Everywhere we look, it seems like there's some new advertisement trying to convince us to open our wallets. We live during an age of technological advancement. Without even expending much effort, you can find things that help you clean the house, save paper at the office, help communicate with friends and loved ones, have a greener garden, or just about anything else. Really, when it comes to technology, it's no longer a question of Can it be done? Instead, it's a question of what will it cost? In an April 2012 article for businessnewsdaily.com, Chad Brooks examined the average monthly expenses for those who've been swept up in the information revolution. Referencing a study conducted by the American Institute of CPAs, Mr. Brooks explained that "Americans who subscribe to digital services spend an [additional] average of $166 each month... the equivalent of 17 percent of their monthly rent or mortgage payment. Those who download songs, apps and other products spend an additional $38 per month, on average."
Although people have always irresponsibly spent money, the problem appears to be getting worse. Credit cards allow the average person to acquire merchandise without really being able to afford it, while simple daily activities seem like they're becoming next to impossible to perform without the latest in "smart" technology. Perhaps the digital age, with its instant access to all kinds of information and entertainment, has created a society that demands immediate gratification. Whatever the cause, it seems like the current generation has the "I W.I.N."? attitude.
Is it bad to want things now? Of course not. It's when we act on those feelings that we put ourselves in danger. When we make purchases without planning ahead, we run the risk of crushing a carefully constructed budget.
So how do we keep from having an I W.I.N. attitude?
- See if the item you want is in your current budget.
- If it is not in the budget, put it in and plan for it. Even if it looks like it will take years to make it affordable, you will be much better off in the long run. There's nothing wrong with wanting a new dining room set. Just make sure that you're saving for it every month until you have enough to purchase it.
- Ask for advice. Do you know anyone who seems to really make their money last? If so, talk to this person and see if they have any tips that they'd be willing to share. Ask older family members, such as parents or grandparents, how long it took for them to be able to afford their house or other major purchases. My parents had been married for nearly ten years before they bought a home. They scrimped and saved so that the debt would not be such a burden on them.
- Remember the common phrase "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."? Sure you may want a new car, but do you really need one? Would it be cheaper to repair the vehicle you already have? If so, then that might be a better way to go. And just because Apple wants you to believe that the iPhone 5 is the most important invention since the wheel, doesn't mean that your iPhone 4 has become suddenly useless. If you don't need it, don't buy it.
If you decide that you really do need something, then remind yourself that if you can fit it in your budget without eliminating other more important things, then you can have it. It may take time and effort, but you can work it out. Just remember to be wise and don't compromise your financial future just because you want something right now.