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Frugal Living & Freebies

Too Much of a Good Thing: Is Bargain Hunting Blowing Your Budget?
by Kimberly Danger
You are the ultimate bargain hunter. Your know when Target does their markdowns, and fanatically scour the endcaps for the elusive 75% or 90% steal. You have boxes of gifts to give when the occasion arises; you've bought clothes that won't fit your kids for another year or two. Does this sound like you? If so, you may be overindulging in your bargain hunting hobby.

For many moms, the thrill of finding a deal can be addicting. You pull out your purchases and proudly tell your husband, "I saved 75% on this!" to which he replies, "How much would you have saved if you had left it at the store?". Point well taken. Shopping becomes a sport, in which pursuit of the great deal is the game.

The problem arises when the thrill of the (bargain) hunt starts taking up too much of your time or money. However, with a little planning ahead and organization it doesn't have to. Shopping can become productive, not something that blows your budget.

Create Shopping Lists and Stick to Them
Keeping lists will help you eliminate impulse buys, which can spell trouble for the avid bargain. By sticking to the lists you prepare, you'll learn to differentiate what you really need from what you simply want.

Keep a Master Gift List
Only buy a gift with a certain person and occasion in mind. You may find a great bargain, but if you don't have someone who will appreciate it, it's not money well-spent. Your master list should include birthdays, holidays, teacher appreciation gifts, as well as the people you need to buy for. Tuck the list inside your purse, and when you find a good deal, write it next to the appropriate person/occasion.

Keep a Master Clothing List
One mom writes, "My daughter has a closet full of beautiful clothes. Most of them were purchased on clearance or secondhand. I rationalized every purchase saying, "I will get my money back when I resell it." While this may be true, I am now dreading the fact I'll have to tag each item for a garage sale or photograph it to sell on eBay. The problem is, she only wears about 25% of what she has. She could easily get by with two sweatshirts instead of five, and three dresses instead of six." Come up with a master list of which items your children need in which sizes, and cross them off as you find them. Only replace worn-out items as you get rid of them. Not only will you be saving money and valuable closet space, your child's wardrobe will be more well-thought out and coordinated.

Keep a Master Miscellaneous List
This list will encompass all the other things you may be in the market for, such as a replacement clock for the broken one in the living room, a slipcover for the ugly couch you inherited from your mother-in-law, etc.

Limit Your Shopping Time
Are you shopping for sport, or necessity? The key is to limit your leisure shopping activity, the kind that gets you into trouble. While it is probably impossible for you to completely avoid shopping, limiting your time may be much easier. This also includes time spent on the internet shopping for bargains. Instead, try to cultivate other fulfilling hobbies that won't get you into spending trouble.

Have a "Fun Money" Budget
Sometimes a bargain is just impossible to resist. You should have some money allocated each month for such items. Whether your budget allows $10, $25 or $100 per month, knowing ahead of time how much you're allowed to spend on things not on your list will help ease any guilt for fun spending.

Know When It's a Real Problem
For some, a fondness for shopping is no laughing matter and can really spiral out of control. Warning sings that shopping is becoming destructive include:

Buying things you don't want or won't use
Not being able to shop without buying something
Shopping to improve your mood
Hiding your purchases
Excessive amounts of debt

If this sounds like you, don't be afraid to seek help. Shopping, like other addictions, can be a serious problem. However, recognizing you have a problem is the first step, and treatment is readily available for those who seek it.

About the Author:
Kimberly Danger is the owner/publisher of Mommysavers.com, an online resource for parents interested in saving time and money. She is the author of 1000 Best Baby Bargains. Ms. Danger lives in Southern Minnesota with her husband and two kids.

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