Can I buy that?

May 4, 2015 · 20 comments

The beautiful thing about having money in the bank is you can afford to buy things. The ugly thing about having money in the bank is, well, you can afford to buy things.

Although I’m grateful to be in the financial position we are currently in, sometimes I miss the days of paying down debt.

That does not mean I miss debt. 

But I do miss the clear and simple objective one has when working their way out of debt.

Overtime income?

Pay off debt.

Tax return?

Pay off debt.

Side Hustle?

Pay off debt.

Birthday money?

Pay off debt.

No matter the situation, the solution was always the same. 

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Within the last month or so, there have been a handful of relatively expensive items I’ve wanted to purchase, but haven’t managed to pull the trigger yet because I feel like it would be irresponsible. Here are a few of the items on my list.

Upgrade my iPhone 5 to a 6+: 

It’s kind of disgusting that we operate in a world where we believe our ridiculously expensive cell phones are essentially garbage after two years, simply because a newer model of the same phone exists. I’m a victim of the “ohhh, pretty-shiny-thing” cult as well. In a week I will be out of my ATT contract. I can upgrade my iPhone 5 to the new 6+ for $299. I’d get a better screen. A better battery. And a better camera.

That said, the primary purpose of my cell phone is to make/receive phone calls, make/receive text messages, make/receive emails. The iPhone 6 doesn’t do this any better than my current phone. Why would I pay to upgrade to a phone that has negligibly better features? Or a better question I suppose is, why do I WANT to do that?

Buy a Weber Grill: 

Five years ago, I got a relatively cheap ($199) Home Depot grill for my birthday. It has lived a long and glorious life, but after two moves, and years of use, the lack of quality is apparent. The burners no longer self-ignite. The thing is ginormous and eats up an excessive area of my patio. But most importantly, it doesn’t burn hot enough.

A burger should take 8 minutes to cook (about four minutes on each side). My grill has declined so much that it takes about 25 minutes for me to grill three burger patties. It’s a waste of propane and a terribly frustrating experience.

A Weber Grill would solve all of my problems. Just as Nordstrom is known for it’s superior customer service, Weber is known for manufacturing stellar grills. They aren’t cheap (base model is $399), but they are unmatched in value.

I love to grill and have been scouring craigslist like crazy trying to find a lightly used Weber. So far I’ve had no luck finding one that I feel is priced fair. The frugal part of me says I should wait until September to buy a new grill as that is typically when the big sales are to be had due to the end of the summer season, but the other part of me says that is stupid as I’d have to endure another grilling season with my barely functioning BBQ.

I’ve made a deal with myself that if I haven’t found one on craigslist by Memorial Weekend, I’m going to Home Depot and buying a brand spanking new one.

Pay for Electrical work:

This one isn’t so much a purchase, but more a “should we pay to have this work done.” We have an outlet in our pantry that we plugged our microwave in to a few months ago. Within one second of turning the microwave on, the outlet went out and our exterior security lights went off. It’s not the breaker. It’s not the outlet. It’s not the fuse. I’ve exhausted my electrical skills and can’t troubleshoot the problem on my own.

I had two electricians come by last week to get quotes. Since they aren’t yet sure what the problem is they could only give me estimates on how long they think it might take to identify the problem. Essentially, it’s going to cost about $300 for them to simply diagnose the problem, and potentially a lot more depending on what the issue is.

I hate having lights and outlets that don’t work. That said, these are probably the least important lights and outlets in my entire house so I don’t feel a rush to necessarily get them fixed. Why spend $300-$500 when we don’t need to? But when the time comes to sell our house, we are probably going to have to pay for this service anyways since a home inspector would surely note the issue.

I’ve never understood why people wait on upgrading their home. People will live 20 years with their builder grade laminate counter tops, only to replace them with granite when they decide they are ready to sell their house. Why not pay for the upgrade earlier and actually enjoy your counters? This is how I feel about my outlets. If I’m going to spend the money now, or down the road, why not have the electrical work done today?

I guess my issue is that I never want our financial privilege (money in the bank) to cloud my judgement and distort my perception of being a good steward of God’s resources (the money he has put in our bank).

Do I believe it’s okay to enjoy nice things? Absolutely.

Do I believe it can also be crippling? Absolutely.

 

1 JP

You don’t need to feel guilty about finally wanting to upgrade to some nicer things now that you are in a more comfortable financial situation. When we moved into our house last spring I purchased a Weber grill on sale around memorial day so you should look for those promotions to start soon. I totally agree that they cost a little more but the quality is much better and they will last. About upgrading your phone, just wait until the summer/fall when the new iPhone is released. Then you can upgrade to that one for the same price you’d pay now for the 6+ or get the 6+ for like $99.

2 Larry

I can’t share the religious overtones you bring in at the end, but I understand your concerns. Just yesterday for a grand total of $118 I finally decided to replace some cookware that had seen better days, and I am wrestling with the thought of replacing my mattress (after about 15 years, that is a true necessity). But I wouldn’t worry about these relatively small purchases. So get the grill already; you’re saving plenty towards retirement, and it’s not as if you’re sinking $30K into a kitchen makeover.

3 murphath

Buy the grill. Yours is toast and you can afford the Weber. If buying at Home Depot, go to giftcardgranny.com and buy some discount Home Depot gift cards to cover the purchase. That will reduce the price by 8-10% which will ease your pain–especially if you get a Memorial Day sale price.

Re the electrical: do the work now. You have an older home so you don’t know what’s going on behind those walls. An electrical fire is much more expensive than having the electrician investigate/fix the problem.

Forget the phone. You have one that functions well. You don’t need the new fancy, dancy model. Your other two items on the list are necessary. The phone is not.

Hope that helps! Let us know what you decide.

4 Jason

I dropped my phone last week and the touch screen stopped working. Normally I would have justified buying a newer better phone for replacement. Since I’ve been on my debt free journey I’m thinking about things differently so I started looking for a used replacement. Still not wanting to spend that much I started asking around and then finally ended up getting a free replacement from a friend. It went like this $600>$200>$0 Zero is great!

5 Kay

Do you have a gfi somewhere that needs to be reset? I had some outdoor outlets stop working and it ended up being a tripped gfi in a bathroom we rarely use. Why the outlets were tied to this particular bathroom, I have no idea. I work with electricians and that was the suggestion they gave me when I had issues. Look for a tripped gfi on an outlet somewhere in the house.

6 jim

Please do NOT go buy another grill on Craigslist, Home Depot or anyplace else. Google pitbarrelcooker. This thing can grill your burgers and smoke your chicken. I think it costs $200 and last time I checked, they had free shipping. Read the reviews on it. We’ve had one now for a few years and it is hands down the best. There is nothing you can’t cook on it. And the food is FANTASTIC. Read the reviews. I promise, you won’t regret it. Plus, the creator of this pit barrel will answer ANY questions you ever have and he’s one helluva nice guy.

7 SP

Kitchen upgrades go out of style, so it does make some sense to delay – depending on what your goals are. We have a Weber grill, but charcoal low-end model, so it wasn’t expensive.

I would prioritize these, pick one, and wait on the rest. But that is just me.

8 CG

Get the Weber and get the rotisserie attachment too. That attachment is worth every penny.

9 The Bearded Dragon

I feel your pain. After you get some money saved up, it can be really hard to fight the temptation of ‘treating yourself’ to some nice things. However, I agree with some of the commenters above. Get the electrical work done, and don’t feel bad about buying the grill (esp. if you wait for the sale), but skip the new iPhone. You don’t need the new phone, and it really won’t bring you any extra happiness. Just my $0.02. Keep up the good work.

10 Kenneth

After years of paying off debt, and now more years of saving up for my retirement, I feel your pain and hesitation about making any purchases. I look at this, like any dollar received can be either spent or saved, and if spent, is lost forever on that purchase, when it could have been invested or saved.

However, I too had a rusted out old grill this spring. That’s a need, a big part of our summer is grilling out. So I did not hesitate to buy a shiny new grill (although it was a $149 Walmart gas grill – but that’s just my style, cheap). Your electrical problem is also a need, for when you sell your home. It might be the tripped bathroom GFI mentioned earleer, go looking for GFI resets, and also your circuit breaker panel might have a GFI resettable breaker look for that.

Regarding your phone, take your iphone 5, and look into Ting, rather than keep it going on AT&T. You should be able to pay under $30/mo if you keep your data use small, under 1GB/mo.

11 Kalie

Great post! There is always a tension of how to handle money when you believe you are God’s steward of it. I think the biggest thing is where your heart is. Are you putting your hope in wealth and possessions? Or are you enjoying God’s provision while also being generous to His work? The very fact that you’re conflicted shows you want to be a good steward!

12 Meridyth

If you really want the new iphone, sell your old one on ebay. I’ve always taken really good care of my iphones and have been able to sell them on ebay for almost as much as it costs to buy the new iphone. Sometimes even more. I think the least I sold one for was $150 and that was a 16gb that I paid $200 for brand new and sold 2 years later.

13 Sarah Jane

I think being a good steward over “God’s resources” extends significantly beyond your bank account (pretty self-centered perspective there IMO). A good steward over God’s resources rather entails caring for the entire “Creation” which would be defined as the raw materials and the biosphere of the planet. As such (although I’m more concerned with my descendants’ viability than pleasing any sort of deity) my moral purchasing dilemma hinges on the question of “will this item have utility for a very long time or end up in a landfill as soon as the novelty wear off?” or “am I being duped into participating in ‘planned obsolescense’?” (any upgrade in phone wouldn’t pass muster).

The really awesome thing about living life like this is that what is usually better for the planet is usually better for my finances.

I’d skip the phone upgrade indefinitely, but if cooking meat is really important to you (not to me.. it’s expensive and has a pretty substantial environmental tax… sorry, had to go there 😉 ) I would get a high quality grill that’s going to last longer than a mortgage.

14 Ninja

Of course Gods resources extend beyond our bank account. But they still do extend to my bank account, hence the reference. Stewardship applies to my body, my marriage, my environment, etc. As an American I’m probably more self centered than I would be if I grew up with more humble means can, but the same is probably true of you as well, no?

15 Sarah Jane

Certainly. My family of origin was *particularly* materialistically excessive and I would say that my rejection of their lifestyle has had far more impact in the degradation of our relationships than any other variable because how we consume.. what we consume, and when…. those decisions are all based on world views and value systems. Simplistically stated: Consumer behavior reflects your values.

Your value system can change over time. It’s not fixed. Just because you grew up in one system of beliefs doesn’t mean you have to remain there. My behavior began to change through education and evidence… experiences and knowledge that disinterest my relatives (and most others).

My consumer behavior suggests I value frugality, the natural environment and my financial stability.

16 jake

Have a little fun. Go for it. Spend it, as it’s all necessary- Yes, even the phone.

Do you use the camera feature on your iPhone? Do you use your iPhone to do your online banking? Do you use it to check your email? Do you use it to surf the web? I look at iPhones as mini computers, because that’s what they are. We all know that computers get outdated within 2-3 years max, so you shouldn’t feel bad upgrading every few years.

As for the BBQ- If that’s going to make your food taste better, and you’ll be able to host more BBQ parties, then go for it. Webbers are some of the best grills around. Make sure you get one with cast iron grids, as it will make your food cook better.

Electrical- That’s a no brainer. Safety first. Electrical issues end up sparking fires in many of those older homes.

Sometimes you just have to splurge a little, otherwise you’ll be living a pretty boring life, if all you’re doing is saving every single penny. While you’re at it, buy girl ninja a nice purse, jewelry, or some new shoes.

You’re doing fine with your retirement nest egg. I bet you can stop contributing to it, or at least reduce it, and that account will still grow to a significant amount by the time you retire. Have a little fun.

17 Kurt

I think you could easily rationalize the grill expense this way: grilling is fun and, once you’ve invested in the grill, is a lot cheaper than eating out and many other entertainment options you might choose. Grilling is great for home entertaining too. Owning a decent grill can be a big boost to your quality of life. Maybe you can find a new grill at an outstanding sale price–then go for it!

18 Tyler Philbrook (@tjphilbrook)

Enjoy life with your beloved wife all the days of your futile life, which He has given you under the sun, all the days of your futility, for that is your lot in life and in your hard work at which you toil under the sun. – ecclesiasties 9:9

You should most certainly enjoy things being out of debt means you can enjoy it more, sounds like a good problem to have

19 Amanda

I would buy the grill! My husband and I have been married 5 years and live with a similar thought process. We just bought the Weber Spirit Series 3 burner. We went through Amazon to avoid paying extra fees (okay taxes, we live in Ohio) and delivery. If there is an issue, Weber will take care of it for you right away. Their customer service is excellent. We won’t plan on buying another grill for 20 years at least. It heats up fast and cooks so evenly. Our only question was why didn’t we buy it sooner. I say live a little, put out the cash and do it. It’s okay to spend money on something you clearly have a plan for.

20 StackingCash

Hehe welcome to my world… Your questions are pretty easy. Buy the grill! Fix the electrical! Regarding the 6+, the biggest and most significant aspect of that phone is the screen size. That alone would’ve made me purchase it when it first came out. In regards to the power factor, I feel that phones these days have pretty much maxed out in technology where the new ones only provide diminishing returns compared to the previous generation.

Pretty simple! Now maybe you can help me with my decision to purchase an expensive house and car…

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