Tip of the Day Tuesday: Budgeting for Bargains

One of the questions I get asked a lot by people is “How much do you budget for bargains?” My response is, “Nothing.” If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know that I’m a big fan of Dave Ramsey and that I budget for EVERYTHING, so I think that response probably catches people off guard.

The thing is, I don’t have a budget set aside specifically for “bargains.” All of my “bargain shopping” comes out of our other regular budget categories.

So, if there is a big grocery deal like the Mega sale that has been happening at Kroger the past two weeks, I have to figure out how to do the deals I want to do and stay within my grocery budget.

If there is a big sale at Walgreens or CVS (like the diapers and Dove deals this week!), I use my “toiletry” or “miscellaneous” budget envelopes.

So, I know what you’re thinking because it’s the next question I always get as I explain this. What if you don’t have enough money?

If I don’t have enough money in one of my envelopes to do a deal, sometimes that means that I sit that deal out. When you’re just getting started with bargain hunting, this can be a tough thing to do because you get so excited about all of the deals. Since we’re really trying to stick to our budget right now, a deal isn’t a deal if I don’t have the money to get it.

Having said that, I have to add a few disclaimers. First of all, I have a good stockpile of things that we “need” already, so I can sit out a deal knowing that I will probably have enough of a certain item to get by until the next deal comes along. Over time, I have also developed an understanding of the “sales cycles” to know about how long it will be before the next deal like that comes along. I’ve also gotten a good idea over time about what’s a really HOT deal that probably won’t come around again for awhile, if ever.

Sometimes, if the deal is really a “hot” deal and it’s for something we really NEED or I know we will need soon (most likely before the next deal comes along), then I will re-evaluate my budget categories and if we have enough money to cover it in another envelope and I feel like we’re pretty “set” in that category, I will borrow from another envelope. The bottom line for me is that I won’t spend money that I don’t actually have for any bargain shopping.

What about rebates?

I often get asked about rebates, too. Specifically, what if you don’t have money to cover something but there is a rebate offer of some sort, so you can just “replace” the money when you get your rebate? From my experience, it usually takes 4-8 weeks to get a rebate check back. By the time that rebate money comes, it’s pretty easy to come up with some other use for it, so more likely than not, you’re not going to pay yourself back. I only do rebate offers where I can get things for free or close to free (using ECBs or RRs) to start out with or when it’s for something I really need and would be buying anyway. When I get the rebate check, it goes into our “100% cash Christmas” fund.