Do you really need that? : How to spend responsibly
Money Money Money Money. When I was growing up, we (my family) never really spoke about money. I knew my needs were met - I had a roof over my head; a comfy bed to sleep in; and cable (even the movie channels!); I didn’t have anything to worry about.
My family members used to tuck money in my Christmas and birthday cards and I amassed a tiny bit of wealth. I had enough savings to even give my parents loans on occasion; I was pretty serious about this too, I had them sign contracts that they owed me “x” amount of money and if it wasn’t paid back by a certain date they would owe me “x” amount of interest.
I had a bank account early on too; and saved fairly religiously.
But, I was never really prepared to manage spending without being propped up - financially - by my parents.
When I left university, and got my first job I thought I was BALLIN’. Looking back, it amazes me that I was able to go out for drinks with my friends EVERY. SINGLE. FRIDAY, because the pay was so bad ! But, I was living at home; still on my parents’ health plan; only worrying about buying gas every other week. I didn’t have that many responsibilities. I wasn’t paying any bills - not even my own medical ones.
By the time I got my second job (well, full-time job - I had been freelancing throughout school and even after)- I had a second degree; was being paid THREE TIMES more than my first job; and way more responsibilities.
I was able to see the REAL COSTS of life. Everything was so expensive. I mean, I could afford it, but I was also still living with my parents, so I still was not experiencing the full brunt of the costs of adulthood.
My eye sight was deteriorating and then my ankle broke - so medical bills increased; I had my own car now - so I was paying for gas, parts and servicing; I had my own health insurance plan and had to pay those fees every month. In all this, I also had a very expensive shopping habit. I’m still not sure how I was able to manage all my surmounting expenses, while managing my shopping habit - and not being in debt!
This was probably because I did not have a credit card; even for online purchases I used a visa debit card. So using only debit I managed to save some money occasionally, while managing my “bills”; and buying nice things.
Fast forward a few years to moving out of my parents’ house; having to manage all of life’s expenses - rent and bills and everything in between - plus the discovery of the wonders of a credit card. This was absolutely awful timing. Moving out is an expensive reality and owning a credit card (for the first time ever) during this period was problematic. It gave you that false sense of income… and I am still trying to overcome impulsive credit card purchases.
While credit cards can be great tools (I am here for that cash-back!), they can also be the biggest hindrances to (financial) freedom. After you’ve paid your rent, you see your credit card glistening in your purse as you browse your favourite online store (or walk by that nice outfit in the display window). Before you know it you’re up to your knees in credit card purchases, with the bill due before the end of the month.
So I’ve adopted a system - do you really need that?
I ask myself a few questions before I commit to a new purchase. If we thought of each item we own (or category of items) as a commitment, then we would be more vigilant of how we acquire all these “things”.
So I ask myself :
Do I really need this?
- What kind of value will this add to my life ? (question adopted from The Minimalists)
Can I do without it?
How will I feel if I do not purchase it?
After I have gone through all these questions -in my head- I delay the purchase. If after a few days, or a week I think about the item again then I will go through another few questions:
How often will I use/wear this?
What value will this add to my life?
Do I need this?
This may sound like too many hoops, but it’s really a 10 - 30 minute process. When we really stop ourselves and think about our tentative purchases, we realize that most times we are just unconsciously purchasing items. We are living in a time of hyper-consumption and we are wired into the system of perceived need. It is up to us to unplug and step back - take a moment to wonder : “Why am I even buying this?”
Mindfulness about our purchasing behaviour (which may seem like an inconsequential aspect of our life) can really create massive changes in us.
So next time you’re flipping out that wallet, or typing in that card number think: Do you really need that?