The Wow Factor: Getting the most bang for your buck

Image courtesy San Diego Shooter @ flickr

Kim Hall writes about the different aspects of life that impact family relationships and how you can make those bonds stronger and more satisfying. She writes at Too Darn Happy, where you can find useful resources and information, along with plenty of encouragement and optimism.

When you think about making a purchase, have you ever thought about rating it on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 barely moving the needle and 10 being a big, exciting WOW?

Back in the 1990’s I came across The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczn and the revolutionary idea-to me-of actually planning your spending, living a frugal life, and the proposal noted above of a Wow Factor scale. She recommended testing all spending with this simple rule. Basically, you just need to determine how much wow you are getting for the money you are spending. If you are letting go of your entire month’s entertainment budget on one event, hopefully it’s pegging a 10 on the scale. If you are dribbling it out a few dollars at a time on fast food, are you getting the same high level of satisfaction?

While this guideline provided a great measuring stick for our family and especially our girls when they went to spend their allowances, over the past couple of years we have found that adding the following questions really has helped to drill down and make better choices.

What is the opportunity cost?
This is helpful especially in terms of discretionary spending. If you choose to spend your budgeted entertainment dollars going out to a fancy restaurant once a month, or doing fast food several times, you won’t have the opportunity to spend it elsewhere, such as taking that day trip that is on your want to do list. The question then becomes: Which rates higher on the Wow scale-fast food, fancy dinner or a trip? At that point, the choice generally becomes much clearer, especially as you align it with the next question.

What do you value?
This one is tremendous for culling out the less important, especially if you visualize your choice as though it is in hindsight. Close your eyes and move forward mentally a month, a year, five years. Look back and view your choices. What will you wish you had done? Can you see the crumpled MickyD wrappers and bags doing a tango across your empty wallet? Do the fancy meals thicken your waist and hips while slimming your finances? It comes down to this: what choice makes your heart sing and what do you really value in terms of stuff and experiences when you part company with your dollars?

I am not against eating out. I’m not against spending money for fun trips or awesome gifts, for that matter. I am against spending money that doesn’t give you a real bang for your buck, whether it has already been budgeted or you are deciding if it should be part of the budget.

The simple beauty of these questions is that they fit you and your circumstances, regardless of where you are in your journey to debt freedom. You may not place a high value on a fancy restaurant experience, but I know folks who give it a 10. The same can be said of events, fashionable clothes, shoes, jewelry, books, games, movies, etc. It is about what fits you, your family and your lifestyle, and where you are and where you are going financially.

Learn to rank your choices on your own personal Wow Factor scale, and you will find that your satisfaction with your budgeting and spending choices will increase substantially.

How will this tool make your decisions easier to make? What choice did you make that rated higher than another? We look forward to your comments!

15 thoughts on “The Wow Factor: Getting the most bang for your buck

  1. Great post! My husband and I really enjoy eating out, and we’re able to make the dining budget stretch a little further by using the Wow Factor scale at the restaurant. Just because we’re at a fancy place, for instance, doesn’t mean that our experience will be twice as good just because we get drinks and appetizers and dessert in addition to the meal.

    Plus we don’t feel like blimps when we leave the restaurant. Win win.

  2. That’s an excellent example of applying this rule. You like to eat out at a nice place, but recognize that having everything, ie, appetizer to dessert, will fill you up and possibly expand your waistline too. 😉 This choice also will allow you enough room in the budget to either go to a nice restaurant, or go more than once because you didn’t order every course when you were there. Thanks for sharing how you use this!

  3. this is a very useful post. in my family we really plan the trips, only once a year and today’s economy really has some impact on us so we had to adjust our spending a bit, sometimes in the weekend we use to go out but now we often spend family days at home, as long as were together. but we really plan on going vacation perhaps Philippines, the exchange rate of dollar there is enough and there’s a lot of beautiful places, fit with our budgeted spending.

    • Glad you found this information to be useful. It sounds like you are doing what a lot of folks are doing here in the U.S.: “stay-cations”. It’s where they are staying at home for vacation, and finding fun things to do where they live. It is a great idea, especially since we often don’t explore our own communities as “tourists”. In addition, it’s frugal, and we don’t spend time waiting in airports. As you noted, it’s just wonderful to be wherever we are, as long as we are with family.

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  6. You make a great point about concentrating on a habit and continuing it if it’s good and stopping it if it is not. A great book on that subject is “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy. I highly recommend it!

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  9. The alternative of a young child is universal. Children all above the environment like the exact same things. Be it a Barbie doll or a Cartoon character. They relate by themselves with these figures and so mothers and fathers also want to present their youngsters the identical stuff. And so largely dad and mom are getting children posters. These posters adorn place of a baby, retains him/her completely satisfied and also they hold the place thoroughly clean so that it would probably seem eye-catching always.

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  13. Holding out for the really great thing is what it is all about. My wife and I have been far more conservative than our peers throughout our adult lives and this has allowed us to really do the things we want now. Being conservative and sacrificing the immediate when you are young will pay dividends throughout your life.

    • It’s hard going against the crowd when you’re younger but you’re right – it truly pays off in the long run by being financially responsible when everyone else isn’t.

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