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Three new ways to control your spending

In this post, I’ll outline three methods I’ve successfully used to stop me spending money on stuff I didn’t really need.

Warning: All three methods are a bit unusual!

1. Reserve it on Amazon

Nearly everything is cheaper to buy online. If I’m out shopping and I see something I like, I try to:

  1. Postpone the purchase until I check the price at home
  2. Look it up on Amazon
  3. If I still want it and it’s cheaper online, I add it to my shopping basket or my Amazon wishlist
  4. I then logout of Amazon – without going through the checkout, and so without buying anything

If after a few days I’m still thinking about the product, I’ll log back into Amazon, load up my basket, and consider buying the product again. If I decide I really do want it, I’ll buy it.

This method has stopped me buying all kinds of stuff, especially books, CDs, DVDs and video games. I think I originally came across the idea via one of the personal finance blogs, but I don’t remember which.

I think it works for several reasons:

  • It enforces a ‘cooling off’ period before you spend any money
  • It is connected with buying cheaper online, which I can’t resist
  • The buying-without-really-buying trick probably satisfies my hunter-gatherer instincts

Often I’ll check over the basket a few days later and think, “Nice product, but I don’t really need it”. Sometimes I wonder why I added a product at all.

2. Buy it for a friend

This one also works by satisfying the hunter-gatherer urge.

I often come across great products when on a rare ‘real-world’ shopping trip.

However: I hate clutter as much as the next frugal saver, and I’d rather most of my spare cash was invested in my future financial freedom.

So sometimes instead of buying it for myself, I’ll run through a list of family members and close friends.

  • Do any of my family or friends have birthdays coming up?
  • Would the product keep until Christmas?
  • Have I showed a friend I’m thinking about them, recently?

If the product is a great fit for someone close and it’ll keep, I’ll consider buying it as a future gift.

Again, this method works best for small items like books or for kitchen equipment, which is my personal Achilles’ Heel.

It also ticks off spending that I’d make anyway, such as buying a family member a birthday present.

I can’t personally use this trick for high-end TVs or leather jackets, but your mileage (and bank balance!) may vary.

3. If you’re going to buy something, buy two of them

My fellow money bloggers might have something to say about my first two tips, but the third is sure to provoke some disagreement.

  • When I’m considering a purchase, I think about buying two

This might sound odd, but the method makes me ask just how desirable the product really is.

Do I really need this t-shirt? Do I really need these new shoes?

Often the answer is no, and so I buy none at all.

But sometimes I do buy two of the same thing. Truly great shoes are hard to find, for example. If I buy two pairs, I can keep one for parties or promenading, and wear the other ones to death. I’d rather have two pairs of great shoes then one great pair, and one mediocre pair.

This tip obviously works best for clothes – you don’t need two iPods, or two laptops! In a sense it also complements my first two methods, which are more effective ways to control your spending on impulse buys rather than clothing.

I hope you found at least one of these tips useful.

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