Spend Smart: 5 Questions To Ask Before You Buy

In today’s consumer-driven environment it’s easier than ever to buy stuff. Most Americans buy too much stuff. Do you have a set of criteria for making buying decisions? You should. If you don’t, it’s too easy to spend, spend, spend. If you have to spend, learn to spend smart.

chess-433071_1280 Spend Smart: Photo of a chess game.

When You Spend Smart, You Live Smart

If you’re like me, you’ve probably bought some things you don’t really need. Even though I make a point to live simple, I’ve still made some silly purchases. I haven’t always taken the time to spend smart. I’ve bought clothes just because they were on sale. I’ve bought kitchen gadgets that I only used once or twice. I’ve bought food that has spoiled in the refrigerator. Sound familiar? Do you make a point to spend smart?

A few years ago I started questioning my spending habits. I’ve always been a critical thinker when it comes to spending, but I found too many items around my home that I never really used. So I decided to make a list of criteria to consider before making purchases.

Ask These 5 Questions Before You Buy

  1. Is it within your budget? This should always be your first criteria. I’ve made some spending mistakes in the past. I bought things that I couldn’t really afford. I didn’t spend smart. I wound up making payments or going deeper into debt. Unless it’s an emergency or an absolute necessity, never buy on credit. Be sure it’s within your available budget. It’s also a good idea to have $1000 in a backup account at all times. I do.
  2. Do you already have this item? Sometimes we buy things that we already have. Do you really need another coat or another pair of shoes? Do you need a new potato masher? Take inventory of your belongings from time to time. I just found two identical potato mashers in my kitchen-utensil drawer. Sometimes we need to upgrade or replace, but wait until it’s an absolute necessity. Spend smart. 
  3. Do you already have something that will do? Recently, I gave my daughter a full-sized bed. I only had twin-sized and queen-sized blankets and comforters. I could have gone out and bought new full-sized bedding. Instead, I used queen-sized blankets that we’re already in the linen closet. I topped it off with her favorite twin-sized comforter. She was happy and I didn’t have to spend money and wind up with a closet full of extra bedding. 
  4. Will it serve a specific purpose? I realize this may not fit others’ ideas of being minimalist. In fact, I’ve been rethinking the label of minimalist. I think it’s often misused in regard to lifestyle choices. That said, I’m a musician. Some might think I have more musical instruments than I need. So-called minimalists would balk at how many stringed instruments I own. I have three guitars, a banjo, a mandolin, a ukulele, and a bass guitar. I have several amplifiers. I have a variety of drums and percussion tools. Someday, when I move to my dream house, (less than 500 square feet), I aspire to downsize to a couple of core instruments. Currently, I use every piece of musical equipment I own for recording projects. Each instrument serves a specific purpose. In the end, I make music that is very minimalist in nature, but unique in style and texture. 
  5. Will it save you time or money? You might be surprised to know that I recently bought a second vehicle. I went against my own advice. I’m a home owner. I already had a small car, a VW Golf TDI. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient cars you can buy in today’s market. Still, it can’t haul garbage or rocks. So I bought a small used pick-up truck. In six months I’ve saved hundreds of dollars on landscaping and gardening projects. I also recently replaced a non-working dishwasher. That purchase resulted in more time to spend with my daughter, and for writing projects. You spend smart if something you buy saves you time or money.

Think Twice

Next time you’re out shopping, think twice before you buy. Ask yourself if you really need the new product. Think before you spend. Spend smart. 

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