This is a guest post by Fiona Lippey. Fiona is the author of the bestselling book The $21 Challenge and founder of Australia's largest frugal website, SimpleSavings.net.
If you want to save money, and I mean really save money, then you're going to have to stop buying Stuff. You have reduce the amount you consume. Today I want to share the system I've been using for the last 15 years to reduce my spending and make sure I don't get tricked out of my hard-earned cash.
Question 1: Stop! Is this a good decision?
Before you reach for your cash, before you grab your credit card, before you pick up the item up from the sales rack, pause for just a minute. Stop yourself and think about whether or not you are about to make a good or a bad decision. A marketer or salesperson's job is to make you think you need something that five minutes earlier you didn't know existed. Find a way to trigger your internal alarm bell, so you can stop for a second and move on to question number two.
Question 2: Are you hungry?
If your belly is empty then your decision making is impaired. Our bodies get confused between the desire for food and inedible objects. So if you are hungry, step away, eat something, then wait for 15 minutes before moving on to question three.
Question 3: Is there something else?
There are so many other things you could buy. Is this item really the one you want to spend your hard-earned money on? There are other things you could achieve with this money. Will you be limiting yourself by making the purchase? If you have decided that this is the only thing you want, go to question four.
Question 4: Is it worth the effort?
Every time you reach for your cash, ask yourself if it is really worth the effort. If every $15 you spend is an hour you're going to have to work, is it worth the effort? Or should you leave your money in your wallet? (It's so much easier than having to earn extra money!) Now, if you have decided the purchase is really is worth the bother, move on to the fifth question.
Question 5: What will you gain?
Next, work out what you or your family will gain by buying the item. What are the longterm consequences? Will it improve your health and happiness or genuinely give you more free time? How? If you cannot answer these questions positively, then leave your money in your wallet. It is important that you be really skeptical when you answer this question. Now move to question six.
Question 6: What will you lose?
When you buy an item, you both gain something and lose something. If you are lucky, the only thing you lose is cash and the time it took you to earn that money. But this is not always the case. A great example of this is a computer game. You gain entertainment, but you might lose quality time with your family. Once you are certain you have accounted for everything you could lose, move on to the next question.
Question 7: Is there a better way?
Now it is time to shop around for a better price and work out the smartest way to buy it. How can you get the best value for your dollar in the minimum time possible? Occasionally, working it out for yourself will take more time than you save (when calculating your time as an hourly wage), but you will get satisfaction in knowing that you've found a great deal and are doing the best for your family. Once you have researched your purchase and found the best way to buy it, go to question eight.
Question 8: Do you have the cash to spare?
Most of the time, buying things on credit is stupid. So if you don't have the cash, remain free, walk away, and live happily ever after. Consumer purchases aren't worth burdening yourself with debt. This means you should avoid credit cards, layaways, interest-free loans, mortgage refinancing facilities, etc. Only buy something if you have the spare cash — and if you don't, go home and save until you do.
If want to save yourself some money, write down the eight steps and put them in your wallet! Every penny you save is one you don't have to earn!
Author: April Dykman
As a freelance writer, editor, and blogger, April Dykman specialized in personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship topics. Her work has been featured on MSNBC, Fox Business, Forbes, MoneyBuilder, Yahoo! Finance, Lifehacker, and The Consumerist. Now she does direct response copywriting but, in her free time, April is a wannabe chef, a diehard Italophile, and a recovering yogi.