Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Be Disciplined

Tip #266 - Be Disciplined. Okay, this is a very common sense tip. But as I've been thinking over the past week what is it that really separates the savers from the spenders, I've concluded that having discipline is a big part of it. Obviously, there are certain expenses that some of us can't get away from - medical expenses and some education expenses come to mind. But, we have choices in much of our daily spending.

As we are pushing the shopping cart down the grocery store aisle, we can pick up the gourmet brand coffee, the ice cream treat that we don't really need, and the imported cheese. Or we can show discipline to forgo the ice cream altogether, put up with a cheaper brand coffee, and deal with good ole' American cheese. The difference between spending more and less at the grocery store? Pure discipline. Discipline to put up with generic products or to forgo certain foods altogether.

When we are out shopping for a car, we may feel swayed to buy a top-of-the-line luxury vehicle versus a basic model. Or we may be tempted to add in the deluxe options such as heated seats or power doors. It takes discipline to say no to these fancy cars and luxurious options and save money while doing so.

How about when renting an apartment? Do we go for the one with the washer/dryer in the unit updated gourmet kitchen with granite countertops or are we disciplined enough to deal with the apartment that has a laundry room on the ground floor and sports outdated 80's almond cabinets in the kitchen?

Maybe we have a hard time being careful with our money when we go out to eat or to a bar - it's easy to add another overpriced drink to the tab and another appetizer.

This last example is one that seems to cause a lot of problems for people. If we use credit cards, do we have the discipline to only purchase items that the amount of money in our bank account actually covers, rather than use the card to buy things that we do not have money for? In other words, do we have discipline to use credit cards wisely? Or are they used as "free money" instead?

Again, sometimes we don't have a choice on being disciplined about spending money - medical events happen, emergencies come up, and some things just have to be paid for, no matter what. But for those "optional" expenses, it's the discipline that we have that makes all the difference in our spending.

In Real Life (IRL) - Writing and doing are two different things. And while I think I am disciplined about not spending money in many categories, there are other areas that I fall short. So it takes control for me to stay out of the place where I seem to want to spend money in the first place. But if I do go there, it takes every ounce of discipline I have not to spend money on things that I don't need and wasn't palanning on buying.

For example, I love Trader Joe's. I think it is a great supermarket for many items. They have many choices of inexpensive, healthy choices. But there are other more expensive and less healthy (i.e. snack food) choices that are also available. So when I go to Trader Joe's to stock up on hormone-free cheese, frozen veggies, mini-bagles and our other TJ's staples, it takes a lot of discipline on my part to not also pick up their version of Pirate's Booty called Buried Treasure or something like that). Believe me when I say we don't need it in the house. It's usually gone in one hour flat. I don't need it on my waistline, and it's two dollars that I didn't need to spend. There are many other equally yummy snacks there that I don't need to be buying, but it takes a lot of discipline on my part to bypass them and keep the money in our pocket for more useful things.

Thrift stores are another place I need to be more disciplined about. The cheap prices are so attractive to me, that it's easy for me to spend money on things that I didn't plan on buying. It takes even more discipline for me to stay away from thrift stores in the first place, one in particular that is nearby because I really enjoy the treasure hunt. And even though I have a small eBay business, I have plenty of junk, er inventory, around here that I need to sell before I should be think about buying more stuff, so I just don't need to be going in the first place.

These are two places that come to mind that I need to be disciplined about in order to save money. On the other hand, I can freely go to a fair and not be tempted to spend big bucks on rides and games. That doesn't appeal to me that much. A new car dealership doesn't interest me that much either - I'm more of an AB car kind of gal (an AB car being one that works well enough to get me from point A to point B). And I can't tell you the last time I went to a shopping mall - well I can, it was when I went to take my son for a haircut several months ago - and we found out the Cartoon Cuts had closed. I haven't been back to the mall since. It just doesn't interest me at all. But I know some of these places, along with coffee shops, fast food restaurants, electronics stores, book stores, and others can be challenging for other folks in terms of them having a hard time not spending money there.

And the credit card crisis our country is facing? It's not because credit cards are pure evil. It's because many people are not disciplined enough to forgo buying things that they don't have the money for. And credit cards give them a way to buy these things even if they don't have the money.

What it all comes down to is that we need to figure out for ourselves where our personal weak spot is with regards to spending money. Is it the big items that we just say, "What's another $1000?" and go for extras like the bells and whistles on a new car? Or is it everyday stuff that we have a hard time controlling our spending with - coffee shops, drugstores, and eateries?

Perhaps, we are not disciplined enough to say no to salespeople - whether it be the hairdreser trying to sell us shampoo or the high school kid selling wrapping paper at the front door. If we can all identify our weaknesses, then we can work on having enough discipline in those areas to avoid going there in the first place or saying "no" when we do. Easier said than done, I know. But you know what they say? Recognizing our problems is half the battle to solving them. It just takes discipline to go the rest of the way. For other money-saving ideas, check out Life As Mom.


FoodontheTable said...

Great things to think about. Thanks for sharing!

freedom journey said...

Discipline is so hard to achieve when you were not trained in it as a child. We're learning but it's hard!

Mara said...

I was JUST thinking about this subject tonight. We stopped at Costco today and they had a new product we had never seen before, so we got it. A total splurge to the tune of $7. We rarely impulse shop, so for us, this was a clear example of NOT being disciplined.

I was thinking on the way home about that $7. On the one hand, that amount is clearly not going to make or break our financial future. On the other hand, if we splurge $7 every time we shop, well that can add up to a couple of hundred dollars a year probably. And while even that amount won't land us in the poor house, it will prevent us from saving to the maximum and therefore reaching our longer term goals. But then I thought (yes, it was a long drive home!), What is the balance between living and enjoying today vs. saving for and enjoying the future?

I know frugality and self-restraint are very important, but how much and to what degree? Is it okay to say yes to splurges and non-disciplined moments? Especially when there are savings goals (kids college, for instance) that we aren't yet maxed out on?

Sorry to go on and on... clearly your post touched a nerve that was already churning in me! Thanks for your always thought-provoking posts!