How to Budget for a High-Ticket Item
- March 8, 2021
- by Ashley
Dreaming about a luxury purchase is one thing. Going through with the purchase is another. If you’ve found yourself seriously tempted by an item or experience, there may be a reason for it. You might be picking up on a great find or want to make up for lost time. It could be as simple as a new gaming system or the honeymoon you never got to have, but just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean you have to say ‘no’ right away.
Your ‘yes’ might just require a few extra steps than popping it into your shopping cart. Financial mindfulness and learning how to budget for the things you want can help you get the ball rolling.
How to determine if the purchase is worth it
It’s easy to spend with blinders on, but that can lead to financial trouble down the line. And when the item you’ve wanted is expensive, caution becomes even more important. However, you can break down the first level of want vs. need by assessing your perspective. Mindfulness about where, when, and how you spend your money can help you figure out whether a purchase is worth it or not.
Can I afford it?
You wouldn’t purchase an item you suddenly wanted in the store without checking its price tag. The same rule applies anywhere else. If you’re seriously considering a purchase, you have to decide whether it’s a cost you can afford.
Ask yourself how you intend to pay for the item or service. Can you pay for it upfront? Will you have to put it on a credit card? How long do you think you’ll be paying it off, and could it cause additional future debt?
Affordability is the first barrier to any financial decision because it usually has a definitive answer. Either you can buy it without financial harm, or you cannot. However, a “no” now doesn’t mean forever – you might just need to save up and plan ahead.
Is it worth it?
If you feel that the cost is not an issue, you should then decide if the item has a place in your life. You may not use it every day, but you should be able to take advantage of it as often as possible. Think about the hours you worked to earn the money that bought that item. Was your labor worth just an outing on a boat, maybe twice a year?
Consider “cost per use” when deciding if the item is worth it. A $12k hot tub that you use once a week for 5 years incurs a ~$20 per hot tub experience, not counting the hit from extra electricity and ongoing maintenance. Then again a really nice TV for $1,000 which you’d use 3 hours a day for 5 years is less than $0.54 per day.
If it’s a one-time purchase, like a vacation, decide how necessary it is to you right now. The timing could play into your decision. For example, you might not have another opportunity to spend time with a specific loved one.
Will this item enhance my life?
Use and cost aside; you have to evaluate the item’s role in your life. If it’s something that will genuinely bring you joy, it might be worth it. Do you get a good “bang for the buck” out of the purchase? Happiness is hard to negotiate around but confront what precisely about it would contribute to that. Consider alternatives if the reasons sound generic or flat.
There are also some purchases that feel too expensive to buy but might improve your health or wellness. Essentially, think about how this choice would help you care for yourself: mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Does the item align with my goals and lifestyle?
Everyone has preferences and values, but an exciting or luxurious purchase can distract from those. If you care about experiences over collecting things, for example, it makes more sense to go on a trip than buy a television. Evaluate your decisions by how well they fit into your world view because that’s what will make you happiest at the end of the day. Don’t set your future self up for failure just because you want something in the present. That money can still be used, but it might not be the right time and place. If you want something but you know those funds could help you obtain something of higher personal value, shelve them.
Is it a good time to buy?
Sometimes, buying an item boils down to a waiting game. Sales pop up throughout the year based on holiday schedules or new releases. So, look for those discounts and when they might show up before you take the plunge. You can compare which months of the year tend to have the lowest price drops.
Am I getting a fair price?
Sales are one thing, but they may not be enough to take that item into the affordable range you need. If that’s the case, try to find discounts you can use at your purchase. You might have a membership to start. You could also use a cash back credit card, or the seller might have the option of a cash back rebate. Both put some percentage of the purchase back in your hands depending on the location and time of the year.
Combine as many discount options you have with the perfect sale, and you might be looking at a reasonable price for your high-ticket item.
Will I have to give up anything?
If you’ve looked at your values, plotted a financing plan, gathered all your coupons, and still have some trouble paying for the purchase, you might have to consider what you can give up. We buy some things to fill space or know that we’re going to waste but purchase out of habit. Put a hold on those or even try reselling them. You could also refocus your daily life so that you are minimizing costs, such as meal prepping or disconnecting streaming services you no longer use.
How to budget for a high-ticket item
So, you’ve gone through all the questions, and you’ve come to the conclusion that you want to go through with the purchase. However, the cost is still a factor, even if you’re ready to deal with it, and that might be a little steep. If you have your eye on something that’s out of your price range, here are some ways to help budget like a hero for it:
Get a general sense of the item’s price through research and comparison shopping. You want to go in knowing what to expect. After that, you can speak with the retailer and see what payment options are available to you. Some stores or sellers offer payment plans with timed installments. Once you know the total value and the structure of the payments, you can create a plan to help you cover the cost.
Determine what you can afford
If you don’t already have a budget you live by, this would be the perfect opportunity to make one. Take the time to write down your monthly expenses so that you can determine how a high-ticket item payment plan would fit into it. Here is a guide to get started with your budget.
Figure out your monthly income and subtract your predicted expenses from that. Whatever amount is left over after you take away the costs of rent, utilities, insurance payments, groceries, etc., will be the money available for your payment plan. You might need to change an expense somewhere else to help accommodate it.
Automate your savings and plan to spend on certain big items in advance
If you think you might be tempted to use the money for your purchase somewhere else, you should consider a separate savings or money market account dedicated to future purchases. When you deposit money into this account you know not to touch it. You can also set aside a portion of your paycheck so it gets automatically transferred. Mentally the money in this account is "already spent" which makes it easy when you do finally pull the trigger on the purchase.
The bottom line
You can’t always live like a monk. Eventually, you will find something you just have to have that won’t be easy to purchase. That doesn’t mean you should have to give up immediately. Taking mindful practices into your everyday spending can help you practice for when you finally find that item. Even more, budgeting can help keep you accountable and financially prepare for those moments in life where you just have to have it.