Sometimes I like to pretend I’m six years old writing a letter to Santa only instead of Barbies and Legos I get big kid stuff like a Kitchen Aid Mixer and Legos.
Instead of flipping through a toy catalog or wandering the mall considering all the things I want, I look at my house to see what things I need and want. Using a variety of methods I write down items and a LOT of information.
True Story 1: Awhile back my Mom and Aunt met me in San Francisco for a little shopping. Eventually we made our way through the gate to Chinatown and started browsing. It seemed every time one of us mentioned what we were looking for it would pop up in the next store. Whether by power of suggestion or just becoming more aware of our surroundings by the end of the day all our shopping was done.
Here’s how I organize some of the things I collect:
I collect a variety of series, authors and genres but I have the memory span of a gnat so I keep up to date lists on my phone. I open up a new email for each series or author and save it as a draft. With just a glance I call tell if I need #8 or #9 in paperback for a series. When I pick one up I delete it from the list. Add details like the author name, publication year if it matters and hard back or soft cover. For some series I track how much I’ve paid so it’s nice to see $1 at garage sale or $1.50 Salvation Army on my list.
Details for Bigger Projects
For my frugal framing project I’m interested in re-purposing frames so I jot down the dimensions I need. I keep the measurements for 3 curtains I’m looking to buy or sew. How about how long and wide your sofa is if you’re in the market for a slipcover? You may also include linens and type for easy shopping: 1-King set, brown or green, 1-Double sheets only flannel. If you’re shopping for children or a spouse it’s handy to write down their sizes which will save you time and money.
This is a little like creating a wish list for people in your life. If someone you know collects hard cover Jane Austen books, Marvel comics, pink china, purple hats, license plates or Christmas CDs from around the world write it down. Look it up when you’re out thrifting or at a garage sale.
Baby clothes, bibs, and toys are always on my list as so many people I know are spawning at any given time. It’s nice to have a variety of boy and girl things to choose from and it’s quite easy to pull together a gift basket on short notice.
I would love a kitchen aid mixer. In red. While I seriously doubt I’ll one day stumble upon one lying on the side of the road abandoned, I keep it on my list as a reminder. For bigger items I like to put a little more information. Like the normal retail value, Amazon selling price and how much I’d be willing to pay.
When it’s appropriate I also jot down the quantity I’m looking for. No more than 2 dozen blue Christmas ornaments. 5 full size dinner plates to complete a china collection.
True Story 2: Last year my Mom and I decided to prepare a batch of enchiladas at my house. We bought the ingredients but Mom couldn’t locate her meat grinder for the beef. Saturday morning at the flea market we kept looking and before long found a vendor selling 6 hand meat grinder! He offered us a deal on all 6 but we just needed one and paid a measly $5.
Making a wish list is a little like balancing the tight rope between dreams and reality. Sometimes you just don’t have the space for a two story 5-foot tall doll house. Other times you should really consider how much you enjoy reading a book series – are you enjoying them or just owning them? Don’t make the list so long you can’t find anything on it or leave it at home since it’s a little like carrying a phone book.
Review & Repeat
Just as my Christmas list from 1993 has little relevance now (unless my parents want to finally deliver on that pony…) your list should change and adapt as you do. A list is a helpful way to plan purchases instead of making impulse buys. Make time to review and decide if you still need or want these things. I might be a little weird but when I read through my wish list I mentally place those things in my home. If I completed my china collection how would it look in the china cabinet? If I hung three 20 x 30 pictures in the living room what would that look like? How would the guest room look like with a round rug? Jumbo floor pillows? A bean bag chair?
It’s a bit of a mental exercise but if you start to thing and plan for the things you want, you’ll avoid things you neither want nor need.
An example: In my living room I’d like a big clock. One that I can see from the kitchen or outside that isn’t hard to read. I want big and little hands, no digital displays, classic but not frilly and no cartoon characters. It needs to hang on the wall, no mantel clocks or grandfather clocks. By virtue of knowing exactly what I want, I know I’ll know when I see it. More importantly I’ve seen 100 examples of what I don’t want and it’s kept me from buying the wrong clock a dozen times.
Finally, share your list. I don’t mean send out a mass email that screams GIVE ME PRESENTS! But let people who share your shopping goals know what you’re looking for. When I bought my new queen mattress I didn’t have sheets or a frame. My parents unearthed an old sheet set for my use until I found one I liked and my Dad “rescued” a metal frame that had a FREE sign on it.
Instead of complaining about getting things you don’t like or won’t use, prepare a wish list to share. I even noted that I prefer used books and would glad take a refurbished string trimmer for my yard. And, if you’re really picky, just let people know you’re considering a purchase. That way they have free reign to call you if there’s a furniture sale instead of buying a gift you would rather pick out yourself.