We’re used to thinking of procrastination as a bad thing. We should avoid procrastinating; if we do something now, we don’t have to worry about it later. But when it comes to our personal finances, procrastination isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sure, we need to get our bills paid on time, but by practicing putting off other expenses we can save money in the long-term.
Procrastination and Saving
The longer we can put off a particular purchase, the more opportunity we have to save up for it. Some people like to replace certain items as soon as they show signs of wear: cars, clothes, equipment of all sorts. But that approach doesn’t get full value out of those things that we’ve already bought — and it makes it more likely that we’ll have to make a purchase on credit, paying more than sticker price when all is said and done. With a little creative procrastination, you can also increase your chances of buying whatever you’re after during a sale. If you can keep an eye on prices from a particular vendor for as little as a month, you can often take advantage of a sale.
While nursing a car that’s on a downward trend isn’t great, it can get a few more months of transportation out of it. That’s a few more months you can be putting money in the bank for a down payment on a new ride. You can patch clothing or stretch the life of equipment and extend their utility in just the same way. Some people will argue that fixing up something broken will actually cost you more than purchasing something new: putting a new transmission in an older car can cost the same as purchasing another car entirely. I’ll admit that there isn’t really a way to put a patch over a broken transmission, but there are a lot of problems that you can solve with short-term fixes. Remember, you’re just trying to delay a purchase rather than avoid it entirely. If your car (or whatever you’re trying to procrastinate replacing) is to the point that it’ll be more expensive to replace in a few months — you’re expecting towing fees, an accident or a similar problem), then go ahead and replace it. But if the problem is along the ‘duct tape the mirror in place’ lines, try procrastinating.
Procrastination and Forgetting
Making a policy of procrastination can plug a hole in your pocket. Most of us have wandered through a store and discovered that we really need something — maybe a new television or a book — that we didn’t even know we wanted when we entered the store. Stores are designed to create that feeling. There’s nothing wrong with wanting those cool toys, but it’s generally worthwhile to try to procrastinate buying them. Set a time limit: if you still really want that must-have product in three days, you can come back for it.
You’ll find, though, that most of the time you’ll actually forget all about that item you absolutely ‘needed.’ Procrastinating is a way to limit unnecessary purchases without feeling like you’re depriving yourself. I’ve actually tried to make a policy of procrastinating about more than just impulse purchases. If I see something advertised that seems absolutely awesome, I don’t automatically add it to my shopping list or even my wishlist. If I still remember about it a couple of days later — then I add it to my lists. Procrastinating doesn’t mean that we can’t buy stuff — it just helps us narrow our purchases down to stuff we really want.
Procrastination and Renewing
Waiting to renew subscriptions and memberships can pay off. If you put off paying for a renewal, you may find that you don’t really use the service you’re paying for all that much. And if you do like it enough to renew, it’s still worthwhile to wait to renew: because companies want to ensure that you’ll keep paying them, they’ll often offer deals to those customers with subscriptions or memberships about to lapse.
My favorite magazine is notorious about this: the first reminder to renew that I received this year was for the full price of the magazine. But by the time I actually renewed, I had received several offers, each cheaper than the last. I only paid about $10 for the full year’s subscription — about a fifth of the normal price — and I didn’t miss an issue, since I received the first offer about six months before my subscription would have lapsed. This style of procrastination can take a little more planning than others — it’s useful to set yourself some sort of reminder of the last day you can take advantage of a particular deal or the last day you can renew without having to re-sign up for a service.
What Else Can You Procrastinate?
I have noticed that procrastinating is only an effective strategy when it comes to spending money. If you’re trying to save or earn money, procrastination isn’t a practical solution. But within the spending category, it can be a simple strategy to keep money in the bank.
I know that plenty of people have saved money through a little practical procrastination. Let us know the ways you’ve been able to take advantage of putting something off to save money in the comments.