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2-Cent Rant

4 Approaches To Shopping That Will Stop You From Overspending

A good portion of us tend to buy new items simply for the sake of doing so, and not out of necessity. Being conscious about how you spend could go a long way in saving some serious dollars.

The fact that Singaporeans love to shop is not surprising, and we have the statistics to show as a badge of honour. According to The Harris Poll in 2011, 69% of Singaporeans either liked or loved shopping. More recent studies by AIG and Visa last year found that more than 1 in 3 Singaporeans would go on holiday just to shop, and 71% of us shop online at least once a month.

Affectionately termed “retail therapy”, folks turn to shopping not just out of necessity but also to relax, or for a mood boost or simply to stave off boredom. And why wouldn’t they? Browsing for and owning new things is always exciting!

But how much is “retail therapy” really costing you? How many of us are truly conscious about the amount of money that needlessly leaves our pockets? From the same 2011 Harris Poll, 41% of Singaporeans admitted to buying new clothes because they happened to be browsing, and nearly 90% of women admitted to owning shoes that they have worn less than 5 times. While no statistics are available for more recent years, it would not be too far-fetched to imagine that these figures could still apply today.

Staying aware of our spending habits is crucial, so here are a few mental tricks to help with becoming more conscious of our retail expenditures.

1. Procrastinate

If we can delay work and push back task deadlines, we can most definitely delay spending. After all, entire nations have been doing this for years (looking at you, Japan). The plus side for us is that we are much less likely to implode from delayed spending than whole countries. Besides, if it is something we truly need, then it is just a matter of time before we buy it. Furthermore, the extra time allows you to find better prices and make more rational decisions.

Excluding products that truly matter (e.g. EpiPens, inhalers, house insurance), buyer’s remorse is less likely to occur when we make a purchase later rather than sooner. For example, if you are an athlete, and have completely worn out your trainers, then whether you buy it today, or next month, it is still something you will eventually have to spend money on. On the other hand, if you just happened to be passing by a shop with a beautiful pair of trainers on display, then perhaps a delay in making a purchase decision would be helpful in saving you some dollars, especially if the last time you exercised was 2 years ago.

2. Make Shopping A Conscious Process

It follows from procrastination that the entire purchase process becomes a somewhat more calculated one.

If an item is important enough, it is likely to continue weighing on your mind once it has left your visual periphery. This inevitably puts you at a crossroads where you can either go back for it, or move on and try looking for a more economical alternative. Whichever way you decide, it forces you to think hard about your potential buy and in the process subdues the initial excitement for the product while rationality sets in.

3. A Timer For Pros & Cons

Going back to basics, a pros and cons list can be effective and extremely beneficial to your bank account balance if used appropriately. But what may arguably be equally or more important than the number of pros and cons is how long it takes for you to come up with the advantages and disadvantages of making the purchase.

Suppose we set criteria of 5 to tip the balance. If 5 valid reasons for buying the product do not immediately come to mind, and it takes a while to think of them, it is likely that those reasons are a bit of a stretch. And if the cons are piling up faster than you can list the pros, then chances are you are better off saving your dollars for something else.

For instance, you already own an iPhone 6S still in pretty good working condition when the iPhone 7 is released, and you really want to buy it. Apple marketing campaigns are after all some of the best. But can you think of 5 really good reasons to join the hype and get one?

Model specifications aside, it is likely that for an average mobile phone user, the functionality of either phone is not that much different.

4. Facing Some Hard Truths

The heart believes what it wants to believe. If you want to believe that you absolutely need to own expensive limited edition neon pink jeans, you will. But if you care about the well-being of your bank account and wallet, you may want to start asking yourself some hard-hitting questions about the product you have set your eye on, and why it is a worthy candidate for your hard-earned money. That is, treat each potential purchase as a beauty pageant contestant that needs to earn your complete approval.

A checklist of some sort could help. The key is to have certain criteria for your potential purchase to live up to.

For example:

1. Are there at least a certain number of pieces of clothing I already own that this item could match?

2. How much wear/use can I get out of this item of clothing/product?

3. Is my current product completely used up, and if so, can I do without it for the time being?

4. Is the product I already own thoroughly worn out or damaged, and if so, do I still really need it?

If finally, desire and practicality can still come together nicely after mentally grilling yourself over the true purpose of an item, then you have yourself a solid convincing argument for making the purchase. Congratulations!

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