The Hidden Perk of Saving Up for Big Purchases

I want to talk to you guys about a backpack.

A few weeks ago, I posted on Instagram about my quest to find a great, work-appropriate, stylish backpack. I currently have two solid backpacks, both promotional corporate swag items, and they serve their purpose admirably—but let’s be real, they’re not exactly fashion items. 

There’s been a big trend in the past few years of backpacks becoming more popular for women, because who among us has not ruined their shoulders already schlepping their laptop and a full day’s worth of stuff in a shoulder bag?

So I did some (a lot of) research and realized that whelp, I have very expensive taste in backpacks. 

The two that I was really interested in were priced at almost $300CAD and roughly $500CAD. Guess which one your expensive-taste-having-friend fell in love with. 

The thing is, $500CAD is well outside of my immediate “treat yourself” budget (roughly $100, give or take, out of my fun budget). But that doesn’t mean that buying a $500 want isn’t possible—it just takes some planning.

So I set up a savings goal

I might not be able to drop $500 on a backpack right away, but I can certainly make a few adjustments and save up $500 in about two months. So that’s exactly what I did.

I popped open Tangerine, which is where I do my daily banking, and set up a new savings goal using their Goals feature.

I figured that by September, I’d have enough to get my dream backpack, guilt-free.

All’s well that ends well, right? I’m writing this with my new backpack in hand?

Not quite.

PS. Check out my full Tangerine review for all the nitty-gritty details on why I use and love them.

Some extra costs popped up

Because I very responsibly sat down to save for the backpack, instead of firing up an ecommerce cart right away to go through with the purchase, I missed one small but important detail: that dream backpack didn’t ship to Canada.

Instead, I’d have to figure out how to use one of the services that will accept your package in the US and then send it on to your international destination. I did some digging, and the cheapest of those options would add at least $40 in shipping costs to the already-pricy backpack.

And that’s not including customs.

This all came to light very late in the game, so something crucial had changed: I now had about $300 sitting in a savings account, ready to be spent. 

I did even more research

When I posted on Instagram about my backpack savings, some awesome people offered suggestions of great backpacks they loved that fit my criteria. I now had even more options to consider instead of just the two I had narrowed my search to include, and remember, I now had some money ready and waiting to be spent. 

One of the suggestions—which I’m not going to name for reasons you’ll understand shortly—actually looked pretty perfect. Style that I was looking for, most of the features I wanted, and they easily shipped to Canada. 

Plus, at $200, I’d have an extra $300 leftover that I wasn’t expecting, which is a big win.

So I said sure, let’s give it a shot, and ordered the backpack. When it came, it was admittedly gorgeous, but after all that falling-in-love I did with the style online… I kind of hated how it looked on me.

So I sent it back

Luckily, the store had a free-returns policy (that I checked before I bought) and sending it back was easy once I saw that it wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. 

Now, instead of an extra $300 when I finished my savings goal, I had a full $500 sitting around in my backpack fun. Did I go back to considering the dream backpack? Did I switch to the Away backpack I had also considered?

No and no.

I decided that after all of this… I didn’t actually want a new backpack.

Or, more accurately, I didn’t hundreds-of-dollars want a new backpack.

When you save up, it gives you time to think

This was a (very) long story about a backpack I didn’t buy, but the real point is this: If I had pulled money out of savings right away to buy the original backpack I fell in love with, I might currently have and love it today. 

But by being moderately responsible, saving up, not giving in to the impulse, and yes, even buying a potential alternative, I realized that for now, my current backpack is just fine. 

Is it going to win any fashion awards? Heck no. However, the extra time I gave myself to think about the purchase and try out options made me realize that if I were given $500 to spend on anything at all, that dream backpack wouldn’t actually be it.

So instead, catch me in a gorgeous new wool cardigan, a new Krista Norris scarf, two new pairs of my favourite American Eagle jeans, and money leftover in my fun budget on my KOHO card

Which, pro tip, were all things on my always-on wishlist, which I just keep in a generic to-do list app. When I think about something I’d like, I write it down on the list. Then if I have extra money to spend, like a backpack fund with no backpack in sight, I can come back to the list and see if anything on it is still a priority.

And while it may seem like a downer that saving your money means (sometimes) not getting the cool thing you wanted in the first place, I think it’s actually great, because it gives you time to make sure you want it as much as you thought you did in the first place.