Mindful Spending: How Not to Waste Money, Opportunities, and Time
In this consumerism-centric world, it takes mindful spending not to get swayed by companies’ strategies to get you to consume what they’re selling. This is further amplified by an increasingly digital age – where people are as susceptible to marketing machinations as they are dependent on their screens.
And these marketing tactics aren’t just after your hard earned cash, as an ocean of content is also designed to grab, and keep, your attention as often as they can, for as long as they can. All of this leads to a world where people are unwittingly wasting their resources—be it money, opportunities, or time.
But the good news is there are fundamentally simple workarounds to avoid falling prey to a life of waste. Here are some tips:
As marketing strategies evolve, along with the growing power of digital marketing, it’s getting harder and harder to avoid taking brands’ consumption baits. Add to that the daily stressors of adulting, and it’s easy to see why people are often mindlessly jumping on the carousel of capitalism just to make them feel better about themselves.
But whether it’s an itch to hit the refresh button by going on a much deserved holiday, treating yourself to that nice handbag, or taking advantage of a seemingly can’t-miss sale – there are simple ways to mitigate unnecessary spending, like acquainting yourself with cash back credit cards so you can at least have discounts.
Take a closer look at your expenses
It’s far too easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of life, and just keep settling bills without really practicing mindful spending. Simply looking at what it is you’re actually spending money on can make you realize that you may be paying for things that don’t necessarily need, or aren’t really using.
Say you’re paying $400 for a gym membership that you only find time to use twice a week. See if you can find apps that can help you work out at home, or a fitness center that charges per session. Or maybe it’s a cable subscription that you hardly get to enjoy. Subscribing instead to streaming services like Netflix might be enough for your entertainment needs.
Looking at your bills can help you find things that can shave off a significant amount off of your expenses – money you can save, spend on more important things, or even invest.
In a similar way, do an inventory of the things you have. This will make you realize just how many stuff you have lying around the house that you’ve barely used. When you realize that have a few dress shirts you haven’t used in a while, or some kitchenware that you haven’t even broken out yet, that next item you see on sale may not make as much sense anymore.
Doing an inventory of what you spend on and what you already have will shave a considerable amount from your monthly expenses, finances you could otherwise use for investments.
Use what you love
As noted by consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, it’s common for people to almost never use the things they value most.
Whether it’s their favorite suit or that fine china they’ve been saving for a special occasion, people tend to keep the things they love most – those that give them the most pleasure – from being ruined, turning instead to cheaper items for everyday use, which, you guessed it—leads to less satisfaction and craving for more stuff.
Say ‘Thanks’ and Mean It
Being grateful for the things you have is perhaps the best way to save, and an investment that has infinite returns. Recognizing the simple pleasures leads to, as Yarrow notes, an attitude of gratitude that fills the soul with a sense of abundance.
When you are able to be thankful for the little things, you can avoid trying to fill perceived insufficiencies with material rewards.
Admittedly, this is a much tougher resource to quantify. In the business of daily life, a large number of people get on the treadmill of a daily routine, and fail to recognize opportunities – be it with their financial standing, career, or individual passions – that they come across.
But while it may be difficult to identify every opportunity that comes along, making sure you’re prepared to jump at those opportunities is a good way of helping yourself ensure that you don’t waste it when it does.
Maybe it’s continually learning about the developments in your field; or applying mindful spending, which can lead to ample savings when an opportune investment comes along. Whatever it may be, being more mindful of the things you do helps prepare you to take advantage of the varying opportunities that might swing your way.
With the growing power that smart phones and social media have over people, everyone’s probably guilty of wasting time to a certain extent. But whether it’s succumbing to the infinite digital distractions, or submitting to the allure of procrastination, sometimes wasting time is just as crucial as wasting money and opportunities.
Making smart use of your time allows you to do the things you enjoy, with the people you love the most.
Here are some tips on how to help you be wiser with your time:
Do what you can, when you can
Much like unnecessary spending, putting off small tasks you can do right away adds up. If you can pay your bills online right now, do so. If you can reply to an email right this instance, then get to it. Trying to remember to respond to an email, searching for it, and re-reading it again will take much longer than getting it done with right away.
As pointed out by Forbes, while being advised to go slow to save time may seem counterintuitive, it makes much sense when you think about it.
Instead of rushing to submit a haphazardly prepared report, only to have it sent back for a number of revisions, take the time to ensure that you do it properly. And the principle applies to everything else. When you take time to breathe (to alleviate stress), and plan your moves – you spend less time worrying about things (a project, deadlines), and make more calculated, ultimately more effective, steps to achieve your goals.
Nobody ever said they wish they’ve done it later
Speaking of wasting time, people are often transfixed by the idea of investing – overthinking things like timing, or the proper initial investment amount. But as noted by The Motley Fool, “timing is nothing, but time is everything.”
It’s true that investing at the down point of the market will have you suffering losses just as you’re getting started. But investing is a marathon and not a sprint – and having the long view, will make you realize that a well-chosen investment will add up positively, no matter what the market status in when you enter the game.
Similar to the above point, planning is key in making sure your investment goes a long way. How long do you plan on keeping your money in the market? How big of a risk are you willing to take? When will you be needing the money?
As pointed out by The Motley Fool, the longer you have to amass your cash, the greater the risk you can accept, as you’ll have time on your side to wait out periods of bad returns.
Make Mindful Spending A Habit
When it all comes down to it, wasting any of the three key resources above—money, opportunities, and time – both directly and indirectly affects the others. Inversely, being more mindful of how you spend all three, puts you in a great position to further enhance your hold on all three.
If you find yourself guilty of wasting any of the three, there’s no better way to incorporate the habits mentioned above than right now. Get started with it, and enjoy the benefits it brings to your life!
Jolina is a finance and business consultant/strategist for several startups and websites based in the US, UK, and Australia. She's also working behind the scenes of grit.ph as one of the researchers, and business finance advisors.