Bad Shopping Habits - to Spend or to Invest?

Q. I have REALLY bad shopping habits. I buy everything I want and don't save a penny...

I just pay my bills and buy whatever I think I want with the rest. I have great things that I love but I know in the long run it's not the wise choice and I need to start saving/investing... Maybe because I work as a model...or a shopaholic! Who the HELL knows. I am obsessed with buying clothing and accessories. I swear, I can't walk into a store without buying something! So the question is how do you stop yourself from spending your money and not buying everything you want?! :o( - Amanda

A: You may have some kind of emotional emptiness you are trying to fill. If that is it, I shut up now because that is way out of my league.

BUT, if you start looking at it as buying a financially secure future, that might help.

The first step towards financial discipline is establishing a bank account, establishing a budget, and prioritizing your weekly/monthly salary earnings...the first X£ off the top go towards estimated taxes, then the next Y£ go towards paying necessary bills, then the next Z£ go towards savings/investment, and then whatever is left over can be spent on 'discretionary' items.

Keep in mind saving takes discipline. You have to set goals for yourself, because otherwise you have nothing specific to save for, and therefore no reason to make yourself do it. The first principle has to be acknowledging the fact that you could be out of work tomorrow, and that you may remain out of work for a couple of months.

So, figure out what you'd like to do in X number of years, how much you think you'll need to do it, and you'll have a new motivation to work and save. That's the easy part. Sticking with it is the really hard part, so you'll have to devise ways like some of us have to keep ourselves in check. I've also known girls like you who had a certain amount they would save every week/month, and wired it to their parents to put into an account for them. You can also set up a checking account at a bank that automatically transfers a certain amount to savings every week/month, so you can treat it like a bill you have to pay, make sure you've got that money in your checking by the deadline, and make sure you don't touch the savings.

Also, the budget list is a great one:

Make a monthly 'spending plan', write it down on a little yellow notepaper and stick in to your planner so that you see it multiple times every day. On one side of the paper put necessities, things you have to spend that month, and their exact amount.

It would look something like this:
  1. Car Payment £360
  2. Electric Bill £250
  3. Savings £500 (always pay yourself first!)
  4. Rent £650
  5. Something you really want to have now £450...etc.
Things are usually ordered by when they are due. On the other side list the things you want, but don't necessarily have to have immediately or know exactly.
  1. Clothes £500
  2. Spa £200
  3. etc...

Then you cross things out when they are bought. Consequently you can also add up all the numbers and see how much you need to work to accomplish all your goals. Note that savings is on that list as a requirement. That helps you to actually put money in the bank when you never was able to before (you should see it as another thing to buy).

The way this helps you is to clearly define your goals, and to see them often.

Don't forget the reward system! Save a certain amount, then get say that pair of dream shoes. Just don't eat your dessert before dinner, it's a bad habit in the long run!

A book I recommend on the subject is called -:

"Your Money or Your Life" by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.

It takes it to a very base level, breaking it down to 'The only thing you have in your life is time, and you give up your time in exchange for money'. Then it has you look at what you are spending your money (time) on and asking if it is really worth it (given that you can never get your time back).

Then the book has you figure out what you've made in your life from your very first B-Day money until today (every single penny), and then asks you how much tangible stuff you have to show for it. This part hurts, but it is one of the best wake-up calls you could ever get...believe'll be shocked, but also spurred to action.

The book also has you break down what you really make hourly, but it has you take into account things you spend money on that are strictly for your JOB (and help you keep your JOB) your case as a model I would assume: make-up, shoes, outfits, travel, food that you don't consume at home, gas to-and-fro, etc., etc...then it has you back that out of your Perceived hourly wage to find out what you are really making hourly. Say, for instance, you do a quick math check and come to the conclusion that on average you work a 6 hour shift and you walk out the door with £102. You conclude that you are making £17/hr...But, after figuring in all of the other things that I mentioned (and it shows you step-by-step how to do it and what to include), you come to the realization that you are really only making £10.00/hr.

After that it does a boomerang on you uses the information you have calculated to get you to see how you are spending your life (literally).

It gets you to ask yourself in every situation, 'Is what I'm about to spend my money on really worth the time I spent to get the money in the first place?' 'Will I really get out of this thing that I'm buying, the perceived ego-stroking, jealousy from my friends, fame, envy, significance, etc. that I have projected onto this item and that I think buying it will give me?' (i.e. for instance Buying a Porsche because you think people will think you are cool/cute/sexy/rich/(insert your word for acceptance here)). Now, apply that to just about every single purchase you make, except for food and gas).

Say, for example, you do all of the calculations and come to the conclusion that you really make £ 10/hr. (just for simplicities sake). You're looking at a new TV for £ 500. You'll ask yourself, 'Is this TV really worth the 50 hours I worked to get the money?'

It definitely changes your mindset. It doesn't mean you have to be a total tightwad, but you will definitely make more informed decisions about what you spend your money on because you will be cognizant of it all the time.

The authors are a little more cautious about investing so I would also recommend some of the "Rich Dad, Poor Dad books", et. al. to give you a well balanced assortment of thoughts/principles from which to draw.

 ...Continues here - Investing for the Long Term

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