The last few years have been financially tough for my family, and the last six months have been equally challenging. In learning hard lessons throughout the struggles, we have grown a lot. Looking back at the situations encountered has helped me to write a set of "golden rules" for knowing when to spend money and when to avoid getting ourselves in over our head. These are the guidelines we follow and why they help to keep us in line with spending and saving.
Do you need this, or do you want this? Choose wisely.
Too many people cannot distinguish between needing something and wanting something. Needs are things like food, water, and shelter. Wants are anything that you would like, but could live without. In my early 20s, I was able to have both wants and needs. As my family grew and my obligations were not only focused on me anymore, my priorities changed to what I needed in life, not what I wanted. Sometimes the line gets blurred, but I always go back to asking myself "Can I (or my kids) live without this?" and if the answer is yes, I will do without it.
Set a purchase limit on personal items bought without discussions
It is human nature to be excited about something you have purchased. As you become accustomed to this euphoric feeling, your expectations get bigger for the items or possessions you want. I have seen this happen in my own life, as well as friends' lives. In our marriage we have a set amount that we can spend on something without consulting the other. The limit is $25 on personal items, otherwise we have to consult our spouse. This has helped immensely, especially with my husband purchasing items he has only used once and never again. Bigger does not always equal better, especially where happiness and money are concerned.
Put away your change
It is always a good idea to keep a change jar that you can use for savings, emergencies, or even just for a rainy day. We have implemented a rule that at the end of the day, all of our change goes in to a jar we have on my work desk. We have used this method for quite some time and it works well. At one point our payout for the change saved was nearly $300, and that was after collecting for just under eight months. This is nice to fall back on, especially if something comes up that we did not expect.
After making our list of "golden rules," we have been able to stop ourselves from overspending on more than a few occasions. While these aren't necessarily the only guidelines we use to spend wise and save smart, they help keep us in the right frame of mind. Every household should have money rules to follow, and these are ours.
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