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4 Ways You Can Shop Without Spending Any Money

4 Ways You Can Shop Without Spending Any Money

Everywhere we turn, we are surrounded by advertisements telling us that our happiness lies within the product they sell. However, numerous consumer studies have shown that the stuff we buy often fails to deliver on that guarantee. Regardless, we find ourselves caught in an infinite cycle of longing and purchasing, constantly searching for the items that, if the price is right, will bring us absolute joy.

Retail therapy isn’t all it’s cut out to be though. It turns out that happiness lies in the desire for stuff and the journey it takes to acquire it, but wanes after the actual acquisition.

The novelty of new purchases wears off over time whereas the happiness derived from experiences lasts much longer. Why should we continue to spend money on all this stuff if it’s not improving the overall quality of our lives?

While we may be able to provide anecdotal evidence to support the claim that shopping does make us happier, that pleasure is unfortunately short-lived. Take a moment to scope out your recent purchases around your house and ask yourself how much of that still ignites a feeling of excitement and joy.

Whether or not the fact that shopping doesn’t make us any happier is news to you, we are well aware of the financial implications of our shopping habits. Money spent on items that don’t improve our quality of life can be money spent to pay down overbearing debt or put into savings to pay for experiences like vacations or hobbies – purchases that do retain their value in happiness over time.

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Even when we realize that ongoing joy can’t be found at the bottom of a shopping bag, we still get that yearning to head out to the stores. The next time you get the urge to spend money at the expense of your financial goals, harness that desire and try these four ways to hack the exhilaration of shopping without actually spending any money:

1. Go shopping in your closet.

Start by organizing your closets and cabinets. As daunting as this sounds, going through the clutter and purging what you don’t want will bring new life to the stuff you choose to keep.

Rather than shopping for additions, shop for items you can get rid of. You can do this with clothing, accessories, kitchen gadgets, food pantries, book collections and even knick-knacks around your house.

Get rid of the stuff you don’t need or enjoy and organize the stuff you choose to keep. Make a shopping list of any things you need or want to replace and try the following ideas before you commit to a new purchase.

2. Browse and share on social media.

Next time you get the urge to make a purchase, reach for your camera phone instead of your wallet. You don’t need to own a pair of shoes to take a picture and post it to Instagram.

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The “likes” you receive on a picture is a great substitution for the compliments you would receive if your purchased and wore the shoes in person.

When you stumble upon something that looks really neat but for which you can’t find any immediate use, snap a picture and upload it for your followers to check out. You’ll be much happier knowing it exists rather than as a line item on your credit card statement.

3. Assemble vision boards on Pinterest.

Pinterest satisfies the craving to browse a store without physically stepping into one. You can search for a specific item within Pinterest or peruse the “aisles” of the internet and pin images externally.

Viewing the images of your shopping pursuit through the Pinterest lens keeps you from making impulse purchases as you would while wandering around a physical store.

Rather than adding an item to your online shopping cart, pin the image of the item to a Pinterest board. Keep all of your online shopping on the same board.

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By viewing everything lumped together, rather than as categorized items, you’ll be able to weed out the purchases that aren’t worth your hard-earned money. You can even create a board called “Stuff Not Purchased” later and celebrate all the money you have saved.

Who knows – maybe you’ll even find some inspiration to DIY the items you are searching for!

4. Throw a swap party!

A swap party is an economical and eco-friendly spin on social events. Rather than heading out to the mall with your friends, invite them over with instructions to bring a fixed amount of items they no longer want.

You can stick with just clothing and accessories or include kitchen gadgets and knick-knacks. You can trade, barter or donate to friends while snagging new additions for yourself without spending a dollar.

Remember, someone’s trash might be another person’s treasure! And once the party is over, you can donate anything you were unable to hand off.

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By focusing on the present and carefully considering the fixations of your desires before you pay for them, your pursuit of financial freedom will not be obstructed by material possessions. Focus on the doing, not the having, and always consider what experience you can buy at the expense of another object.

By using the tips above, you might even enjoy the whole process.

Featured photo credit: Girl Pointing At Sky/StokPic via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

2. Keep Goals Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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4. Short Term Vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

  • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
  • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
  • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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5. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

6. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

1. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

Use compound interest when setting financial goals

    Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

    Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

    4. Measure, Measure, Measure

    All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

    If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

    Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

    The Bottom Line

    Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

    and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

    More Tips on Financial Goals

    Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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