Even if you live in the most vibrant economy there is wisdom is spending wisely. Spending smart should really not be something we do when tightly squeezed but at all times. In fact it is more important to spend smart when you are buoyant as you are able to save for your future and cushion the effects of a rainy day. Here are 10 tips which I try to use to spend smart.
Budget wise: Have a budget and stick with it. At the start of every year or month create a spreadsheet where you put in your expected income and planned expenditure. This simple process will help you see where you are spending beyond your means and enable you make the necessary adjustments. Clever Girl Finance has great tips on being financially intelligent and a handy planner which has space for your budget as well as financial goals.
Buying bulk: This is something our mothers did and it is an effective way of saving money as you get stuff at wholesale prices. If you cannot afford to buy on your own then find a friend or friends and buy together. This is something I do quite often and has saved me loads. Just remember to buy what you can easily store or things may go bad and it will be a case of being penny wise and pound foolish.
Packed Lunch: While eating out is a lovely treat it should not be more than that –a treat. Buying food at the lovely bistro near your office every day is not a good idea and even if it just costs you say N1500, when you punch in the figures that would end up being at least N30, 000 in a month. Instead of doing this take time to pack a homemade lunch the night before or early in the morning apart from costing less it also has the extra benefit of you being sure of exactly what is in it – a plus if you are trying to eat healthy.
Plan shopping: Going shopping without a well prepared shopping list is setting yourself up for impulse buying. If you live in the western world you may be able to get home, reflect and return some poor choices however most times you are stuck with them. Personally I try and start preparing my list days ahead. Also somethings are better purchased in different places, e.g. some markets are known for fish or for cheaper prices it may be worth your while to spread your shopping over a few different places as it could save you a whole lot. Another way to stick to your planned expenditure is to carry the exact amount of money you need (no card) once its finished you go home or shop online that way you do not get to see anything that you are tempted to buy on impulse.
Cut your coat according to your fabric: This is a common spin on a popular adage but it makes a lot of sense. All over the world there is immense pressure to be like your “peers” but it is important to be sensible and be true to yourself. If you cannot afford to have a lavish party for your child then do something small and meaningful. There is really no need to impress anyone when it comes to spending as at the end of the day when your guests disappear you will be left with all the bills. Using the example of a birthday party I usually just do things in the house and the children can invite family, friends from school or the neighbourhood as it doesn’t cost a lot and everyone has good fun. Even with clothes you will be shocked what you will find at charity shops or “bend down boutique”. To be honest I find that with clothes it is more about carriage than what you wear, as some people can make even the simplest or most inexpensive item look expensive.
Quality over Quantity: My husband will always say “one is one” i.e. one premium quality item makes more sense than many poor quality items. So even though one is trying to spend less buying cheap is not always buying smart especially with clothing items. I learnt this lesson only recently when I bought one of my children a pair shoes for school, my reasoning was that since children grow so fast it didn’t matter right? wrong? The shoes were so poorly made that within a term they were all worn out and had to be replaced. If I had bought something of better quality it may have lasted the whole school year and could have been passed on to another child or given to charity. If you are strapped for cash rather than buy cheap items look out for sales from good quality brands or go to shops that sell quality items for less.
Buy Generic: In many cases more expensive does not mean better quality. This is because most times when buying popular products you are paying for the brand name and the amount of money they have spent on advertising. I always go through the ingredients before I buy a product and have found that many generic or cheaper store brands have the same or even superior ingredients to their well-known counterparts.
Do-it-yourself: In Nigeria especially, many of us have been spoilt by the low cost of labour in the country so much so that we call handymen to fix even the simplest issues. Living abroad has shown me that I can do so much on my own. Rather than call the plumber at the smallest sign of a clog having a plunger, drano or washing up liquid handy can do the trick. Same with fixing light bulbs and other simple chores.
Save: This sounds hard to do but if you make a conscious effort to put away some of your income every month after paying your tithe it will soon become a habit. An easy way to save is to join an office co-op (esusu) where a certain amount is deducted from your pay at source and can be withdrawn when needed or you could save with trusted friends.
Think before you spend: This is the most important way to spend smart. Many times we buy thing we do not need just because they are on sale and end up throwing them away. With every purchase especially when it involves a significant amount of money I try and do research, read reviews and ask myself if it is really necessary. There is absolutely no point buying an item and never getting to use it or using it once and wishing you could just return it. Many times when shopping online I allow things sit in the shopping basket for a few days to reflect.
Please share your smart spending tips!