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You Won’t Die if You Don’t Buy. Here’s Why.

You Won’t Die if You Don’t Buy. Here’s Why.

Are you grappling with finances? Advice on how to make money is everywhere – from investment planners, successful start-up CFOs, online gurus, and self-proclaimed experts sitting next to you at the bar. They’re all focused on getting more income into your wallet, which is great! But no one talks much about where your money disappears to. I’m not offering a complicated output analysis or turning you into a miser. Consider these suggestions to keep expenses in check. Whenever you’re tempted to purchase on  impulse, I’ll be the voice in your head that asks ,”Will you die if you don’t buy?”

Here’s an interesting statistic: Black Friday is a peak U.S. shopping day. A National Retail Federation Research shows the total spent on Black Friday in 2013 was a staggering US $57 Billion! That’s a lot of buying.

Let’s begin with questions that help you find and plug the holes in your wallet.

1.  What do you spend the most money on?

You won’t forget the restaurant bill last weekend anytime soon but how much in any given month goes to groceries, eating out, fuel/car maintenance, the children and school-related expenses? Numbers in black and white jolt you with a picture of your spending patterns. You’ll know your monthly expense totals per spending category and payment medium like cash, credit card, or check payments. You can then plan which areas to cut down on. You’ll also see exactly why your expense total shot up. If you don’t buy unnecessarily, you’ll stay within limits.

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Tracking expenses requires that you keep all receipts and spend some time once a month to record and add them up. Initially, you need to prepare customized templates using any spread sheet – one form for cash payments, the other for credit card and check payments. Tally your expenses by relevant categories such as groceries, eating out, phone and other utilities, car, etc.

2.  Do you know how much money you have?

Sure you know how much you make and yes, you have money squared away, but do you make sure there is money left after paying your monthly bills? Again, recording your funds in black and white guides you to prioritize your necessary expenses. Don’t buy anything else if your funds are low.

3.  Are you able to pay your credit card bills in full?

If the answer is no, don’t use one. In her book Women and Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny,” Suze Orman describes this as “the downward spiral of paying less than the entire bill and being charged interest on everything you don’t pay off.” Imagine if you had multiple credit cards! Interest on credit card debt is an expense you can avoid. Don’t buy on credit if you cannot  pay  the statement amount in full each month.

4.  Do you know when bills are due?

It’s when bills catch you by surprise that you hastily issue a check and don’t realize that it is not supported by your account balance. Or else, you opt to pay the bill late. You get slapped a penalty for issuing a bad check or you pay interest for late payment. Both are avoidable.  Prepare a monthly and yearly schedule that shows when mortgage, taxes, insurance, school fees, and utility payments are due. Don’t buy at all on the week or month when big payments are scheduled.

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5.  Don’t buy before asking, “What if?”

You’re thinking of buying a new outfit for a close friend’s wedding. What if you look deep into your closet for that cocktail dress you hardly used and jazz it up with a glittery wrap?  What if you borrow a dress from your sister? You want to buy a new grass cutter and a tent for monthly barbeques. What if you rent instead? You’re shopping for a present for your favorite aunt. What if you make her a bead necklace or an embroidered pillowcase? It’s your hobby and you have the materials already! Buying is not the only option.

6.  Mindful shopping can be guiltless, rewarding, and fun.

Review your intention and answer these questions.

Why? Shop only to buy something that’s needed or to get a treat you’ve been saving up for.

How? Make a list and keep to it. Learn the discipline of buying only one major thing at a time. Don’t buy an expensive pair of shoes plus an outfit or a bag at the same time. It builds restraint and guards your cash flow.

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When? Shop only when you can afford to. It’s best to time it during a sale. Don’t go shopping every weekend or simply because there’s a sale. That’s the reason you have a closet full of unused stuff and higher-than-usual expense.

With whom? Don’t shop in a group. You’ll end up with purchases made from getting carried away. Maybe someone else bought it or somebody said “Buy it. It’s such a good deal!” It’s hard to think clearly with opinions flying about, but going with a level-headed friend can curb your impulses.

Working as hotel expatriates, a group of 5 of us single women often shopped together. We were of the same built and shoe size. We bought – in one go – similar outfits and shoes in varying colors and styles. It was really fun but even then, I was the voice of reason (and party pooper) always asking “Will we die if we don’t buy?”

What? Buy the original. Go for quality and versatility. Be willing to pay expensively. The number of times and ways you’ll use good-quality things will be worth their price. There is no real excuse to buy knock-offs or pirated stuff which don’t last and add to landfills. Instead, save up and buy the original or choose good quality, unbranded products. Never buy products from endangered species. Animals should not unduly die just so you can buy.

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Where? Have a list of personally preferred brands you use and shops you buy from on the basis of quality of product and service. This builds relationship and rewards. It also keeps you from unscheduled purchases in random places.

Who? Consider the makers’ and sellers’ corporate social responsibility record: do they pay fair wages, sustain the environment, minimize waste, and give back to the community? Choose to spend your money in support of people who’re doing good things.

By sticking to a set of criteria, you simplify buying decisions and actually save money. Check out these other money-saving enjoyable experiences, too.

7.  Do you block the flow?

Doing all these suggestions could reveal you’re not doing so badly, financially. Don’t forget other people who are not doing so well financially and be willing to help them out. Help could be in the form of a small monthly donation or a one-time donation to a cause you care about. Or it could be a loan to a struggling friend. Be part of the flow and respect the law of abundance. When you cascade some of what you have to others, you also make space in your wallet for more.

Featured photo credit: cohdra via morguefile.com

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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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