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Estimates by top sources claim we waste close to 30% of our paychecks on impulsive purchases. Even during hard times, we spend our money on items that we either do not need or items that we overpaid.
This financial strain keeps some people up at night and stressed. So what can you do about it? When I first started my own personal budget, I was amazed at how much I spend eating at restaurants and how much I spend on entertainment items such as movies, books, etc.
Smart shopping is about more than just knowing where to find great deals. A new attitude is required, a new way of doing things. This change is a true way of life. Once you have developed this attitude, you can never return to your old way of doing things.
Failing to maintain a new attitude will cause you to become more than a statistic. Credit card debt for the average family now reaches over $15,000.
Sometimes we need to get back to the basics and simplify our living and our spending habits. I once read in The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey (special price in link) to put your cash in an envelope and live off that to avoid impulsive purchases. Also, have an envelope for each bill that is due. It reminds us how we need to stretch every dollar as far as possible because last time I checked, money doesn’t grow on trees.
"Failing to maintain a new attitude will cause you
to become more than a statistic."
I have even changed my eating habits to save $20 because money was so tight. It was a great mental lesson to appreciate every dollar I have earned. Even clipping coupons and shopping for sales was a common practice. If you have read my previous blog post, you will know that I am a huge advocate for PlateJoy. They have made my meal planning and grocery list so much easier in terms of saving money and time.
Shopping for great deals takes time, but more than anything else it takes common sense. Be organized and have a time of the week to research. Remember that your goal is to not just save a few dollars this week...it is changing all of your shopping habits.
Understanding how retail works will make it easier to save money. Most of us have heard that the best time of the month to buy a car is at the end of the month when dealers are pushing sales to meet quotas. It is true you can save hundreds to thousands of dollars by being at the right place at the right time. Most other items have better months to buy them.
Impulsive buying habits create more of a challenge for savvy shoppers than overspending on an item. Understand that the things that retailers want to sell the most are at eye level. These items normally have the highest margins. Looking higher on the shelf will help some, but most true bargains are on the lower shelves.
Here is a 6 step checklist to post somewhere you will see them every time you go shopping:
1. Always have a list. Never shop without a list. But more importantly, use the list. Do not stray from the list unless it is to save you money the next time that you shop.
2. Comparison shop before you leave the house. For groceries look at the weekly ads and for other items use the internet. Some everyday items can vary by up to 20% from store to store.
3. Set a Budget and Follow It. Setting this amount and following it will save you the heartache at the moment you pay the bill.
4. Is this an item that you can live without? Why are you purchasing something is more important than what you are paying for it. Remember you will save 100% of the purchase price if you don't buy something that you don't need.
5. Keep your pricing research with you when you are shopping. This will keep your focus on what you are buying and what you are going to pay.
6. Always, Always, Always ask for a discount. If you can save 5% on everything that you buy this would be like having a 10% pay raise because it is with after-tax dollars. It is real money not coming out of your pocket.
Don't make shopping a chore. Turn price saving into a game and see if you can beat last week's score (cost). Or can I spend less money today than I did yesterday?
The most important thing though is to put the money that you saved to work for you so you can quit working for your money. Invest it as you get it. Make sure that you pay yourself first. The future of your finances depends on it.