If you read many financial articles or blog posts, you will see people suggest that before you buy something, decide if it is something you want or need. The idea is to learn to discern the money that you have to spend on needs versus the money that you shouldn’t spend on wants.
Recently, we were on vacation, and I had to do some work on the computer. At home, I use a wireless keyboard and mouse because when I use my laptop keyboard I inevitably push some button that does something weird like make all of my words red with a line through them, and then I can’t figure out how to fix it. Since I had a fair amount of work to do and my mouse batteries were dead, I asked my husband to stop by the store when he attended his conference and buy me some AA batteries. I needed them to do my work.
He returned home mumbling about how expensive the CVS by our hotel was. I was shocked when he told me that a pack of 8 batteries cost, wait for it, $19!!! I needed the batteries, but I could not reconcile spending $19. I toughed it out and didn’t use my wireless keyboard and mouse. Suddenly I didn’t need them quite as much.
Since then, I realized that doubling the expense of the item in my head would make a good litmus test. For instance, I am out with my son running errands and I need something to drink. I would often spring for a $1.59 water (stupid, I know), but if I doubled that amount in my head to $3.18, would I still buy it? No? Then I shouldn’t buy it at $1.59.
Many people are financially conservative when it comes to large expenditures and think long and hard before making a purchase. However, many other people (myself included), carelessly spend their money for little purchases such as the $3 bag of chips your child asks for when you are shopping or the $1.59 water at the store without giving it much thought. The problem is that we make those little purchases that we rationalize we need on a daily basis, or even several times a day. That adds up quickly over the course of a month. Many people give in to a small expenditure because it is only $1.59, or some other small amount of money. However, if you double that amount in your head and find you wouldn’t want to part with your money, then maybe you shouldn’t buy it in the first place.