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Toward Self-Sufficiency: Purchasing Strategically

January 23, 2011

Today is Sunday, so that means it is time for another Toward Self-Sufficiency article here at the blog.

Aside from the first post in this series, in which I examined the need to establish a specific set of projects upon which my collection would be focussed, each of the other articles has focussed on the selling side of my pursuit of a financially self-sufficient hobby.

In today’s post, the second to last in my eight-part series, I return to the purchasing and collecting side of things, dealing specifically with the need to develop a strategic approach to my buying habits.

To catch up on previous Toward Self-Sufficiency, visit the following links:

Establishing a Focus for my Collection
Selling on eBay to Achieve my Goal
Utilizing an eBay Store

Customer Service
Cheap and Easy Marketing


Throughout my life I have had a bad habit of being an impulsive shopper and this has been especially true when it comes to sports memorabilia and trading cards. 

Despite my better judgement, I constantly buy retail products from outlets such as Wal-Mart and Toys ‘R Us that frequently under-deliver in terms of return on investment.  I also buy on eBay fanatically, often to excess, and often with little thought on what benefit the purchase is to either my collection or my “business” in the long-term.  If it seemed like a good deal at the instant I saw it, I bought it.  Buyer’s remorse was a common feeling for me for quite some time.

These sorts of buying habits were beginning to make a much more significant impact on my personal finances that I was comfortable with.  Selling my excess cards and collectibles online was helping to alleviate the effect on my bottom line, but I was still spending far more than I was bringing in.

Eventually it got to the point that I had no choice but to do something about these habits as I was making absolutely zero progress in pursuit of my goal.  So last year I started to force a change, both for purchases related specifically to my collection, and those meant to improve things for my “business”.

Since eBay is my main method of bringing in items, I took a long, hard look at my past purchases.  As I scrutinized these purchases carefully, I developed a set of criteria that each future purchase is intended to meet, whether it is made on eBay, at a card store, or at a show.

First, I set a maximum price that I am willing to pay for any particular item or piece of a project.  If that item is even a cent above the threshold that I have set, I force myself not to make another bid, or I tell the store owner/dealer that I will take a pass this time around.

Second, I buy in lots as often as possible, or purchase multiple items that qualify for discounts either in the cost of the item or the price of shipping them.  Any items in those lots that I need for my collection are pulled out, and the remaining items are listed individually in my eBay store to help offset the cost of the purchase.

Third, I try to buy during down times in an effort to get better deals.  Auctions that end late or in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday are great for finding deals because there are fewer people keeping an eye on things online at those times.  Holiday breaks and a sport’s offseason are also great times to buy because people have their attention focussed elsewhere.

Fourth, I now ensure that I am keeping detailed records of my expenses at all times.  Buying items and paying for them with a credit card or through a PayPal balance can make it entirely too easy to overspend, since the transaction is essentially virtual as opposed to actually having to hand over physical cash.  By having a number right in front of me that I can refer to at any given time to monitor my spending has been instrumental in controlling my spending habits.

Fifth, specifically related to purchasing packs and boxes of cards, I look closely at what the return on investment is likely to be.  Retail purchases at full price are now an absolute no-go for me and I limit my purchases at sports collectible stores and shows to sale items or products that fit into one of my project categories. 

Finally, I remind myself regularly that for most people, their hobbies are paid for solely through their regular income and rarely do those hobbies even offer the opportunity to become self-sufficient financially.  I realize that the easiest way to make my hobby self-sufficient is to only purchase as much as I have sold, but until I have a sales volume that allows my regular income to be removed from the picture, I do not see a need to deprive myself of enjoyment, so long as I am responsible about it.

Each of these things have helped me get my spending under control without limiting my ability to add to my collection.  Most importantly, they are another piece of the puzzle that is moving me ever closer to achieving my ultimate goal.


How do you go about ensuring that what you do as a hobby has a minimal impact on your finances?  Do you have any purchasing strategies that have helped you keep your hobby related spending in check?

If so, I’d love to hear about it!  Post a comment, find me on Twitter (@bb_bros), or send me an email at bb_bros[at]hotmail[dot]com.

This coming Wednesday is the final Wednesday of the month, which means I’ll be posting my monthly Project Progress Report.  I’ve had a fair amount of success over the past month, so be ready for lots of pictures in that post!

Until then, all the best in your collecting pursuits.



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