TV since. He used his computer at first, but it isn’t the same experience as TV.  We had a Best Buy gift card from Christmas, and purchased a Roku. The problem was that our main TV is too old to use it. The picture quality is still fine on the older TV, but it doesn’t have the connections for digital hookups, which brings us to our dilemma.

Do we get a new TV, cancel the satellite, and use Netflix, or do we keep out current setup?

Yes, I realize, we could give up TV altogether, but that doesn’t seem likely. It’s not like we spend 10 hours a day watching Law and Order, but we do like to watch a show or movie in the evenings, preferably together and not on the laptop screen.

How Much Will It Cost and Are You Getting the Best Deal?

Online, In Stores, or Used/Refurbished-For the camera, I scoured reviews online. Some of the better DSLR cameras, which is what we wanted, were in the $800 range. We decided to look for a refurbished model from a few years back. We found what were were looking for on Ebay for $360. It also has a three year warranty, so I feel really good about that. If you could visit my house, you’d see framed pictures all over from our hikes and travels. We had our last camera for about five years. If this one lasts that length of time, $72/year will be money well spent.

For the new TV, the ones we want tend to be in the $700-$900 range. Again, we’ve been reading reviews. We have also been watching for online coupons and store sales. If we wait for the right deal, I think we can bring the costs down to around $600, which is what we are comfortable with. Netflix will cost $7.99/month. An antenna to get NFL football network channels will be $40, plus $65 installation if we decide not to brave the process ourselves. Our first Roku cost $20 with the gift card. Having one for the new TV would cost another $60.  I’m hoping the TV and antenna will last 10 years. That makes our annual cost for home entertainment about $ 174.50 per year.

Currently we are spending $60 a month on satellite TV or $720/year. If you look at those numbers, maybe a new TV is actually a good investment.

Where is the Money Coming From?

Sell Your Things-We actually have enough money in savings to cover the new camera and TV, but I want to do one better. I believe I can get at least half the purchase price back by selling some things around the house. The older TV and camera will net something even if they aren’t in pristine condition. We also have some outgrown toys and clothes, plus an older camcorder I found in the closet. If you start looking, you can usually find something to sell. A good rule is to get rid of something old before bringing in something new.

Earn More Money- I think a frugal mindset begins to spread and grow once it takes root. Jim used to do landscaping in college, and is actually very good at it. He does a great job on our lawn. My office has always hired a service for landscaping and mowing. I’ve asked Jim many times if he wanted the job, but he always turned it down. I think part of it was mental. With the college degree, he shouldn’t have to toil out in the sun and dirt. Right?

This spring, our current landscaping company was declining in quality, and I offered him the job again. He said sure.  He will get $50 per week until early October, more if he needs to fix inevitable  sprinkler problems. This will more than cover the rest of the cost on the new TV, and will likely buy our ski tickets this winter with no change to our normal budget.  Much like hiring myself as maid, it keeps the money in house, and this job will actually add money instead of redistributing it. Plus, this puts our new found stash of yard equipment to good use!

I’m really proud of our game plan. The old Kim and Jim would have already bought a new TV without a second thought, probably at the first store we visited, and probably on one of those store financing plans. I think if we evaluate every purchase, we will stay out of debt, and actually save money if we look at long term costs. We’ve also decided our old couch can take another year or two. I’m sure there are many more drinks to be spilled and markers to be painted on our furniture. Some purchases don’t need to be made when you consider all the variables. It might not be sexy or packed with adrenaline, but I’ll take methodical shopping over impulse buying any day.

How do you plan big purchases? Do you think we can should give up satellite TV?

Written By
Sydney White is a Texas-born stay at home mom who enjoys spending time with her family, bargain hunting and, of course, writing. She is currently the editor-in-chief of Snipon.com.


  1. Not sure what type of TV you are looking for, but there is always the option of getting a model with lesser capabilities. For example, I believe you can still get a 720P TV for pretty cheap. Otherwise, I agree with you in looking at refurbished items. I have had few issues with refurbs.

    I have a roof repair bill coming and, like you, I continue to look for side jobs to pay for it.

  2. Looks like a great plan. Pretty sure you could afford it today without blinking but the extra delayed gratification will make it even sweeter to get once you have worked for it.
    I don’t know how much ESPN Jim watches but for $60 a month he could go watch whatever is not streamed online at a local bar, have a beer and still save money. I’d rather my kid watches Netflix too instead of a cable program with ads all the time.

  3. We research all of our big purchases and then save the money to purchase them. Right now we are saving money each month to purchase a new vehicle sometime in the next year or so. I know when I take the time and save for the purchase, it makes me appreciate it more. I’m torn on the satellite TV issue. We cancelled ours several years ago and have saved a bunch of money. But recently, I’m feeling drawn back into having it again. We probably will subscribe again once our mortgage debt is paid off next year.

  4. This is all about self control and living to your means more than anything. Too many of my friends and colleagues buy something they simply can’t afford then pay monthly, which to me is just a false economy. I should forward them this article to take a look at how its done.

  5. I think you guys are on a great track, Kim. You’re contemplating and researching before making purchases. We have a list of stuff that we need/want too, and even though we’re a ways out from purchasing them, I’m always going over in the back of my mind about what’s the best way to purchase them once we’re ready. Isn’t it wonderful to be in control of your money? 🙂

  6. I think giving up satellite tv is a personal decision a lot of people say its not needed but we have it and I don’t think we will ever get rid of it. When we are looking to make a big purchase we sit down and discuss do we really need it and how much are we going to spend on it. Once its decided we figure what we are cutting out in order to save for it. Savings, 401k, and the likes are never in the factor as something to be cut. If its a TV we first try to sell the tv we have to get money for the new TV. I think you should be able to have some of the things you want in life.

  7. J and I will never give up cable. J also has a big screen TV which he LOVES but I don’t know if I’m allowed to share that fact or not lol. I love your reply to Mr. CBB’s comment about what’s life without a few wants and appreciating the wants more when you plan for it rather than impulsively spending 🙂

  8. It’s not easy deciding what is a need and a want and for us our Smart TV was a want. In fact it took us a few years to save up the money for our want. We donated our other televisions on Freecycle so others without a tele could have one. We made extra cash doing focus groups that paid $100 cash and dinner for our opinion ( it was great) we even did 3 month testing of products for $300 a piece here and there. We waited until we could get the best deal and we think we did well. We love the TV because we watch cable as our entertainment but we didn’t tap into our savings to buy it we earned money cash on the side here and there. Either way it’s money from the pot and an expense that was a want but in our opinion, well worth it for us. 🙂 Thanks for a great post.

    1. A new TV is certainly a want, but what’s life without a few wants? You also appreciate them lots more when you plan and save instead of impulse buying.

  9. I know many PF bloggers feel that cable/satellite TV is a waste of money. I am not one of them! I view it as my entertainment. If I needed to cut my expenses, I would just find something else to cut.

    1. I certainly don’t think it was a waste of money at one point, but we really don’t have any regular shows we watch and if the TV is on, it’s usually for noise. When we choose something to watch lately, it seems to be a movie or series we don’t even get on our satellite TV, like HBO dramas. We also don’t want our daughter to get too into some of the shows that are on now. I watched TV lots growing up, so I don’t think it’s all bad, but there is just some things she isn’t ready for that seem to show up on network TV even.

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