Like most of you, I try to be frugal whenever possible. For some us it just comes natural and for others it’s hard work. I see myself moving away from frivolous spending towards frugal spending daily. I’ve been trying really hard to take care of my personal finances so it’s becoming painful to pay full price for something! Last weekend I went shoe shopping, and I found a pair that I really liked. I thought they made me look professional and laid back (I’m not sure how that happens, but it did). They weren’t on sale, and the store refused to give me a discount. Even though I really wanted those darn shoes, I couldn’t pull the trigger. I was able to walk away from them because, to me, shoes aren’t important. It’s crucial that we all take a minute to think about what’s important to us. I’m not talking about friends, family, and pets. We all find those things important. I’m looking at this from a purchasing point of view (most of us don’t buy our loved ones). If we know which purchases are important to us then we will also know which aren’t.
I’ve been thinking about this idea for a long time, and it’s really helped me save money while being satisfied with my purchasing choices. Every time we buy something there is usually a name brand and a generic/off brand. Which should we get? Really frugal people might always go for the cheapest products, but most of us, even if we care about our finances, won’t be content if we practice that type of shopping. The following is an example from my past that will help explain this. A couple years ago I lived with my friend Jimmy. Jimmy ended up getting the flu, and he wanted to borrow some NyQuil from me. At the time I had two huge bottles of some stuff I bought that were generic NyQuil. When I bought them I thought I was getting a great deal. They were 2 for the price of 1! When I handed them over to him he looked like a dear stuck in the headlights. He reluctantly took some. When I got home a few hours later he had a bottle of actual NyQuil sitting on the kitchen table. When I asked him about it he said, “That generic stuff doesn’t work. I had to go get the real thing.” I was shocked. Here I thought I got a good deal on some disgusting tasting off brand NyQuil, but it wasn’t good enough for him. To me medicine is medicine. The brand doesn’t matter. I’m not going to spend extra money to get an actual bottle of NyQuil. To Jimmy all cold medicines are different, and even though they have the same ingredients, some work better than others. He knows he is going to pay more for the “real” stuff, but he is willing to do so because it makes him feel better. He cares about his personal finances, but sometimes we have to go with what we trust (even if it costs extra).
How can you save money by knowing which purchases are important to you? Follow these 4 steps and you can get your answer:
1) Make a list with 3-5 non-negotiable items that you won’t go cheap on.
a. EX: medicine, food, and electronics
2) Memorize your list or carry it around with you.
3) Every time you buy something check to see if it’s one of your non-negotiable items.
4) If it’s not on your list go for the cheapest thing you can find that still fits your needs, and if it is on your list go with whatever you think is best.
The whole point of this is to keep your list short. If you have a list with 100 items it won’t help your personal finances. If you only have a few non-negotiable it will save you money, make shopping easier, and you can be proud with your purchasing decisions. Jimmy’s list has medicine on it, but it doesn’t have clothes. When he goes shopping he knows he won’t be frugal when buying Nyquil, but he also knows he should shop for clothes off the clearance rack. It’s important to remember that budgeting doesn’t mean always buying cheap stuff. It means you’re taking care of your money in a way that suits you best and enables you to meet your goals. This is just another tool to stay on track. My question to you is: Do you know which purchases are important to you?