Stop Buying Stuff You Won’t Remember in a Week
This is perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve ever learned about personal finance. If it’s an item or an experience you won’t remember in a few days, you shouldn’t be spending any money on it. If it’s completely forgettable, then any money you spent on it is basically just lost.
The only completely forgettable things you should be spending money on are your most basic life needs – basic food, basic clothing, and shelter.
The thing is, people often have a memorable event where they do something they enjoy – like enjoying a delicious morning coffee with a friend – and then start repeating it and repeating it until it’s completely not memorable any more. It becomes normal and completely forgettable, and when you have an extra expense that has become normal and completely forgettable, you’re literally throwing money away.
Even “special” purchases can become completely forgettable. The first book you buy this year might be memorable, but the 30th? It just gets tossed on your shelf.
Use Credit Card Statements, Bank Statements, and Receipts to Track These Down
The trick with forgettable purchases like these is that, well, you forget about them. That’s the whole problem – they just fade away.
The solution to that problem is to simply dig through your credit card statements and bank statements and receipts every once in a while and look for these kinds of purchases. What purchases did you make that you can’t even remember – or barely remember? Look for the places where you spent that money and recognize that those are pretty wasteful places for you to go. You don’t get anything lasting out of your money spent there.
Avoid Convenience Foods
Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with going out to a restaurant as long as it’s a memorable experience. If you’re going out with friends that you haven’t seen in a while or you’re taking your sweetheart to a very special place, by all means, you should go out to eat.
The problem comes when you go to a restaurant as a pure “time saver” and the food and experience are completely forgotten in a few days.
Fast food almost always falls into this category, as do many chain restaurants. The meals are completely forgettable, relatively expensive, unhealthy, and actually don’t save much time, either. If you know you’re going to need to eat in a pinch, put a couple of sandwiches in a small cooler before you leave home.
The same thing is true for convenience stores and gas stations. In fact, it’s basically always true there. Sure, you may be really hungry or really thirsty on a road trip. That’s why it always makes sense to have a few snacks and an empty water bottle in the car – you can fill the water bottle at the gas station and eat the snacks you already have instead of the expensive ones they have for sale.