Money is a wonderful thing, so wonderful in fact, that you can get carried away with the thrill of spending it. You start with a few splurges here and there and soon become a full-fledged spendthrift. Learning to mend your wasteful ways, especially if you have disposable income, can prove challenging. The truth is, whether you are flush with cash or not, developing thrifty habits can help you make the most of your income.
Identify a life goal. To become thrifty, you need a change in perspective. Instead of focusing on immediate gratification, think about the future. If you have children, you'll likely want to finance their education. If you are living in a starter home, you might want to trade up. When you pass away, you might feel comforted knowing your family will have a sizable inheritance. Shifting your focus to a meaningful life goal can help reshape your point of view and inspire thriftier behaviors.
Question every purchase. Tedious though it may seem, changing your spending habits can start by deciding between wants and needs. Every time you think about buying something, ask yourself whether you truly need it or simply want it. Start this process when you are making your shopping list. If this process proves challenging, make your list the night before a planned shopping trip. When you awake, go through the list again and sort the items into wants and needs.
Buy only items you need. Put the "wants" list aside and head to the store with the needs list in hand.
Pay as little as possible for items of acceptable quality. Being thrifty doesn't mean shortchanging yourself. If an item is poorly constructed, in fact, you are cheating yourself by paying money for it at all. But spend no more than you have to for anything you buy. This may mean shopping at discount or big-box retailers, clipping coupons, joining store clubs or doing more buying online. Compare prices before you make any expenditure.
Extend this money-saving mentality to every spending category. Energy costs are an example. Make sure you take advantage of every budgeting program offered by your local utility company. If you have a choice of utility companies, switch to the cheaper one. Cut back on cable TV costs by eliminating pay channels and selecting a lower-cost plan. Change to satellite service, if available. For transportation, identify low-cost gas stations and keep an eye on prices that may change day-to-day. Relative to entertainment, take advantage of discount movie and theatre tickets, if they are available.
Reduce, reuse and recycle. Taking steps to save the planet can also help you save a buck. Turn off lights and unplug appliances when not in use. Use both sides of computer paper unless you are preparing a formal document. Run the washer and dishwasher only when full; ditto for the dryer. When economizing becomes habit, you'll find that saving money is second nature. You'll have more money to save and invest. And when you do want to splurge on a "want," you can feel confident that you are deviating from your thrifty habits only temporarily.
D. Laverne O'Neal, an Ivy League graduate, published her first article in 1997. A former theater, dance and music critic for such publications as the "Oakland Tribune" and Gannett Newspapers, she started her Web-writing career during the dot-com heyday. O'Neal also translates and edits French and Spanish. Her strongest interests are the performing arts, design, food, health, personal finance and personal growth.