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Deciding how to handle windfalls

June 26th, 2005 at 06:44 am

A nice problem to have!

My mother is pretty generous with cash gifts for Christmas, birthdays and our anniversary. The thing is, often the money has gone right toward some kind of bill like car repairs, a new oven, etc. I've been glad to have the help, OTOH it's really a blow to the self-esteem to feel like we wouldn't be making it except for her help. Especially since I'm 48 and DH is about to turn 50. So what I've been trying to do with our budget is make sure we can cover all the necessities of life on our own and let the gifts be for extras or savings.

It was our anniversary yesterday, and the usual nice check has arrived in the mail. I've already set up automatic deductions from our checking account, sending 10% to our savings account for a new car and 10% as an extra payment on our (0%) credit card. The balance is what I'm still unsure about.

I want to be rid of the debt. I want to sock as much away in that new car savings account as I can. But I just signed up for two of those programs where you buy gift certificates at 20% off. It doesn't make sense to keep up the memberships at $14.95 a month and buy the GCs in dribs and drabs, with the savings barely covering the membership fee. What makes sense is figuring out how much I'd spend in a year at those stores anyway, buy the GCs all at once, and then quit at least one of the programs. That way, at least in theory, I'd be saving 20% off what I'd be spending on extras like clothing, plants, and home improvement projects anyway. This chunk of money would enable me to do that, and it's what I'd planned to do. But I seem to be chickening out.

I don't know if I've made a mistake in signing up for the programs or not. It's no biggie; I could buy nothing and just cancel before the 30 day trial period is up. Which is being more realistic and honest with myself--figuring I'd spend that money anyway and I might as well save 20%, OR, recognizing that as easy as it is to let small amounts of money slip through one's fingers week in and week out, I'd be better off putting this bigger chunk toward savings or debt while it's easy to do. Also, would I be able to save that 20% or even more by just shopping carefully and buying less? Will I feel stuck buying at the stores I have the GCs for even though I see a great sale somewhere else? Will I end up spending more because in the back of my mind, I'll be thinking about how much of a bargain I got on the GCs?

I guess at the most basic level, it comes down to spending vs. saving vs. paying on debt. They all seem to be pulling at me equally right at the moment.

2 Responses to “Deciding how to handle windfalls”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I recently signed up for Main Street Savings, and so far so good. I thought the same thing you did - buy everything I'd need in a year then cancel. But the reality is that I spend way too much in those stores to have the disposable income to blow all in one month. So the new way I'm looking at it is this: It only costs me $9.95/month. Basically if I buy 2 per month I break even. I buy as much as I can each month to cover birthday presents, other gifts, etc. If I have any money leftover, those gift cards will be used for Christmas gifts. I'm hoping that when Christmas comes around, I won't get socked with a ton of bills because I'll have a bunch of gift cards saved up. I also got a $25 gift card for joining, and like you said, I can cancel anytime so if it gets to be too much I can get rid of it. I think it's a pretty good deal...

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