Saving and investing are often challenges for people trying to make wise financial decisions. We have posts about saving, such as Easy Money Saving Tips. But what about spending? How can you engage in smart spending to improve your life and financial well-being? We have figured out several different considerations in smart spending and continue adding to our everyday money strategies. Here are 8 different questions to consider when you spend money to improve your financial mindset and engage in smart spending.
Wants or Needs?
This is something I think everyone learns as a kid. Do you want the new toy or do you need the new toy? The obvious answer is want. When you’re a kid/teenager, most things like food and shelter are provided for you, so your allowance or income goes to what you want more often than what you need. This isn’t the case for every family, but if you were spending your money on your needs rather than wants, you probably already know this part pretty well and can skip on to the next section. But as you become an adult, the answers aren’t quite as easy to come by. Air conditioning may be a need, but you can buy things like a swamp cooler or use fans, so is it a want or a need? Figuring out the difference between the two can make a huge impact on your spending.
To sum it up, you are responsible for yourself and spending money on what you need before things you want is one way to work on smart spending. It sounds easy and intuitive, but for some people it isn’t.
As an adult, you do have to spend money on things you need. But if you only buy things you need, you may feel unbalanced. If you’re a minimalist, then go you! However, most people are not and sometimes wants make life more enjoyable. But how do you prioritize one want over another? You’ll also have to critically think about your wants because very few people only spend money on their needs.
Purchases as an adult become more complicated, but many, many things we buy are wants, not needs. That’s why you have to consider other aspects besides whether you want something or need something.
What Will You Actually Use?
Moving on from needs, let’s focus on analyzing your wants. One important aspect to smart spending is determining whether you will use what you’re buying. If its winter and you get a cute new strapless mini dress on sale, will you wear it this season? Probably not. Will you hang on to it half the year and wear it in the summer? If yes, then it could be a good purchase. If you’re like me, where you buy something that you don’t have the chance to wear, get tired of seeing it in your closet, and donate it to a thrift store, then it isn’t worth it.
For awhile, we were so focused on saving money and only buying what we needed that we had a lot of inconveniences in our life that could have been easily fixed with spending $20. Even now, we still err on the side of saving instead of spending on something useful. We were using the cardboard box our microwave came in as a nightstand for 8 months until we found free nightstands by the dumpster. We’ve gotten a little bit better and sometimes spend money on things we’ll use.
If you’re trying to spend money on purchases to make your life better, buy the things you will use in addition to what you need. If you’re trying to limit your spending, work on just buying what you need and things you will use rather than frivolous purchases.
What is Your Lifestyle?
Your lifestyle should also be a consideration in smart spending. This kind of goes along with the last section on what you will use. For example, we go to the gym almost everyday (you can read more about it in these posts, Favorite Tips for Fun Workouts, How to Work Out Together to Become Couple Goals, and all the others in our fitness section) but otherwise we’re not super active. Evan’s school and stock stuff is sedentary. The blog and my job are as well. So if one of us decided to get a treadmill for the apartment, it wouldn’t really make sense. All of our time is spent working on our various pursuits, hanging out, or at the gym.
Here’s another instance where lifestyle makes a difference in spending. I like jewelry, but for several years I used my motorcycle as my primary transportation. Bracelets and necklaces don’t work with changing in and out of a motorcycle jacket and neck scarf multiple times a day. Rings don’t work with riding gloves. So yeah I didn’t wear jewelry for about three years. I was not an easy person to shop for on Valentine’s Day, haha. But I also didn’t buy any jewelry during that time. I’ve just started again recently. I actually just purchased a few bracelets from AVA, which I am really excited about.
Knowing yourself and how you live is key to smart spending.
Impulsive or Thought Out?
Impulse buying isn’t really an issue for us personally because we have a tendency to overthink everything we buy. I had to convince Evan to buy a new set of monitors for his trading because I knew he would use them everyday and it would make his life easier. He didn’t want to spend the money then, but is happy he bought them now. I tend to online window shop. I’ll look at clothing stores and add a bunch to my cart, but never end up getting anything.
We do know that we’re super weird and impulse buying is pretty common. So, if you know you do impulse buy, take a breath. Take a few days. Write a pros and cons list. Just add a little bit of extra time and thought before making a purchase.
One of the easiest times to impulse buy is during a sale. If you’re afraid the item is going to go away before you can buy it, consider whether you would pay full price for it normally. Is this worth it enough or are you just buying it because it’s on sale?
Long-Term or Short-Term?
Looking at the longevity of your purchases is important for smart spending. You can spend $100 on a night out easily. If you get black out drunk and don’t remember anything from that night is it worth it? I’m going with no. If you spend $100 on a fun day trip with your family that you’ll remember for years, then that is smart spending (we spent under $300 on a weekend trip. Read more here . Yes, spending money in one day is short-term in that it didn’t last long, but personally I think that if great memories are made, then that makes spending within reason worth it.
To look at long-term and short-term in the realm of tangible purchases, the focus should be quality and use. Buying a phone case for $40 that lasts 5 years is a smart decision than buying a $10 one that lasts 6 months. You could buy $100 shoes and keep them in your closet because you don’t want to scuff them up, but the money would be must better spent on shoes you could wear everyday until they’re worn down and out of style.
In bigger purchases, this is also something to pay attention to. Mortgage payments often aren’t that much more than rent payments. If you’re planning on staying in the same place, buying a house may be a better choice than renting. Obviously there is way more that goes into buying a house, but for people our age, it’s not always seen as something attainable.
Cars are another big purchase where longevity matters. Evan and our gym friend were discussing the cost-effectiveness of different cars the other day. They were comparing how you could buy a Ferrari, then spend a crap ton on maintenance or you could get 10 other nice sports cars that aren’t as well known. You could also get one older sports car that is fast and cheaper to buy since it is old.
If you’re trying to engage in smart spending, I would suggest buying a used car instead of a new one. Wait until you have plenty of savings and are in a stable financial position before purchasing a new car off the lot. I drive a 2001 Honda Accord because I don’t really feel the need to speed or look cool. That’s what my motorcycle is for.
What are Your Long-Term Goals?
Branching off from the long-term aspect of the last section, long-term goals such as a house are important to take into consideration with smart spending.
We are trying to save as much as possible right now because we’ll be moving to a different state in about a year and a half, getting married, and buying a house or duplex within the next 3 years. We keep these goals in mind when spending money because it will be a lot easier to do these things if we’re not pinching pennies then. It’s easier to save money now when we’re not doing much besides school and work.
If you’re planning on renting for a few years, take that into account with your spending. Rents usually increase each year, but salaries do not always increase. If you want to go on a major international trip in two years, it probably makes more sense to save money for that instead of going on a few smaller trips and having less to spend on a big trip. I
f you have money saved up for emergencies like the coronavirus, and nothing big planned for the next few years, then spending more now won’t make as much of a negative impact on your long-term goals.
What is Your Income and Debt Compared to Expenses?
Here’s the hard one. Even if you’re conscientious about your spending, your income may not match your expenses.
If you struggle with spending more than you make, then creating a budget is a smart move. We don’t budget all of our expenses simply because they don’t change much from month to month. We try to stay around $100 a week on groceries, but that fluctuates depending on recipes or whether we buy other necessary items like toothpaste.
If you have debt, that should also impact your spending. Hold off on a purchase you want, but don’t need immediately. Use that extra money you have that month to pay off some credit card debt. Then buy the item later if you still want or need it.
If you’re making $100k a year, spending $20 a week going out to eat won’t matter much. If you’re making $25k a year, it will. You have to keep in mind how much you’re making compared to how much you’re spending. I am more inclined to want to get takeout for lunch than Evan is, mainly because I’m making more right now. This will not always be the case in the future. 10 years into the future our spending will remain proportional to our incomes, or even lower because we’ve been stuck in the broke college student mindset for awhile. So, the rule is don’t spend more than you make because that’s how you end up with debt.
I’m pretty sure this has been our longest post so far. Makes sense. We put a lot of thought into smart spending and our financial decisions. Hopefully this helps break down different considerations to help you engage in smart spending.