Every little penny helps when you're trying to save money. Financial guru Beth Kobliner shares these important questions to ask yourself before making any purchase. Stick to this advice and your bank account will thank you.
1. Do you have to buy this item?
Could you borrow this item from a friend or swap for it? If swapping's an option, check out websites such as paperbackswap.com for books, swapbabygoods.com for tots' toys, or swapmamas.com for household items and kitchen supplies. Better yet (and more fun) organize a swap party to get your friends in on the saving.
2. Have you found the best deal?
Before you make a big-ticket purchase, compare prices at three similar stores. And if you're shopping online, don't hit the checkout button until you've looked for a discount code or coupon (get the lowdown on coupons and other overlooked money-saving tips). Websites such as fatwallet.com, dealio.com and retailmenot.com can help you find offers from hundreds of retailers such as Old Navy and the Container Store. Check out restaurant.com for deals to your favorite dining spots and these miracle websites for savings on just about everything else. Also, remove some of the "convenience" of online shopping by not storing your credit card number or password at the site. That way, you'll have to take extra steps to buy, which may quell the urge to splurge. Or do this to get anything for less.
3. Have you gotten your z's?
If you're tempted to make a big-ticket purchase, sleep on it (find out what skimping on sleep can do to you). Research shows that we're willing to spend more money when we're emotional, so a delay can help take the drama out of a big decision. Plus, living without a new sofa for a night (or a week) may convince you that you'd rather use the money for something else.
4. Are you buying just because it's on sale?
Do you really need another pair of black slacks, or does the price just seem too good not to grab them? People often buy more than they planned to at discount outlets. And as someone's mom once said: A bargain isn't a bargain if you don't ever wear it. Here's how to shop on the cheap for things you really want.
5. Have you asked about future deals?
If there's an item you're eyeing, tell the store manager that you'd love to know if it's going on sale; some retailers will hold it for you for a day or two. If it's a place you shop regularly (or an online retailer), sign up to receive email notices about sales and special promotions - but only if you can resist impulse buying stuff you don't need.
6. Do you love it and do you need it?
Don't pull the trigger on a purchase until the answer to both is a resounding yes. If you're not fully enamored when you're buying the item, you really won't be when the bill arrives. If you really do need it, but can wait, time your purchase to the ideal saving season.
7. Can you afford it?
If you don't have money in the bank to pay for the item in full, please don't buy it. No matter how inexpensive it is, charging it to a credit card if you carry a balance just isn't worth it. In fact, the amount you pay in interest could wind up doubling the cost (or more) - and that's no bargain! Try these six ways to tame credit card debt.
Beth Kobliner is the author of the New York Times best seller Get a Financial Life. She can be heard each week on the nationally syndicated public-radio show "The Takeaway." Visit her at bethkobliner.com.
Tell us, what's your money M.O.?
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