What I bought: Needs, kinda needs, and wants

My husband and I went to Target today. We try to limit our Target shopping to only once a month because it is very easy to spend a lot of money there on stuff we convince ourselves  we need as soon as we see it. Today, we did pretty good. I wanted to stock up on a few household items and pick out some Christmas wrapping paper before the stores get completely nuts. We spent a total of $126.65.

Note: I have to give a shout-out to the Frugal Girl for inspiring me to post a picture of my purchase. She does this weekly with her groceries and I love the idea.

You may be wondering why I needed three bags of 250 count jumbo cotton balls. Here’s why:

That’s right, $0.54. I have no idea why these three bags were on clearance and the rest of the cotton balls were marked $2.19 each. The bag was an ever-so-slightly different shape. That’s it! In any event, I now have 750 cotton balls, so I think I’m stocked up for more than a while.

At one time in my life, I would have easily convinced myself that all of these purchases represent “needs.” Of course, I realize now this is not the case. I was curious how much of these purchases were needs vs. wants, so I’ve broken the items down into categories below.

dishwasher detergent 4.84
underwear 24.00
flour 2.00
hand soap refill 3.79
razors 9.99
toothpaste 4.19 (I like the fancy kind…)
cotton balls 1.62 (majorly marked down… 0.54 for 250)
cotton swabs 1.94
shampoo for the Mr. 4.74
foil 1.75 (on sale and had coupon)
Total needs: $58.86

Kinda Needs
We could definitely live without these items, but they are still fairly utilitarian so I’m putting them in this in- between category. In a real financial pinch, these are the types of purchases we would minimize or eliminate.
dryer sheets 2.98 (had a coupon)
mouthwash 5.99
ziploc bags 4.92 (2 packs of 40, 1 gallon bags, sale and coupon)
dog bones 5.98
tape 3.98
Total kinda needs: $23.85

Nothing necessary about anything here, but I looooove Christmas wrap and making presents beautiful and I have fun picking out a couple rolls each year. And my husband looks so good in this new shirt, and I know he’ll wear it frequently…in fact, he’s already got it on.
Flannel shirt for the Mr. 19.99
Magazine 3.99
Christmas cards 8.99
Christmas wrap 7.98
ribbon 2.99
Total wants: $43.94

So, do I have any buyer’s remorse? Not particularly. If I had it to do over again, I would buy generic tape. I just grabbed two rolls of Scotch tape because they were sitting in a bin next to the Christmas wrap and it was somewhat impulsive. I spent $1.99 a roll, which seems like a lot for tape.

We could have also skipped the Head and Shoulders shampoo for the Mr. I wish I would have waited until it was on sale or I had a coupon.

And buying razors always makes me a bit annoyed. The refills I like are waaaaaaay too expensive, I will only buy them on sale. And I’ve also noticed that women’s razors are much more expensive than men’s. And companies try to hide this fact by making them the same (or nearly the same) price, but packaging one or two fewer in the women’s pack. So, I guess I feel kinda silly for spending $9.99 on disposable razors, but I’m not sure what a more economical alternative would be.

In addition to the items we actually bought, there is also this other category of stuff:

Stuff we didn’t buy (but seriously considered and even had in the cart for awhile)
pop-up dog kennel 24.99
dress 39.99
2 packs LED Christmas lights 23.98
package of Christmas ornaments 6.99
second box of Christmas cards 8.99
Money NOT spent: $104.94

Whew! Close call. That would have really blown our monthly budget. There was a time in my life, not too long ago, that I would have thoughtlessly bought all that stuff too. But we’ve been pretty disciplined lately and it wasn’t too difficult to skip this stuff. Except for the pop-up dog kennel… it’s really cool and would be perfect for camping and travel. We’re going to think about it for awhile and we may buy it another time.

I’m glad I did this exercise because it helped me identify necessary spending over the “extras.” I don’t mind buying extras from time to time, within reason. If I had to really tighten our budget, I would probably set a $50/month spending cap on stuff from Target. I know that amount would be enough for true needs.

Do you look at your spending on a needs vs. wants basis? How do you know if something is a need or a want? And do you have any ideas on how I can stop wasting money on disposable razors and refills?!

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3 Responses to What I bought: Needs, kinda needs, and wants

  1. Holly Young says:

    Hey- I just wanted to say THANK YOU for your posts! I recently had a conversation with my friend (Carmen) about setting a goal to spend 1/2 of our income and bank the rest ( so I can eventually be a stay at home mom when we have kids). Then, out of the blue, she emails me a link to your site! You and The Mr. are doing a GREAT job and have inspired me and MY Mr. to set some new goals and really change our perspective. Keep writing, and I’ll keep reading! 🙂 Best Wishes, Holly

  2. Oh, Target is such a fun place to shop, but, like you, I have to limit myself to my “just for fun” outings there because things can get dangerous! I think that’s a great idea to break out your wants vs needs vs didn’t buy purchases–it helps you put things in perspective, especially about the things you could have bought but didn’t. I find that to be encouraging when I look back and say, “Now how did we spend $100 there?!” 🙂

  3. Lindsay says:

    Holly- Thanks for your support. I’m still nervous about how this plan will unfold over the coming months, and I’m not certain we’ll be able to do it, but we are definitely trying to at least give ourselves some options. We’ll just have to see what the future holds!

    Elizabeth – I used to go to Target all the time, but have been pretty good about limiting myself to once a month. And there are aisles that I can’t even walk down for fear of blowing the budget!

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