This article was featured in the canrival of personal finance edition #157 found here
I went to visit my Aunt and Grandmother this weekend and found myself drooling over my Aunt’s new toy, a 14.2 megapixel SLR digital camera. I played around with the camera a bit this weekend and found myself justifying my need for 14 mp of pure greatness. Plus I have enough cash in the bank that I could pick it up. Reality check…I don’t need the camera but I REALLY REALLY want it.
Instant gratification, the conscious expenditure of effort to make the time interval between wanting something and getting it as short as possible, lives in all of us. We must control how much reign we allow this beast to have in our day-to-day spending. Do you have credit card debt? If so there is a good chance that the beast within has control of your spending habits. Maturity is often defined by the willingness to delay gratification. Look at your bank statements. Do they reflect mature spending? Where is your money going? Or more importantly, where is your money NOT going…investments, savings, retirement? As I began the justification process for why I should reward myself with 14.2 megapixels of pure heaven the voice of reason whispered in my ear “You already have a camera that you don’t use, do you really need another one?” This my friends is the process of delay of gratification. After a short internal debate, I convinced myself the camera was unnecessary and would delay my “future house” fund.
Discipline is what separates the strong from the weak, the rich from the poor, the smart from the stupid. Are your spending habits disciplined? If you impulse buy when you see a great deal or you spend too much shopping, odds are you haven’t conquered the art of frugality. Here’s some advice to help cure your impulse buying.
1) Just because it’s “on-sale” DOES NOT mean you have to buy it. If it’s on sale at store “A” now it will be on sale at store “B” tomorrow. Be patient.
2) If you are considering using credit to make your purchase, don’t. Force yourself to save. This has many advantages. First, you don’t owe anyone money! Second, it may get cheaper during the time it takes you to save for it. Lastly, once you save up all that cash you might not want it any more because you realized just how hard it is to accumulate that much money.
3) If it’s not essential, don’t buy it. Plain and simple, the key to frugality is only buying the essentials and saving the rest.
There’s plenty of information on the web offering up advice on how to be more disciplined. My advice…get it together. No excuses, no credit, no financing, no spending when you don’t have the money. No big purchases without talking it out with yourself and loved ones. Don’t be stupid. Make the choice to live your life differently.