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Think Before You Spend: 5 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Buy

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A few years ago, when I first started attending university and working, I often felt the need to spend money on things I didn’t really need. I always felt like I had to keep up with everyone else, which meant buying brand named items and trendy fashion pieces. All of us feel this need for impulse purchases or little splurges from time to time but does this pattern mean we just spend years paying off debt when we could be living debt free?

According to Joshua Becker, author of the blog Becoming Minimalist, the average American home size has doubled in the past 50 years. 

Becker notes that 10% of households rent offsite storage, and that 25% of homeowners with two-car garages can’t park cars in them. 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. The average US household credit card debt stands at $15,191.

People are working longer hours everyday and missing precious time with their families in order to pay back the accumulated debt from buying too much stuff. In order to combat this sometimes vicious spending cycle, I have put together some questions that will help you think before you spend:

1. Do you really need it or are you just buying it because it’s on sale?

I know what you’re thinking: I really do need another black sweater! But, wait a moment, think before you spend. If you already have something functional in your closet, then you really don’t need another one. Sales are there for us to grab bargains on things we really need so if there isn’t something like that right in front of you then step away from the clearance rack. A bargain is not a bargain if the item is never going to be used.

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2. Can you get it for less?

Something I continually ask myself before buying anything at the shopping centre is whether it is possible for me to get the same thing somewhere else for less money. Many times it is a lot cheaper to find the same or similar items online and sometimes even overseas depending on shipping costs. If you don’t need the item new, check out eBay and thrift stores to find a similar item at a lower price.

3. Can you afford it?

This is a big one for many people, especially those who are wanting to keep up with the rat race. Sure, having a brand new designer car is wonderful but are you buying the item just because you want to look a certain way or is it something you need? If you need to go into more debt in order to buy the item, it might be time to let it go and work on saving up for it. If you really want the item, you’ll be happy to wait for it.

4. Is it an impulse buy?

So you had a bad day at work and that $1000 handbag you’ve been eyeing off is looking pretty nice right now. We all fall into the trap of impulse buying or emotional shopping. Impulse buys are the worst kind as there is usually little thinking behind the purchase and a lot of guilt following it. Rather than just buying something when you’re feeling bad, think before you spend and be sure to sleep on it. Alternatively you can add it to the calendar 30 days from now, and if you still want the item after 30 days then go for it.

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5. Can you get it for free?

There are lots of websites where you can find people to trade or swap items with you or who give away items for free. Before splashing out on a brand new printer for your office check out websites like Craigslist.com to see if there is a free or cheaper alternative. There are also yard sales or sales at the rubbish tip where you may be lucky and find a bargain. If all else fails, check out Facebook groups in your area for selling items or ask a friend or family member if they are looking to offload some items.

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