Breaking the spending cycle

In today’s Money-Savin’ Mama column, I talk about how it’s important to say no to unnecessary purchases you can’t afford, but how it’s not wise to be too cheap, either.

All things in moderation, as they say.

I’ve gotten some great feedback from the column. Shannon, a stay-at-home mom, wrote me that she’s become “frugal (i.e. cheap),” but she’s realizing she has taken it to an extreme that has made her “cranky.” So she’s been trying to spend a little more money on herself. “I went to get my hair trimmed yesterday even though I didn’t need it just to get out of the house and feel better. I also treat myself to a movie once a month BY MYSELF. Not practical but practical for me.”

Paul Jarvis, a financial adviser and author of the Financial Planning blog here on, also sent me a note with the following illustration. As he writes, it shows how when you see something you like it becomes a “devil on your shoulder,” and that “want” spirals into a “need.”

“If everyone thought for a second and evaluated their wants vs. needs, they would probably find they actually need less,” Jarvis says.

He shares this tip, which he says works: “if I see something I like I put it in my watchlist on Amazon. If after a few days I still want it, I buy it. 99 percent of the time I don’t buy it because I realize it isn’t as cool as I originally thought.”

Last year I did a story on shopping addictions. A common thought process in shopaholics is that the purchase — whether a gadget, a shirt, new bedding — will radically improve their life, which things rarely do. It is so important to take that breath, step away and put the purchase into perspective. Do I really need it? Can I afford it?

Like Shannon has found, it’s also important to spend some money on yourself every now and then. Just don’t let your purchases control you.

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  1. Pingback: Wants vs. Needs & My Brainwashed Wife » Financial Planning Blog

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