Spend Wisely: 2 Simple Questions to Ask Before You Buy

Four days have passed, and no money has been spent.

As I write this, the day before publication, I have started the new year by spending no money in the first 4 days of the year. Zero, zilch, nada. Absolutely nothing. Hooray! Of course I’ll inevitably spend on different things soon, but my resolution to spend less money on discretionary items has started out the way I wanted it to. It’s always nice to get some early momentum on working toward a goal, no matter what it happens to be!

Really, what I’m trying to do is lower expenses in order to help efforts to grow net worth. Now, I generally think that most of us should spend more of our time and energy on the income growth side of things, and maybe even investing a bit of time in risk management. So, let’s not get carried away or become stingy. Dwelling on saving money can only get us so far. After all, as I say periodically here, we do need to make money before we can save money, right?

With that in mind, rather than going too far by getting obsessed with expense-lowering strategies, I’m trying to make it a habit to very quickly assess whether or not to I need to make a particular purchase at any point in time.  This expense assessment strategy basically involves asking the following questions when I’m making a purchase.

  1. Do I need this? Yep, the old wants versus needs question comes back again! However, just because something is a want, it doesn’t mean it can’t be purchased. Life would be too boring if we only did what we need to do and ignored what we would really want to do.  However, needs are just that – needs – while wants can be addressed sometimes when the time is right.  So aside from exceptions, if it’s not needed, question whether or not it will be purchased.
  2. Is there a lower cost option easily available?  OK, so we’ve very quickly decided “Yes” to question #1. We need to make the purchase, whether it’s food, clothing, gas, or whatever. But can we spend less? For example: if you’re at work, you’ll typically take some time in the middle of the day to eat lunch. Maybe that means going to the company cafeteria, or running out to pick up a sandwich or salad. Sure, you could do that, but what about bringing something from home? You could save some money that way if it doesn’t take much extra time to prepare and pack a lunch. Even a few dollars a day can add up to a lot annually.

It’s a very simple, yet very effective concept. Do you need it, and if so – could you get it for less elsewhere, without spending much extra time. Keeping it simple allows us to avoid overanalyze saving money, and think about other things too:)

My Questions for You

Do you ever stop yourself when making purchases, to decide whether or not you need to spend?

What approaches do you use to make sure you’re spending your money wisely?


  1. says

    These are good… to it I would add one more, the element of time. “Can it wait?” That’s an important one, especially when it comes to electronic ‘wants’ because of the deflation inherent in the hardware industry. If you can wait, for example, a year… you tend to get the high end features for the same price as the mid end stuff today.

    • Squirrelers says

      PKamp3 – so true about electronics, specifically. There’s often confusion as to what’s a “want” vs what’s a “need”. When something is new to market and high priced, it’s often not really needed, per se.

  2. says

    I ask myself these questions all the time. Today, I was out and about right around lunch time for an appointment. I drove past a couple fast food restaurants and thought, ooh, tacos/fries. But instead, I said to myself- no. you have the lunch you brought waiting for you back at the office. go eat that.
    I also keep tea I really like in my desk at work to curb my desire to go buy a chai.

    • Squirrelers says

      Shanendoah – tea at the desk just has to be much cheaper than going out to buy chai! Beverages can be so pricey sometimes, when purchased outside.

    • Squirrelers says

      Marie – yeah, I know that can be a problem too. It’s only worth so much time to check for prices. After a while, when you calculate the amount of money you save per hour, it speaks to the need to be efficient.

  3. says

    I was just thinking this morning that I have barely been spending any money since the kids went back to school this week. (I did dish out some money this morning though since it is ‘pizza day’.)

    For me, I usually research anything big that I buy ahead of time that probably too much thought has been put into it. For everyday things though, I probably spend a little too impulsively at times.

    • Squirrelers says

      Kris – it’s impossible to be perfect with spending, or at least I’ve never met anyone who is. You’re probably doing better than 95% of people with smart purchasing decisions, I’ll bet!

  4. says

    I agonize over big ticket items. I wanted a new lens for my camera for about 6 months and I kept checking and reading review. :) I finally got it after Christmas. I’ll use it for the blog too so I think it is a good buy (assuming it works like I expected.)

    • Squirrelers says

      RB40 – cool that you made the purchase, after careful deliberation. Your blog pictures are good now, but getting them even better might be in the cards it seems!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *