We all want to buy stuff. Everybody has a weak spot when it comes to spending money on stuff. Recently, it has been Blu-rays for me. I thoroughly enjoy watching movies, so naturally I want to own some of them on Blu-ray. However, we have to fight the urge to spend on things we don’t really need. Personal finance is about effectively managing your resources so as to maximize the things you truly need and want. If you purchase an item and regret doing so a few weeks later, then clearly it is not money well spent. Here are several strategies to help rein in superfluous spending:
- Patience is a virtue. Never rush when it comes to shopping. If you see something you want online or at a store, don’t buy it on the spot. Take some time to think about the purchase. Give yourself a week or two, and see if you still want it. There’s a good chance that you could be over it by then. Being patient will eliminate impulse purchases. If you don’t really care for it after some time, then clearly it is not something you wholeheartedly desire.
- Think about the opportunity costs of that purchase. While you’re deciding whether the item in question is a good buy or not, think about what you could possibly be giving up with this purchase. I quantify a purchase in terms of financial goals that are important to me. This new laptop is equivalent to the cost of a jungle adventure in Belize. We could beef up our emergency fund by another month instead of using that money on a kitchen renovation. If I stop myself from buying ten Blu-rays, that money can mitigate the cost of the recent emergency we experienced. Figure out what is important to you and think about the purchase in those terms.
- When you go shopping, map out your route beforehand. If you must make that purchase, then do just that. Don’t wander aimlessly and “stumble” upon other stores. Figure out what you want, get it, and don’t make any additional stops. You’re just going to invite trouble for yourself if you make those extra stops.
- Pay with cash. When you buy something with cash, it makes you more cognizant of the item’s worth. It’s painful to buy something worth $200 and have to take out ten $20 bills to cover the purchase. It definitely makes you think whether you’re really willing to give up ten $20 bills to buy this thing. Your money is hard-earned, so figure out whether you want to shell out hours and hours’ worth of work on the purchase. Paying with credit card is a lot different. You’re using a piece of plastic and not handing actual currency to the cashier. You’re not having to count the amount of money to hand over. It’s easy and it’s automatic. It’s dangerously easy.
- Take advantage of holiday sales and special deals. So you’ve thought it over and decided that you really want to buy this stuff. Well, if you’re going to get it, might as well get a discount on it. Don’t settle for paying full price. Just about every store will have sales and special deals throughout the year. There’s a Presidents’ Day Sale, Mother’s Day Sale, Father’s Day Sale, 4th of July Sale, After-Christmas Sale, to name a few. The $10, $15 or $20 you save on something might not seem like much, but it translates to additional money that can be applied to some of your financial goals.
- Use coupons. To piggyback on the last tip, you can also use coupons when purchasing an item. If there is something I really want, I surf the web and search for a coupon. Websites such as slickdeals.net and couponcabin.com are among my favorites. Additionally, signing up for a store’s mailing list sometimes has its perks. The other day, I wanted to buy something at Old Navy. I signed up for their mailing list and received an email for a “Take $10 off $50” coupon shortly thereafter. Be careful though. Coupons can be a double-edged sword. Just because you have a coupon does not substantiate a particular purchase. Figure out first if it is something you really want, and if so, then apply the coupon towards the purchase.
- Do some comparison shopping. Another strategy I typically follow is to shop around. With the advent of the Internet, comparison shopping has never been easier. With a few clicks of the mouse, you can obtain the price of an item from a cornucopia of different vendors. However, if you are making the purchase online, make sure that the vendor is reputable. The lowest price online is not necessarily the best deal for you.
- Buy out of season. If you’re buying clothes, wait until the clothes is out of season. You’re sure to get it for cheaper than if you would’ve bought it a few months earlier. The same logic applies to technological goods, which are constantly being upgraded and enhanced. A new, top-of-the-line camera that was selling for $500 two or three years ago might not even be worth half that today. You don’t always need to have the best and newest items today.
Following these strategies on your next purchase is a great idea, but you also have to develop a long-term approach. If you continue to apply these tips, then they will eventually be ingrained into your head. Make it a habit to be conscious about your spending. You can undoubtedly free up some extra money which can go towards more important things in your life.