I’ve come to realize that being aware of our budget and savings is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it’s amazing how much we’re able to save and be able to achieve FIRE in 5-7 years, on the other hand, I now am becoming unconsciously miserly and questioning every big purchase. That’s assuming the big purchase ideas weren’t killed automatically, before they could even take root and grow into an outlay of cash. For instance, boat, truck to pull the boat, riding lawnmower, exercise equipment, newer bigger T.V., etc.. Even big purchases I support, I wrestle with “Is this the right time for that purchase, and do we really need this?”
Recently, we’ve decided to purchase a dining room table and chairs. It’s a huge investment, and one we won’t be making again in our lifetimes, barring coming across an excellent deal at a yard sale in 30 years…. Ever since we married, we have used Mrs. SSC’s kitchen table and chairs. They work fine, and are perfectly functional. “So why are you replacing these things and not investing that new table money,” most of you are probably asking yourselves right now? Well, it comes down to simple aesthetics. I hate that kitchen table. I just can’t stand it. Evidently, I can stand it, because I’ve lived with it for 6 years now, but it just makes me throw up in my mouth a little every time I see it. Okay, it’s not that bad, but I really don’t like it. Let me paint a picture for you, and see if you can get on board with me.
The year was 1968, someone somewhere just pressed a nice oval tabletop out of particle board and sawdust, and thought to themselves, “You know, this would look great covered with a top of the line wood grain laminate. Unfortunately, we’ve just got this plastic wood grain laminate, but hey, it would still really “fancy” this table up!” To really sell this beauty though, they decided to add some of the world’s most uncomfortable chairs and, Voila! Our table was born. I have no idea where it started its life, or how it came to be in Mrs. SSC’s household but she grew up with this table and has some fond memories of eating at it, doing some arts and crafts at it, and who knows what. It’s like she tells me, “This is a perfect table for the kids to do crafts on, it’s impossible to mess up.” That’s the beauty of plastic laminate, you can do everything short of burning it, and it still looks like crappy laminate. To be fair, it’s in really good shape for a 50 year old table, and it would make an excellent craft sort of table the kids can spill paint on, carve pumpkins on, decorate Easter eggs, etc… I just think it should be relegated to that duty, and not sitting in a spot where I have to look at it every day.
It’s only taken 6 years, but I’ve finally worn down Mrs. SSC into getting a new table! Actually, I’ve come very close in recent times, only to have one little thing ruin the whole deal. There was this past Christmas season for instance, I had her decided on a table, finish, chairs, even use support from family in town for the holidays to help win her over, and we were set. Except the place we wanted to get the table from didn’t have the chairs she wanted, and she is very particular about chairs, so we never ordered it. Even though they had a very liberal, no-cost return/replacement policy, as in, we could order the chairs and if we didn’t like them, we could swap them out for different chairs at almost no cost to us (actual cost $150). But we wouldn’t be paying shipping for 6 chairs back to the store and 6 new chairs back to us (total cost ~$400). Anyway, that fell through due to stocking errors on the companies part. Then there was a few years back, and I was in a similar boat, but didn’t strike quickly enough, and that deal also fell through.
This time, I knew would be different. This time Mrs. SSC started the “Let’s go look at tables” conversation, and she hates looking at tables and chairs. We went to a store and they had about 30 chairs to try out. Even lining them up side by side so you could sit in one, and then scoot over to the other for a comparison. I didn’t get it, but they claimed it was “the best way” to try out chairs. Whatever… So we both actually found chairs that we both agreed on the style and that were actually comfortable. We also even found a table style that we both liked, and even a stain, it was all coming together so nicely. However, the cost was laughable, and while we weren’t out shopping to purchase that day, I realized I’d found my biggest hurdle, the cost. Fortunately, when we got home I researched everything online and found the exact same everything for 30% less, plus an additional 5% off due to the cost structure and order amount, and even an additional 3% off if we didn’t use a credit card, and didn’t make them (or us rather) pay the credit card service fee. This was the deal maker there, I mean almost 40% in savings, and we get the exact everything we wanted. And then Mrs. SSC went back into stall mode…
Mrs. SSC, “Well, this style is also nice, I like it too. You know, we could probably have my Dad make us a table just like this one. You know, you could make a table for us when we retire in another 5 years. Are we sure we really need a table, we don’t use this one much now anyway.” Mr. SSC “eye-roll, and slapping my palm to my forehead.”
After a few weeks of back and forth with different style choices, I had given up on it as this purchase seemed to be “tabled” again.
Then this happened out of the blue:
Mrs. SSC: “Have you ordered that table yet? I would’ve thought after all this time, you wouldn’t be waiting so long to order.”
Surprised Mr. SSC playing it cool: “Oh? I thought we were still deciding on the final style.”
Mrs. SSC: “Well, put together the choices again to review and we can decide.”
Mr. SSC: “Here is style A, B, and C…”
Mrs. SSC: “I like style B. Let’s get it!”
No less than 5 minutes later the order was sent in, and the check has been sent off. The table is ordered and soon we should be getting our new dining room set. Although to be fair, we don’t have a formal dining room setup, it’s just wasteful in our opinion, so this will be going into the kitchen area. This endeavor, while mostly complete made me think how many man-hours it took into getting this purchase approved and complete (~5 whole years). Mrs. SSC has some valid arguments, such as, “The old table is still functional, it’s a lot of money to replace something not broken, we can invest it and make more money with that money, it’s a perfectly fine table…” You could probably come up with some of your own arguments as to why we didn’t need to purchase a table. I would agree that we may not have needed to purchase the table, except for my heavily weighted dislike for this table. My thoughts are this, “Why wait until we get to FIRE and then look for a new table/chairs and start making big purchases? Why not do it now when we have incomes and can do this and not feel the hit?” I’m excited for our new table and chairs and unlike past purchases, I will be even more excited when it gets here and I can move that other table out of sight.
This is why allowances are an excellent idea. This type of debate gets avoided with most “want based” purchases by using allowance money and not general funds. This is our first long running debate over a big purchase though, and I hope will be our last. I don’t know if I have it in me for another 5 year sales job.
What are some big purchases you’ve made and have had to use years of convincing to get your partner to pull the trigger?