Spend Less Using Your Imagination

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Spend Less Using Your Imagination

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It can be extremely difficult to spend less, especially if you are not sure how your spending is getting out of control.  While budgeting and tracking your spending are great tools to help you in your endeavor to spend less, the urge to spend can often overwhelm your better judgment

Frivolous spending can be a major problem that cannot be fixed by creating a budget or meticulously tracking your spending alone.  While budgeting helps you put limits on your spending, you may find that changing your attitude is necessary to help you stop spending money when you have the urge.

Example 1: Spend less by imagining various alternative possibilities

Imagine that you are at the mall and you see a great pair of shoes for $60.  You may decide in that moment that you could use a new pair of shoes; however, before you take the shoes up to the counter, think of what else you might be able to buy using that $60. Are there any other items that you have wanted that cost $60?  Do you enjoy new pants even more than shoes and would you enjoy a pair of pants more for the same amount of money?  Could there be another pair of shoes out there that you might like more or a pair that is cheaper?

When you spend money to acquire an item you are foregoing the endless opportunity that money ($60 in this case) affords you.  Before the money is spent, you could have purchased anything in the mall or outside of the mall that was $60 or less, including different shoes, a few shirts, a video game… the list goes on.  You could also buy something in the future for $60 when you really need it.  But after you spend the money, you are left with only those items you actually bought for $60.  You no longer have options with that $60, you are simply stuck with the thing you bought.

Example 2: Spend less by imagining things you will want to buy in the future.

The purpose of money is to give you the ability to easily trade your own labor/capital for goods and services.  If you want to go on vacation now or buy a new car now, chances are you will still want to do those types of things in the future.  Unfortunately, the human body degrades over time and limits our ability to make money as we grow older.  With that in mind, the next time you are out making a frivolous purchase (let’s use the $60 pair of shoes again), imagine yourself at age 70 at Value Village (a thrift store) looking at used shoes for $10 and not really being able to afford anything because you have already spent through your social security check.

While this is hopefully somewhat of an exaggeration (hopefully you are already saving for retirement), this shows how your imagination can be a powerful tool to help you spend less.  Simply run a few of these scenarios through your mind every time you want to make a frivolous purchase; if you still think it is worth it to spend the money despite those scenarios then you have proved to yourself that you do indeed really want the item in question.

Example 3: Spend less by considering cheaper but equally satisfying options

In the heat of the moment you may feel as if the thing you want is worth any amount of money and therefore it is worth buying regardless of the cost.  An example of this is instead of eating out at expensive restaurants, try coming up with a few cheaper restaurants that you really enjoy.  The next time you feel the need to eat out, think about how many more meals you could have at your favorite less expensive restaurants.  Imagine the happiness you will get from eating out 4 times versus only once.  If you still feel that eating once at the fancy restaurant trumps 4 times at your favorite less expensive option then you can opt for the fancier place.

Conclusion: Use your imagination to spend less

Imagining other possibilities every time you want to spend money will help you determine whether you are getting the most bang for your buck.  Chances are, your imagination will help you spend less as the nature of money implies that there are likely more attractive alternatives out there for every dollar you desire to spend at any given moment.  Even with all of the tools in place it can be very difficult to spend less, but with budgeting, tracking your spending, and your imagination you will be better equipped to accomplish your budgeting and saving goals.

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