My bank statement arrives. I take a deep breath, open the envelope and…oops I did it again. I spent more than I could afford and now I’ll have to pay for it (literally). I scan the bill looking for mistakes (computers aren’t always accurate, you know?) and almost immediately find one. Baby’s R Us? That charge isn’t mine, I don’t even have a baby. Oh, wait… that was a present for that baby shower I didn’t even want to go to. Damn.

Sounds familiar? Well, you and I are not alone. Many of us find ourselves in the same situation over and over at the end of the month. We tell ourselves we won’t do it again, we promise ourselves we will spend less next month, but next month the story repeats itself.

So, how can we actually make it happen? How can we reduce our expenses and even save a little?

Keep on reading…

Understand your needs and your wants.

Let’s say it’s Friday night and you are exhausted after a long day at the end of a long week. Of course you are hungry, so you decide to go to a sushi restaurant and reward yourself a little bit. Nothing wrong with it, except that a month later all those plates of sushi and your glass of sake (can’t have sushi without sake) are going to add considerably to your credit card bill. Especially if that happens every Friday or every time you had a stressful day at work.

I’m not saying that you don’t enjoy yourself from time to time, but rather that you do it consciously. Go back to basics and ask yourself not what you want (sushi), but what you need(food). Asking yourself what are your basic needs each time can help you find cheaper or free alternatives. Putting things in writing can also help you think better, so you could make a chart like this:

Wants Needs Alternatives



Relax, unwind (sake can be so relaxing!)

Order take out (cheaper)

Have a glass of wine at home (cheaper)

Take a hot bath (free)

The same applies to other situations, for example if you want to buy a box of tissue paper you can ask yourself: What do I need it for? It sounds rather redundant but if you realize that you need it to blow your nose every once in a while then you can see that you don’t need to buy the (more expensive) version with lotion and just buy a regular box.

Be careful of sales, campaigns and promotions.

Buy 2 get 1 free!

Let’s say that you just ran out of laundry detergent and you go buy a new one. At the shop they have a special sale, buy two boxes and get a third one free.

-That sounds like a good deal, go for it.

Now let’s say that you want to buy an aroma candle made with organic ingredients (in other words expensive) to put on your night stand. You only need one. Same promotion, buy two get the third one free.

-Let it pass.

As a general rule, if you are going to enjoy the benefits of such promotion within 3 months or less it is worth it, if not, let it pass. Why?

First, the more time passes, the higher the chance that your tastes, needs or environment will change.

Second, buying more than what you need means you’ll have to store it somewhere, which brings other problems such as:

-cramped cabinets and closets

-the risk of damaging the product (think cosmetics exposed to sunlight or heat)

-forgetting the product (like when you clean the pantry and a bottle of expired sauce “appears” out of nowhere)

Back to the example of the laundry detergent. It is a product that you use frequently so the chance of it cramping your cabinets or that you forget it is low. Also your clothes are not going to change over time so you can keep using it until it’s over.

In the case of the aroma candle, depending on how fast it burns and how often you lit it, by the time you get to use the third candle the chance that you grew tired of the aroma or the candle itself is high, as is the chance that the aroma has already evaporated or has changed.

Buy over 50 dollars and get a free hand cream!

You ran out of face moisturizer (which costs 20 dollars) and go to buy a new one. At the store you find out that if you spend 50 dollars or more you will get a free hand cream. Here the questions to ask yourself are: Do I need a hand cream right now to justify the extra expense? If yes, Can I find a hand cream that I like at a cheaper price somewhere else? If no, the extra products that I will need to buy to reach the minimum 50 dollars, if I don’t need them right now, do I have the space to store them until the time I need them? Will they keep well until then? Is there a chance that my tastes or preferences will change making them useless before I can use them?

1 huge block of cheese for $2.99

Buying in bulk can be a very good idea if we are talking about basic things that we constantly use, like kitchen staples or house cleaning products. However the same rules as above apply, ask yourself how often do you need the product, if you have the space to store it, if the product will keep and if the chance of you changing your mind about it is high or low.

Of course, we are all different so you need to think of your own lifestyle and habits when making these decisions.

Before you make your next trip to the sushi restaurant, the department store or Costco ask yourself:

The Stones, Stone, On A White BackgroundWhat do I need right now?

Is there a cheaper or free alternative?

And if you are considering to buy something…

What do I need it for?

How often will I use it?

What is the chance that I will grow tired of it or that I will find something I like better?

What is the chance that I will change my environment

Do I have the space to store it properly?

Good luck on your mindful shopping!

Tags: money