No matter what you earn, building a comfortable savings and investment nest egg will be difficult if you’re constantly spending on a multitude of things – even if you can afford them.
1. Perform some quick maths to check your reality
While nice things and experiences can be tempting, here are four ways to ensure you say no to purchases – even when you think you can afford it.
Do a little simple division to see how much of your time, effort, and work is eaten up by a potential purchase. Even if you don’t earn a consistent income or aren’t paid by the hour, this can be simply calculated into hours by dividing your regular income into what you approximately earn each hour, and therefore finding out how many hours it takes you to fund each purchase (ensuring you calculate it using your after-tax earnings). Once you’ve found this out, you might find the thought of three hours of your work barely covering the cost of a restaurant meal is likely to inspire you to eat at home a lot more!
Alternately, you could compare the cost of a new purchase to the amount in a savings account, or how long it took to save that amount. Calculating that the cost of a new TV would eat 50% of the savings that took you two years to compile should be enough to give you pause.
Likewise, if you’re really trying to get a better sense of how much you’re spending, avoid using credit cards and spend with cash instead. Spending with cash feels more tangible, because you’re spending real money that took real time, sweat, and effort to earn.
2. Share your goals
Saving towards goals such as a home, a major holiday, raising children, or helping your children enter the property market are a lot more appealing than the minor gratification achieved from small purchases.
It may help to ensure your friends and family stay on the same page by sharing your goals with them. Being open about where you’re allocating your money and why helps others who are close to you understand your habits and curbs their pressure (however well-intentioned) to spend on things that fall outside your goals.
Of course, you don’t have to divulge everything about your finances, but you may find when you share your intentions, your loved ones will be more than happy to help you meet them. After all, they tend to want the best for you.
3. Change your mindset
Even when everyone is on the same page, the temptation to spend on something you don’t need will still come up. Whether someone pressures you to splurge on an item or your friends’ social lives give you “fear of missing out” (FOMO), it can be all too easy to forget about your goals.
So, we suggest making a conscious effort to remember that it really isn’t a matter of what you can afford, but what you want to afford.
4. Count your blessings
First and foremost, being grateful – not just for possessions, but also for the people, places and simple pleasures in life – is good for the soul.
But an attitude of gratitude is also a scientifically proven antidote to impulse purchasing1
because it creates a sense of abundance within you. When you’re feeling full of gratitude, you’re less likely to subconsciously try to fill emotional holes by treating yourself with gifts and accumulating more stuff.
Gratitude: A Tool for Reducing Economic Impatience by David DeSteno, Ye Li, Leah Dickens, and Jennifer S. Lerner