Before taking out your wallet, ask yourself these four questions. You might save money by not spending at all.
In Singapore’s hyper-consumerist society, it’s feels almost necessary to spend hundreds of dollars to keep up with friends or stay on trend. But spending all your hard-earned money is not a sustainable way to live. Besides never running out of things to desire, endless consumption can suck you into a never-ending debt cycle. You also need to keep some money tucked away for emergencies and retirement.
These four questions will help you think twice about buying anything. Answer them honestly every time you evaluate a potential purchase to save yourself some serious money.
1. Is It On My List?
Don’t enter a mall without a list of things you need to buy, even if it’s only a mental one. This list doesn’t have to be very specific; simply walking into a shopping centre knowing what you want is enough to stay on track. For instance, if I go to Ikea for a new bookshelf, I can go straight to the shelves section and avoid the linens section, where I tend to buy duvets impulsively.
Sticking to your list keeps you focused and less likely to be lured in by attractive store windows. And if your attention does wander towards pretty objects you don’t need, ask yourself--is this item on my list? Am I here to buy it? If it’s not, it’s as simple as putting it down and walking away.
2. Do I Want It Because It’s On Sale?
The tough thing about being a bargain hunter is that it’s hard to walk away from a discounted item. Even if it’s not on your list and it’s not something you immediately need, it’s easy to believe you’re saving money on anything marked down from its original price. However, sale items are only a good deal if they’re something you were already planning to buy.
So when you’re confronted by “Everything Must Go!” and “Last Chance to Buy!”, ask yourself--do I only want it because it’s on sale? Would I buy this at its original price? If your answers are yes or no respectively, then you want to buy the discount, not the item. Save money by making do without it.
3. Do I Want It Because It’s Cheap?
Sometimes we buy little things because it only costs a couple of dollars. The problem with this mindset is that you clutter your flat with barely-used items you never really wanted. This is why I never go to dollar stores--I end up picking up random items and spending S$10 more than I originally intended.
Remember that small items add up when you buy a lot of them. When you find yourself tempted by dollar deals, ask yourself--do I want it because it’s cheap? If it were 20% more expensive, would I still buy it? If your answers are yes or no respectively, then you want to buy the price, not the item. As with sale items, you save money by making do without cheap thrills.
4. Will I Buy It Tomorrow?
All purchases are emotional decisions. We buy things because we think that they will make us more attractive, give us more confidence, or complete some other psychological need. But emotions are as fickle as the weather, and you’re more likely to regret the things you bought when you were feeling down than the things you bought after careful decision-making.
If you find yourself itching to buy something, especially if it’s a big purchase, make a note of how much it costs and give yourself time to think about it. Search for reviews online to see if it’s as good as you think it is, and compare prices to see if you can get it cheaper elsewhere. Sometimes all you need to avoid an unnecessary purchase is a good night’s sleep and an honest answer to the question, “Do I still want to buy this today?” when you wake up.
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By Lauren Dado
Lauren has been a content strategist and digital marketer since 2007. As SingSaver.com.sg's Content Manager, Lauren edits and publishes personal finance stories to help Singaporeans save money. Her work has appeared in publications like Her World, Asia One, and Women's Weekly.