An important step on the route to a more self-sufficient lifestyle is taking back your economic power. As a culture, we indulge in a lot of thoughtless buying. We purchase on auto-pilot, using the retail environment as a way to meet our emotional and spiritual needs. That's not always a bad thing - but we need to be aware of when it's happening. That way we can be more conscious of our economic power, and make choices that enrich our own families rather than keep them on the brink of perpetual bankruptcy.
Here are 10 questions to ask yourself before you make a purchase - any purchase, large or small! Get in the habit of asking yourself these questions, and you'll find you buy less and enjoy what you have more. You'll also save money, which is always nice.
Before you buy anything, ask yourself:
1. Do I need this? Not all of our purchases have to be needs, but it's important to recognize which ones are, and which ones aren't.
2. Do I need to own this? Can I derive the same benefits I expect to get from buying this item through any other method - can I borrow the book, watch the movie online, use the slide at the public playground? Sometimes you can derive the benefits desired without the cost of ownership.
3. Do I need to get this brand new? Our country has an extensive secondary marketplace. What would happen if you got the item you wanted at a yard sale, via eBay, at a consignment shop or a flea market?
4. Do I want to take care of this item? Clothes need washing. Some clothes need ironing. Some clothes have to be dry cleaned. Every tangible thing needs some level of physical care. Are you willing and able to commit to providing that care?
5. Is there something else I want more than the item I'm thinking about buying right now? Once my daughter stopped spending her chore money on candy bars, she found it much easier to save up for the toy she wanted. This lesson doesn't stop being true just because we grow up!
6. Do I need to buy this right now? Sometimes I'm convinced I really need or fervently want an item, and am forced by financial circumstances to put off the purchase. Then when I'm in a position to buy the item, I've found the driving need or want has been fulfilled in some other way. You don't have to buy something just because you were planning to - you are allowed to change your mind!
7. Do I want this? There are all things we want, and that's okay. The world is full of amazing stuff. Before you make a purchase, make sure that you're getting the amazing stuff you want. Don't settle for weak substitutions. If you're buying to satisfy a want, get what truly makes you happy. This might mean saving up for a while, but you'll find the process goes faster if you're not spending money on things that in the long run you didn't want and don't make you happy.
8. What level of quality to I need to meet my need/want? We tend to buy as if "Only the best will do!" But we don't all need only the best, all of the time. If you're a hardcore handywoman who's actively in the process of remodeling your home, it's a smart decision to get a contractor grade screwgun. If your home improvement efforts are more in the line of hanging a picture once every year or so, it's a smart decision to get a screwdriver from the dollar store.
9. Who are the people influencing my purchasing decision? None of us live in isolation. Our purchasing decisions are influenced by the people we interact with. When I go to the grocery store, I get food my family likes. When I buy clothes to wear to work, I choose what would be appropriate for the workplace environment. Think about the times you've made choices based on what your romantic partner, neighbors, family, colleagues, or friends think. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you need to be aware of who you're letting influence your purchasing decisions. You get to choose how responsive you are to those influences.
10. Can I make what I'm thinking about buying? Once upon a time, I wanted a Boston Creme Pie for my family. But we were tight on funds, and the bakery wanted $15 for that cake. A DIY version cost $6.50 for ingredients and my time. Once upon a time, people made all sorts of things for themselves - and today, more people than you might suspect still do. The Maker, Crafting, and DIY communities are very inspiring and good places to learn how to do almost anything. You might be amazed at the impact in your life if you choose to make just one thing you want or need. It's an addictive sensation, and will totally transform your relationship with retail.