Today I’d like to focus on wasting money; and one of the best ways to stop throwing your money away is to stop buying what you don’t use. Simple idea, tough in practice.
Identify Your Financial Leakage
From childhood to adulthood to parenthood, my experiences have shown me that there are basically 5 areas of overconsumption we Americans can’t help avoiding. The desire for bigger, better, and more stuff reaches into our wardrobe, our house, our car, our food, and non-essential luxury items.
Before you can stop wasting money, you’ve got to first identify the areas in your life where money is being thrown around carelessly. A monthly budget or spending plan will make the identification process much easier.
My Own Miscues – I caught myself in a pretty funny position just two days after I wrote a Black Friday coupon article. (It was a message about taking precautions against coupons that suck you into a store where you wind up spending way more than what the coupon offered.)
I went to a local toy store to buy my 2-year-old son two small battery-operated trucks for Christmas. And what luck I had, these particular trucks were 40% off, marked down to $4.79 each.
I quickly grabbed four trucks and headed to the checkout counter. But I stopped dead in my tracks just yards from the cashier and began to laugh at myself, “This is exactly what I wrote about avoiding, but I’m still getting sucked into the sale.”
I placed two trucks back on the shelf, bought the two I intended on in the first place, and ran home before I spent one more dollar. There’s no way my son needed four of these trucks (he might not even need two), but it’s hard to pass up a deal. Luckily, I recognized the potential waste before it was too late.
Time to Ask the Tough Questions
A good way to identify areas where you’re buying things that you’re not using is to take a personal inventory of your posessions. It’s time to be real with yourself. You’ve got to take this on full steam and don’t shy away from the hard questions.
Clothing – How many shirts, shoes, pants, or skirts are in your closet right now with the original tag still attached? How many pieces of clothing are in your kid’s or spouse’s closets that are outgrown and still brand new? How many versions of the exact same outfit do you own? Are you spending way too much on clothes?
Housing – Are you living in too much house or too much apartment? Does your study, your formal living room, or your dining room just sit there unused and rejected? How long has it been since your third bathroom toilet has been flushed? Were you a sucker for square footage when you were shopping, but you only use 70% of what you bought? Is your variable APR about to smack you in the face?
Vehicle – Who are you trying to impress with your car, truck, or SUV? Have you been regretting your new car decision ever since you had to make the first payment? Do you save for car maintenance? Do you use your vehicle for its intended purposes? Did you get sweet-talked into a bad deal at the dealership, but you’re too embarrassed to make the necessary changes?
Food – Has eating out changed from a special occasion to three or four times a week? Are you spending $250 a month eating out for lunch with coworkers? Are you wasting money at the market? Is your membership to the bulk grocery store resulting in massive amounts of food being thrown into the garbage? Can you remember the last time you actually cooked something at home with more than 3 ingredients?
Luxury Items – Has your definition of needs and wants been totally skewed by advertising and access to celebrity news? Has Twitter given you a fruitless reason to “need” whatever hot topic is on fire this month? Is everything in your life the upgraded version of a less expensive counterpart? Are you ever satisfied with your stuff, or are you constantly on the lookout for the next big thing to add to your life?
Pull Back on the Reigns
The answers to these questions will have a lot to do with your personality, your current lifestyle, how you were raised, and what your future financial goals include.
I’m not saying everyone can or should live a minimalist life. But what we can all do is take a look around and ask ourselves “Do I really need this?” or “Will I ever use this?” or “What’s my true motivation for this purchase?”
We have the ability to control what we spend our money on. Stop letting your house pile up with things that you bought but never use. It’s up to you to make the right decisions based on your income level, your family needs, and your financial future.
What about you? Share an area of your life that you just can’t say “no” to new purchases.
Photo By IntangibleArts