Here’s a little exercise you should try the next time you find yourself on the verge of making a big spend, whether it be impulse or otherwise. Stop and ask yourself these five-second finance questions to help clear your mind and make sure that you are spending your hard earned cash in the right way.
There aren’t many of them, and it’s worth committing them to heart. They shouldn’t take more than five seconds each to ask and answer, and always go with your initial response even if it’s not the answer you want.
The human mind can famously reason its way into and out of anything (like when we all loved frosted tips in the 90s), so make sure that you go with your initial answer as it will be the most honest. It won’t steer you wrong.
Do I really need it?
Ie. Will my life collapse if I don’t buy this?
If it’s a new sweater, I’m thinking the answer is probably no. However, if it’s new car tyres I’m thinking potentially yes. (Never skimp on safety. Nothing is worth the risk). If you really need it then buy it, it will be worth the cost.
Can I afford it?
Ie. Will it send you into debt, or your overdraft? Will buying it mean that you will need to skimp on other essentials like heating, rent, or food?
If you can afford it then by all means buy it, enjoying your money is not a sin, but make sure it’s not false economy.
How often will I use it?
Whilst it doesn’t apply to everything (such as a holiday), it is a question that will apply to most, so it is always worth asking.
If something is costly but you will use it a lot then it may be worth the cost. A great rule of thumb is dividing the cost of the item by the amount you use it. For example, my sunglasses cost me £110 (shudder). However, I wear them solidly from June through to September (roughly 120 days) and I have had them for two years.
So, for arguments sake let’s say I’ve worn them 240 times (8 months).
**£110/240 = 0.45p **
That means, to date, they have cost me 45p every time I’ve worn them. This will continue to decrease as I wear them more often. So as far as I’m concerned, they’ve been worth the money I paid because I use them all the time.
How will it add value to my life?
This is actually something taken from the minimalist’s handbook, but is a great question nonetheless. How is this thing you are about to spend your hard earned cash on going to bring added value to your life? Are you buying it only for that 5-minute spending high, or will it be something that will continue to have a purpose for a long time to come?
If it won’t add true long lasting value then don’t buy it, it will be wasted money.
Can I buy it cheaper elsewhere?
Something you should always ask yourself, no matter what it is you’re buying. Saving money is about being resourceful and shopping savvy. Never buy something if you can get it at a better price elsewhere. It is always worth taking the time to look around at your other options before you commit. This is especially true if it is a big or important spend such as insurance, a holiday, or a long running commitment like a phone or car contract.
If you feel your spending behaviour is routinely unhealthy or negative then you should read our posts about how you are sabotaging yourself with your spending habits, and maybe you could think about puting yourself on a financial detox to try and get back some control.