Most of the time, saving money is more about knowing what not to buy then it is about squirrelling cash away. If you're an impulsive shopper like me, that can be a problem. That's why I recommend you shop at one particular store before all the others: Your own.
Photo: Patrick Allan
A while ago I was in one of those "I'm bored so I'll buy something new" mindsets. It doesn't happen to me as much as it used to, but when it does, it hits me hard. I had been reading about a series of games I enjoy and thought of picking up a new one I hadn't played yet.
And that's when it hit me: I still had a similar game at home that I had barely touched. I'd simply forgotten about it. So I stopped window shopping, went and dug out that game I already owned, started playing it from the beginning, and my itch was instantly scratched.
All of this got me thinking: I wonder how many things I've purchased not realising I already have something that could satisfy me the same way. I've probably purchased countless games, books and other fun things over the years because I didn't bother to take a look at my own inventory first.
So often we think we need something new in our lives when we really only need something that can satisfy us in that very moment, that weakened state, until the feeling fades away. Besides, you've likely felt that way before, so you probably already have that thing, whatever it is, lying around somewhere.
What's more: These impulsive purchases are usually about chasing a feeling. I didn't actually want a new game. I wanted the excitement and potential that came with buying a new game. I wanted to feel like I was 12 years old again, on the precipice of an otherworldly adventure I could sink hours and hours into. But I don't have hours to spend playing games any more. And as much as I want that feeling, I know how quickly it will fade.
When you spend money impulsively, it isn't necessarily on luxuries. We buy some pretty boring stuff. Household cleaning products, for example. Research shows we like to buy practical, useful things, which makes spending impulsively even more dangerous.
When some shiny new thing appears and catches your eye, stop and ask yourself, "What am I after here, exactly?" If you truly need a new item, purchase away. But if you find you're only after a feeling - only trying to scratch an itch - shop your own stuff first.
What do you have that's similar? What do you have that makes you feel the way you want to feel? Maybe there's an unfinished book in your library that can offer the same appeal. Perhaps there's an unbeaten game in your backlog that takes to you to the type of world you're looking for. Or maybe you have a long-forgotten jacket buried deep in your closet that can make your wardrobe feel fresh again.
Shop your own wares first and I bet you'll find something suitable - or at least distract yourself from that "I need something new" urge.