Thursdays with Deb J ~ Sensible Buying

Deb J

Deb J

First I have to tell you that I am not fond of the word sensible. It strikes me as an inhibitive word. It’s something I have to do because someone said so. Ah, my rebel heart shudders at words like this. BUT!! Sensible is a word we need to attach to our vocabulary way up there at the top of the list. Let’s see, this brings to mind words like wisdom, prudence, of benefit to. So okay! Maybe it’s not so bad of a word. I guess. Maybe?!

Wisdom in buying. Well, okay, I know better than to buy a Lamborghini when I can only afford a Focus or not to buy a Versace but a White Stag. But is that really using wisdom or is it using common sense because $20 in the old bank account means White Stag is the only thing to do.

What about when you actually HAVE the money to buy something? What about when you can have a choice that will bring you into the “this is the thing to have” state? What if you can afford to have that name brand? Oh, heah heah. Gulp. You mean THAT kind of sensible?! Yep! You got it. That’s what I want to talk about because I hope we all have already come to where we realize that we can only buy what we can afford. Haven’t we? HAVEN’T WE??!!

Sensible Buying looks like:

1. Not buying that dress just because it is on sale and I like it when I don’t need it and already have more than I wear.

2. Not buying that name brand outfit when there is one almost identical that I actually like better but doesn’t have “A NAME.”

3. Not buying that item for the kitchen because I saw it in a magazine or on a TV show and it looks like fun—even though I KNOW I will never make _______ more than once or twice if that.

4. Not buying that vacation package just because the neighbor is always talking about her vacations.

5. Not getting my 7 year old child (or myself) an iPhone just because all of the people in my clique have given their child one.

6. Not going to that expensive restaurant just because my business peers say it’s the place to be seen.

I see you are getting my drift. You know, there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these scenarios. It’s why you do it and whether it’s really a priority for you and your family. It’s the attitude and mind set behind the buying. It’s the buying for buying’s sake or for the sake of your reputation or some such thing.

I’m not saying we are all like this. I know it is easy to be swayed by many things that bombard us on a daily basis. That’s why Sensible is a good word. It keeps us out of trouble (like debt). It keeps us aware of what we are doing. It keeps us from having clutter we don’t need, like or want. It keeps us accountable. Oh dear! There’s another one of those words we don’t like. Sigh.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. I’m getting better at this but it used to be that I would go waste a Saturday afternoon wandering around the flea market, whether I had money or not. When I have the money, I rarely see something I want to buy. When I don’t have the money, I want to buy everything!! What is up with that?

    We were talking on here about Christmas gifts a few days ago and for my mom I am a shopper throughout the year mostly. Colleen had issued a challenge to me several months ago to create a display box for my vintage brooches and I got it done. Mom was impressed so last weekend I got the supplies to make her one. When I got to my attic craft room, I saw a couple of things wrapped in newspaper and didn’t remember what they were. Imagine my surprise when I saw that I already have two small gifts for Mom. LOL So other than wanting to find her a vintage Christmas pin to put in the brooch case, she’s done! That felt awesome. Also, to put a “sensible” spin on it, one person checked off the Christmas shopping list. Yay!!

    • Michelle, I think there is a little imp out there in the world who deliberately puts things in your path you can’t buy because you don’t have the money. I used to have that imp coming around too.

      I think it is hilarious that you found those two small gifts for your mom. I have a friend who used to buy all year long and then would have to go buy more because she didn’t remember having them or often where they were. You need to create a place to put gifts when you buy them. When we used to give gifts we each had a special place set aside that was off limits to others in the family. It worked great. Of course, being the neat freak organizer I am, I bought the gift then wrapped it and tagged it when I got home. I had a running list of the things I bought and the things I was looking for.

      • ” Of course, being the neat freak organizer I am, I bought the gift then wrapped it and tagged it when I got home. I had a running list of the things I bought and the things I was looking for”

        I not only do that I keep the present lists from the previous years so I don’t inadvertently give a similar present the next year…. I also put the ages of children next to their names. I can never remember how old my nieces and nephews are and standing there trying to work out if they were born six months after my eldest daughter that makes them how old is very frustrating!

        • Gillie, you and I think alike. I kept the lists and did the same thing with ages and likes/dislikes.

        • I do these lists too! Ages and last years gifts! Only thing is I don’t wrap them straight away. I just store them in a special spot for gifts. I don’t wrap gifts for the immediate family. I have fabric bags of different sizes that I reuse each year for birthdays or Christmas. So I only have to wrap extended family gifts.

    • Michelle – A pat on the back for finding the gifts you’d put aside.

      • Thanks Moni. 🙂 It is a good idea to wrap and tag, but usually I have to ship gifts and I am no longer a “box hoarder”. LOL I have to wait until different size boxes come in at work and then I gather everything up, wrap, and send off. But this year we are going to drive to Mom’s for Christmas. It will be the first Christmas since my step-dad died and she’d like us to be with her.

        I am like Deb J in that I create a list of what I have bought or what I would like to find for someone. I just happened to forget these two items. 😉 But they are now on the list!

  2. Deb thanks for the reminder that shopping to impress others or indulge ourselves because we “deserve” it is not really a sensible idea. Buying something because it is beautiful and/or useful (and that one can afford!) is a much better guideline – and these days it doesn’t hurt to think of the cost to the planet when purchasing 🙂

  3. I have been on a no-clothes shopping year and after reading Overdressed: the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion by Elizabeth Cline, I am using the term mindful shopping.

    Totally agree with the sentiment, Deb, and my mindful shopping aims to avoid buying clothes just e ause I like them, or they’re cheap, or current trend.

    I wan my clothes to be quality; to be something I value; to be something I look after. I don’t want to have more clothes than I can wear. I don’t want to contribute to an overstuffed wardrobe, to landfill, to environmental damage by buying too much produced in countries with no environmental protection laws, and to exploitation of workers.

    So I will definitely be sensible!

    • Lucinda, good for you. You seems to have already found this nice place.

    • Lucinda – Andreia is embarking on a no-clothes-shopping year too. I cannot for practical reasons: I literally have no summer clothes (I’m southern hemisphere and we’re at the end of winter) after downsizing myself. But maybe in the New Year. Does this challenge included no new shoes? Are there any particular guidelines?

      • H Moni, I set my own “rules”. They were no clothes except bras, undies and socks to replace worn out ones. And a pair of sandals, a pair of runners and a pair of dress shoes. I allowed the shoes because it is hard to buy comfortable, good looking shoes so if I find them I have to get them. That said I have only bought a pair of dress shoes with a low heel for work. I have had several pairs of my shoes repaired which costs nearly the same as cheap shoes. But they are a better design, more comfortable and made with better craftsmanship (being made in Italy and Australia, the latter being hard to get).

        I’m Southern Hemisphere too, but I have way too many clothes. Hence my year off shopping. And I have been donating clothes that are better off with someone else than sitting in my wardrobe.

      • You could also look at Project 333. I found it enormously helpful. Google minimalist wardrobe and you will find plenty of websites, articles and blogs. Good luck!

    • Hi Lucinda! I just started my no-clothes shopping for a year too. As I have a lot of everything, even after I decluttered many things (excess) I am confident I will not buy anything, because I still have a lot, just like you. I think my exception will be bras because mine are looking shabbier and worn. Where in the Southern Hemisphere are you? How hard are you finding resisting to sales? I think that is my Achilles’ heel. I look and think, but it is only (inset number under 30 here) and it would look so good on me….(sometimes, most of it, I am lucky and it does not look good on me… 😀 ). I am always reminding myself I don’t need anything.

      • Andreia – I haven’t forgotten you, I will e-mail back soon.

      • Hi Andréia, I’m in Sydney.

        I started by not visiting the shops at all for 3 or so months, and not looking in catalogues. As it was January it was difficult with all the post-Christmas sales, hence I stayed away. Nw I only go to the shops for something specific. No window shopping. When I did visit the shops I was tempted but changed the talk in my head. From “It’s only $X” to “But I already have something like this and I have hardly worn it. I don’t need another.” And “”Remember your challenge! You don’t want to fail for something you probably won’t wear. And then have people say ‘I knew you wouldn’t last’.”

        And I know I won’t go mad when the 12 months is up in 2014. There are a few things I want, eg a couple of tops to update some outfits, but I will be very particular, and not settle for good enough or it’s only $20 what does it matter.

  4. I love this saying ” You can have anything, you just can’t have everything”. If you want that really expensive item, it stands to reason that something else is going to give. So often folks want their hearts desire with every single item, or purchase the first item that meets the description only to end up buying a second, third and fourth in pursuit of the ideal (insert item name here). Of course, I am describing me once upon a time, but I am reformed.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with paying a bit more to get exactly what you want especially if you know it will be a long term solution or make your life better in some way, or holding out longer to find exactly what you want or to make a considered decision BUT be sensible.

    Consider the bigger picture of your life at this time – a snap shot if you like. Once upon a time I desperately wanted to buy this beautiful lounge suite, it was quality and was a statement piece. But alas, we had three pre-schoolers and I knew that even if I was diligent it was likely that the couch would get spilled on, jumped on, grubby hands on etc etc. Did I want to see this beautiful lounge suite end up like that? Did I want to be constantly worrying about my kids going near it? Could I really afford this quality piece of furniture when there was other appliances that would likely need upgrading in the upcoming year? So although it was disappointing, I knew I had to go with the more budget line sofa.

    So often our eyes see something that is our hearts desire but alas, doesn’t really fit with our lives at the time. Of course, only we the individual can decide what is and isn’t the right decision, but common sense is always recommended.

    • Moni, you have it right. Sensible buying means taking your lifestyle, financial situation and things like that into consideration before buying. I like your lounge suite example.

      • Deb J – that lounge suite was finally retired last month, it was taken by a young family.

        • Good on you. We would like to get a new suite but “ain’t go no money” for it. What we have is still good but they want so much to recover it that we can’t afford that either.

    • Hi Moni! I was reading your comment and I was thinking of a phrase I read somewhere: “Desire (want something) is like salt water: the more you drink it the thirstier you get.” So the more we satisfy our materials wishes and wants, the more we feel we are unsatisfied with what we have. So I agree with you that we have to look at the big picture and see why do we want something and if it is the best for that moment.

      • Andreia, I like that quote and the idea that goes with it.

      • Andreia – that is a good way of putting it. I’ve just had to find a transaction on a credit card statement going back 2+ years, and my eyes are just about bugging out of my head seeing how many transactions we had and how many for entertainment or clothes or eating out or ??????
        It was like seeing a financial perpetual motion.

        • Moni & Andreia, I keep all purchases logged in Quicken as I want to keep an idea of how we are spending money. At the end of a month or a year I can see the breakdown of what I have spend money for. It sure is an eye opener. We keep paring things down and I love it.

          • Deb J – I tried to download a trial copy of Quicken a while back but it wasn’t successful. I print out a blank copy of a months calendar and note on there all the bills, utilities, mortgage etc and then add to it as money goes out. I would like to computerise it as it would be good to split it into categories but my pc has ‘issues’ at the moment and will probably be wiped down in the near future. I’ve also been told is a good one too, you don’t download it, its an in the cloud application. Our personal finances is something I’ve been working on a lot this year, its like house decluttering, you forget how much improvement you have made, you still see further areas to improve.
            The other idea I have implemented recently is that in my phone under ‘notes’ I have a file called ‘wishlist’ – as there are 5 of us in our household and there’s always someone wanting something. So as someone requests something it goes on there and a rough estimate of the cost, then as it gets closer to the weekend we have a quick discussion to prioritise the wishlist. My girls are pretty reasonable as long as we keep them in the loop, and its the opportunity for each of us to be heard, even if it is to say “this is the 4th week in a row I’ve been told no” or for them to realise that sometimes we have to say no because car registration is due or that we’ve just had to pay term fees or even that we the people who earn the moment needed new shoes. It also allows us a chance to brainstorm amongst ourselves ie we’re having a dinner party or a bbq, lets set an amount and figure out how to keep it under that. Adrian finds it all a bit ‘girl-committee-ish’ but more often or not, its about being heard and sharing the responsibility. Its about being sensible with a finite resource.

          • Moni, as an alternative to a special program, you can use an Excel spreadsheet. I have used one for years. I have my categories down one side and the weeks across the top (1-52). So I have a square for each category each week. On the right I have the tally box for each category. I also have a tally for each month. This helps to see which months you spend more (ie large bills). It is pretty simple but works for me. I also put in when known expenses (insurance etc) are due. And highlight when utility bills would be due (fill in the amount when the bill comes). This helps in working out your monthly cost for items bought throughout the year. IE clothing. If I have spent a lot one month, I will try not to buy the next month. This way you can utilise sales if you wish an know your running tally.
            hope that is helpful.

          • Moni, I hope you are eventually able to get Quicken or Mint. I like them better than the Excel spreadsheet Ruth mentioned because you have a lot more capabilities with them like syncing with your bank, splitting the entry to show things like food, paper goods, cleaning supplies, clothes, etc. You can also keep track of all acounts including retirement ones if you choose. But, like Ruth states, an Excel spreadsheet is better than nothing.

            I also like your idea for making a wishlist and discussing it. Tell Adrian it isn’t a girly thing but a smart thing.

        • Ruth – yes I’m an Excel fan from way back, but the thing I admire about is that it is free, has budgeting features and best of all is free! And it has auto-feed from your online banking so no keying in transactions. Alas only available at this stage in the usa and canada. Until the service arrives here, excel and print out calendar will have to do!

  5. Good stuff, Deb J, I really enjoyed your post. It has so much to do with prioritizing, I think. There is nothing wrong with spending money on an investment piece such as a coat, for instance, if you know that you will wear it for many years to come. However, buying something, to create an image for yourself or to keep up with what everyone else is doing, simply is not sensible.

    • Jen, I like your example of buying a coat. We moved here to Arizona from Indiana. We both had really nice, heavy winter coats. Well, after 2 years here and no need for them I finally convinced Mom we should get rid of them. So we sent them home with a couple who lived in the mountains and could give them to the womens shelter up there. We unloaded a bunch of other clothes too because we just don’t need them here. Doing that meant reworking our clothes to fit our new climate.

  6. Thanks for the great post and good reminders Deb! I agree that there’s something about the word “sensible”, it does feel inhibiting, and annoying maybe. If I substitute sensible with “using good sense”, or making wise decisions it sounds more appealing. At any rate, I”m onboard with all your examples of sensible buying. I pretty much stay out of the stores these days and that helps. I will however, admit that I’m a bit jealous of Michelle who has already started Christmas shopping and can cross one person off her list!

    • Thanks Barbara. The greatest gift is that we will be together for Christmas and that means more than anything else. But hey, if there’s a wee prize, fabulous company, and some delicious food, who am I to object??? 😉

    • Barbara, glad you are onboard. I envy Michelle in that she has people to get presents for. Our entire family lives a couple 1000 miles away in different directions and they all just don’t want to buy and ship. They also don’t need anything. The same goes for friends here.

      • Hi Deb J – not to high-jack the thread, but I will tie it back together. I really enjoy spending Christmas at my mom’s because it is absolutely low-key, no stress, we just get together and enjoy. My in-law’s Christmas celebrations, however, are a different thing. Everyone is stressed, everyone gets annoyed. Too many gifts, too little appreciation for the holiday. Stupid family bickering. Ugh. But to tie it back to being sensible, this it when sensible goes right out the darn window. All manner of gifts that no one needs or likes. One year, we gave my brother-in-law a gift card to a steakhouse and he thrust it back at my husband saying he hated that place. That was it. I was D-O-N-E. Last year we got a similar reaction from my FIL over our gift. My sensible nature is telling me these folks don’t need nuthin’ from us. Of course, my husband will feel guilty and end up spending more on something for his folks and they won’t like it anyway. Argh!

        • This is when I get one big gift per family that is a gift card–a non-store/restaurant one like a VISA gift card. They get something and they can use it anywhere.

  7. Right now I really, really, REALLY want a set of cool color ceramic knives at Cosco. They’re gorgeous. The fact that I rarely cut with more than a couple of old stand-by knives begs the question.

    I might not need them, but I would love them simply because if their color. :-))

    I’m being “sensible” in a bratty way right now. Acting like a responsible adult isn’t much fun. But, it’s time . . .


    Ps- I don’t know what to do to get my comments to show up here. One was approved on an earlier post by Deb J, but none of the others seem to have made it. So, maybe hello, everyone.

    • RoadWriter, first I am glad you are being Sensible. It stinks some times and is hard. No getting around that. Second, welcome to the group again. I’m not sure why your earlier posts haven’t shown up. Colleen will need to address that when she is back from her long needed vacation. For now though, it looks like some of them are showing up.

  8. I’m a big believer in sensible everything, Deb J – great post 🙂

  9. Hi Deb J! Great post! I think that you hit the nail on the head when you said it is easy to be sensible when you have no money, but when you do have the resources, you have to be even more sensible, and that is a hard one…

  10. Two days ago, we noticed a slow leak in an unexpected place in our utility room. As we figure out what to do about it, it has been so nice that the room is only storing a few things, and there is plenty of space to move things away from the leaky wall. Three years ago that room was full of stuff, so the leak would have been much more annoying to deal with and would have done some damage. I’m grateful for the good timing and am feeling reminded that the fewer things we have, the better we can keep them and the more convenient our lives can be.

    It has helped my husband and I to generally keep a habit of waiting for Christmas or birthdays to buy the big ticket items that we want. This means we generally don’t get each other “just because” gifts. It also means that we make more decisions between big-ticket items because it feels excessive to go after several at a time.

    I think there will always be temptations and I’ll always give in to some of them, but that’s part of the joy of life. Making a general practice of steering a sensible course is the important thing. Good column, Deb!

    • Rebecca, glad you liked the column. Isn’t it great how having a room so decluttered means less problems and work? We have had things like this happen twice and it was so easy to clean up and get fixed because the two bathrooms and the laundry room are really minimal.

      I think there will always be times when we don’t do the best at buying or decluttering but for the most part we are all much better off now than we used to be and we only mess up occasionally.

  11. I absolutely LOVE this list – it couldn’t be more true. Thank you for being honest and blunt. Call it what it is – we buy things for the wrong reasons and we need to constantly be checking our motives. We will spend the rest of our lives keeping up with the Joneses if we let ourselves. Thank you for reminding us to find enjoyment in the things WE enjoy – not what others do. Beautifully said.

    • Kristin, I’m glad you like the list. What I have learned is that in trying to keep up with the Joneses I usually end up with a lot of debt and lots of things I don’t need. Grin