All our lives, parents, teachers, and righteous-minded busybodies tell us to control our spending, and to save money.
And almost no one actually does this. Why? Because we never think we have enough money to make savings. Since we don’t really have enough, why bother to save? Why struggle?
So, we spend in small amounts, another coffee, another cheese pie, maybe a new pair of sunglasses…and we don’t think twice.
Yet experts tell us that it is these little indulgences, when we enjoy them regularly, that fritter away our savings.
To drive this point home, they come up with THE DEMOTIVATOR (https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/demotivator/) . ] This is a kind of calculator intended to scare you into stopping the frittering away.
Tell THE DEMOTIVATOR that you spend 3 pounds (it works in GBP, but just imagine it’s euros you’re spending) every day on coffee and louvy. Then input your income (we input £20,000).
Now take your punishment: “You spend £1,095 per year on coffee and louvy. Do you realise that it takes you 4.25 weeks of work every year to earn this money? Do you realise that, over your working life, you will spend £49,275 just for coffee and louvy? Is it worth it?”
It’s possible that concretising the spending in this way actually works to demotivate people. It doesn’t work for everyone, of course.
Yet experts say that cutting out these little extra expenses is the surest way to save money. And it’s accessible to all of us, no matter how much we make.
Another approach that experts recommend is to write down all your payments. Any time you shell out a few euros, write it down when you get home.
This is a somewhat more practical way to save money, as many of us spend without even thinking about it. I know people who like to shop, and so they go out to the supermarket, or the mall, when they really don’t need anything. What’s an extra restaurant meal when you’re bored?
City life leads to that sort of expense, but when you realise just how often you do it, and how much you’re spending, you might decide to read a book instead.
This brings us to the topic of recreation. Reading, we are told, is the cheapest form of entertainment. Why is it cheaper than watching television or playing computer games? Because you are less inspired to snack and drink while you read than when engaging in these more frivolous activities, or at least so we are told. The theory is that, once you get “across the book’s brink,” as the Russian writer Nabokov once put it, you tend to stay put and do nothing else until you get tired. Needless to say, a books cost less on average than most other forms of entertainment, so that’s an additional savings.
Yet another easy-to-apply spending control technique: Buy more carefully.
This is surprisingly easy to do. For example, at the supermarket, take a moment to compare the price of a branded item with the supermarket’s brand. It’s practically the same thing, yet we often don’t bother to check.
We are told, by the experts, to plan our meals carefully before we go out to shop for them. This will keep you from impulse-buying a couple of expensive steaks that look good in the meat counter, as you’ve got a shopping list that calls for chicken filet.
If you shop online, use the comparison websites whenever possible. You may not even know of some of the offers they include at much lower prices than what you’ve been paying. We are also warned that we often forget to consider the shipping costs when we order from Amazon or another major shopping site.
This brings us to the topic of debit and credit cards, needed for shopping online, but considered by experts in saving money as the Devil Incarnate.
Here is what one expert says about them: “Using cards displays an unwillingness to exercise self-control when it comes to money which can rob you of financial security. At worst, an impulsive attitude toward buying can have a negative impact in other areas of your life, including self-esteem, substance abuse, and interpersonal relationships. Yes, exercising restraint may be difficult and boring, but it offers many rewards and advantages, from staying out of the hospital to affording your own home.”
That may be overdoing it, a bit. But a card does take away that physical feeling of seeing the cash in your wallet disappear as you spend it. And which of us hasn’t put a small monthly fee on a card and forgotten about it, only to wonder where our cash is disappearing to?
The trick with cards is to share them with someone else – you know, get a card for your spouse or child so that you both have access to the same amount on the card. This will lead your better half, or your progeny to ring you up from time to time and ask “what did you spend that 10 euro on the other day?” Believe it, this will liven up your domestic life immeasurably – and you’ll spend less for sure.
Ultimately, spending less is a bit like quitting smoking. You put it off, and then finally you decide you really mean it, and then you put it off again, and finally you just do it.