Budgeting

3 Good Habits That Stop You From Wasting Money on the Things You Buy

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Joanne Poh

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Singaporeans like to buy, buy, buy. But how much do they actually get out of the stuff they fork out good money for?

If you’re guilty of paying for a membership at a gym you only bother to visit once every two months, spend hundreds of bucks on cutting edge smartphones you end up replacing every year or have a wardrobe full of clothes you hardly remember exist, your usage patterns are so inefficient that you end up throwing away lots of money on stuff you get barely any pleasure out of.

We tend to think of saving and spending wisely as making sure we get good prices on the things we buy. But the way you use the stuff you have also affects the value you get out of it. Here are three good habits that will help you make the most of what you pay for.

 

Use things till the end of their lifespan

Singapore is a young country filled with new, shiny buildings. Anything that gets a little too old, musty or unprofitable gets torn down in the name of progress.

And we’ve come to take the same approach to our possessions. People are constantly changing their smartphones, to the point where it seems socially acceptable to mock others who are using old models. Shopping addicts buy new clothes in a rabid manner—the ratio of clothes shops to book shops in Singapore is embarrassingly high. Nobody drives old cars (we have the COE system to blame for that,) and many people feel embarrassed to be using something that looks the slightest bit dated or old.

Thanks to this attitude, we’re stuck in a cycle of constant consumption, a neverending cycle of buying and burying old belongings under mountains of new ones.

Before you buy something new, ask yourself if you’re using your existing belongings till they’re ready to be replaced. If you paid $200 for that shirt and only ended up wearing it once, that means you paid $200 for a single wear, which only a stupid or very rich person would do.

Use your belongings until they’ve reached the end of their lifespan and you’ll end up buying and spending a lot less.

Obviously some basic common sense needs to be employed here—you don’t want to use things to the point where they become a safety hazard, so if your $3 Tai Sing slippers have such slippery, worn out soles you almost break your neck each time you step on a wet surface, by all means invest in a new pair.

 

Don’t save things for a special occasion

To a compulsive hoarder whose flat is filled with mountains of junk containing anything from expired cans of food to PSLE exam papers from 1996, everything can be useful, just not right now. But one special day, fortune will smile on you and you’ll be able to triumphantly pull out that rabbit suit you’ve been keeping for years and wear it to that Mad Hatter-themed tea party your friends are organising.

When we save stuff for special occasions, we become a bit like hoarders, keeping things for this one special day that might never come.

How many times have you bought an outlandish clothing item like a tuxedo, a 1940s style ball gown or a fedora hat and justified the purchase by reassuring yourself you’d be able to use it one day at a themed wedding?

And how many times have you found items in your wardrobe you had forgotten existed and that you’d never worn, but that were now five years later way too out of fashion to try to wear? Or found expired moisturisers or makeup in your cupboard that you planned to use on special occasions but never got around to finishing?

9 times out of 10, things we save for special occasions never end up getting used, and finally years later we are forced to throw them out. If you’ve bought or been gifted something nice, commit to using it immediately and often—it’s too good to waste.

 

Before buying, consider how often and how long you’ll use it, not just how much it’ll cost

Shoppers tend to fixate too much on the price of the things they’re buying, and not enough on how much they’ll actually use an item and for how long.

That’s why, on a recent trip to a Disney Store overseas, I actually found myself contemplating the ridiculous purchase of a Mickey Mouse suit, marked down to 10 bucks  in a sale. It’s so cheap and the original price was 6 times more, I reasoned with myself. I might one day go to a Halloween party as Mickey Mouse, I argued.

Now, had I been thinking straight, I would have realised that this was an item I’d probably use zero times in my life, especially as I haven’t dressed up for Halloween in about ten years.

The next time you throw your money at some fantastic sale, make sure those are things you’ll actually use regularly. They might be cheap, but they’re not free, and if they’re going to collect dust at home they’re not worth spending a single cent on.

Do you own any items you never ended up using? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.