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6 Steps to Stop Buying Things You Really Don't Need

Living a Better Life ® (featured column)
by Michelle Jones, founder of BetterBudgeting

As we begin our year of sharing tips for saving more and spending less, here are 6 easy steps to help get you on the right track. Sometimes saving more and spending less means getting a bargain price on a purchase. More often than not, it simply means not buying things we do not need.

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We've all done it. Buy things we may really want, but do not truly need. One or two purchases a year might not be a problem, but doing this on regular basis could really wreck your budget. This article is for those of us who want and need to keep our spending habits in check.

As I just mentioned, making an occasional purchase for items you do not need isn't so bad. After all, if no one ever made a purchase again for things they didn't need our economies might come to a screeching halt, businesses would close, and jobs would be lost.

Here's a somewhat amusing example you may be able to relate to; of the difference between buying an item that you want or need:

Think about that new insulated water or coffee cup you purchased last month because it's your favorite color, a new popular brand, nicer than the one you currently use and oh yes of course, it was also on SALE. At the time of making a decision to purchase non-needed items, it often seems like a great idea. Well. Until you got home and realized there wasn't even room for it in your kitchen cabinet because of all the cups you already own.

When things like this happen you might not even give it a second thought, but hopefully you will from now on. This is the point when you must stop for a moment and ask yourself, "Did I really need to buy that new cup? Book? New outfit?" (Insert whatever item you most recently purchased.)

Sure, you may be able to make room for your cool new cup by giving a few old cups away. That's good. The problem is, you still spent money buying something you did NOT need. Which is more money you could have saved.

For those who find themselves spending money on things they don't need, more than just occasionally, here are 6 tips for buying less:

1. Keep a "Need to Buy" List

Just like you might keep a running list of food items you need to buy on your next trip to the grocery store, keep a second list of current miscellaneous things you need to buy. I call it our "Need to Buy" list. Update it as often as needed and start a new list when you're done with the current one, whether there are 2 items on your list or 20. This will help you budget for miscellaneous purchases and also give you a mental picture of what you really need vs. what you might want to buy.

2. Double Check before You Buy

Before you start shopping for the items on your list, check to make sure you don't already have some of the items already around the house, OR maybe something that might work in its place. If a replacement exists, cross the item off your list.

3. Wait for it - Wait for it

To ensure that you purchase only the items you need and not all the extras that you don't, waiting is almost always a good thing. Many times when you postpone buying an item, you'll discover you really don't need it after all. There are several different methods for waiting to make a purchase so just do what works best for you and your circumstances. You can wait 24 or 48 hours. You can wait 30 days. Frankly, you can wait any amount of time, as long as you wait long enough to think about and mentally confirm the true need for your purchase. Before you buy it. (More on this coming in next month's column!)

4. Stay Out of the Stores (local and online)

Back in the day, before the Internet, the challenge of buying less could easily be solved by simply not going shopping. Staying away from the local malls and tossing mail catalogs in the trash was a frugal financial discipline. And it worked. Today, for shopping locally, this still applies. If you need to spend less money stay out of the stores as much as possible. When you're ready to make a purchase go to the store, purchase the item(s) on your Need to Buy list, then leave. To stop buying things you don't need on the Internet, don't visit shopping websites until you need to make a purchase. Then, make your purchase and log out.

5. Avoid the Extra Cost of "Free Shipping"

Everyone loves free shipping when buying items online. However, sometimes it's a good deal and sometimes not. Do the math. If the minimal amount of money you might need to pay for shipping will be less than the amount it would cost to make additional purchases (to qualify for "free shipping"), you might be better off paying the shipping fee for your single purchase. Free shipping offers have probably been a gold mine for online retailers as they encourage consumers to buy more and more items they don't really need. Good for them, not good for families who are trying to spend less money and/or buy less stuff that may end up as unwanted clutter a few months down the road.

6. Take a Picture - It Lasts Longer

For those times when you are shopping at a store and see something you would like to buy, but really should not purchase, because you do NOT need to, take a picture instead. If the store will allow it. At least then you will have a photo of the item you wanted, did not need, and saved money on by not purchasing! Then you'll have a photo reference for the exact item you want, along with the price, just in case you do decide to make the purchase later.

Stay tuned for more tips next month. Not a member yet? Subscribe to our free monthly ezine here...

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