It’s always disappointing when you discover a new product that’s outside of your price range. Even if it could make a big difference in your life, purchasing it doesn’t seem possible.
However, by taking a little initiative, you can improve your financial situation and be one step closer to affording your goals. Check out these five tips on how to afford the things that catch your eye.
1. Make a Debit Card Your Primary Payment Method
No matter what type of purchase you’re making, your debit card should be the first thing you take out. While credit cards do provide funds you may not have at the moment, you’re still on the hook for them.
A debit card, because it draws directly from your account, is limited to what you have and withdraws it immediately. This is a great way to know what you can afford, which helps you focus your purchasing decisions.
While you shouldn’t depend too much on a credit card, this doesn’t mean you should never use one. Provided you plan credit card purchases — and how you’ll pay them off — in advance, you can use them to raise your credit score. This, in turn, will make it easier for you to get more financial benefits, such as a mortgage or car loan. That said, for most purchases, you should default to a debit card so you can keep track of everything directly.
2. Reserve Necessary Payments Immediately
There’s no feeling quite like opening your bank account app and seeing you received a big paycheck. It’s tempting to let your guard down as your account balance rises. And while this is the best time to move funds around, focus on necessities first.
As soon as your paycheck hits your account, figure out a way to “set the necessities aside.” You can do this by allocating funds to different budgeting “buckets” or even sending funds to separate accounts.
The goal is to become aware of what you have versus need and ultimately spend or save what’s left. Thus, if your bills require $2,500 per month and you make $3,000, you can put the former aside and still have $500. It can be quite freeing to tangibly see how much extra you have in the end. Either you can spend more freely or take steps to improve how much you save.
3. Set Cyclical Purchase Limits
Everyone has something they’d consider a “vice,” whether it be candy bars, clothes, or coffee. You may have once told yourself you need to spend less on these things but had trouble doing so. In this case, you can set yourself a limit on weekly purchases. This limit can be in dollars (e.g. $10 of doughnuts/week) or quantity (e.g. three doughnuts/week).
Either choice is up to you and depends entirely on your particular lifestyle. The reason this works is because you’re still able to treat yourself to the things you love. It’s usually counterproductive to stop these purchases altogether because it’ll only make you feel more restricted and stressed. By just limiting these purchases, you can pace yourself and make the most of the little joys.
4. Cut Expenses Where You Can
Another way you can improve your finances is to cut expenses anywhere you can. Instead of buying a coffee-shop croissant each day, for example, you can buy them frozen in advance. When shopping for groceries, figuring out which products cost less per ounce can save a lot in the long run. Cutting grocery costs is a perfect way to save gradually — no need to buy less, just buy lower-cost brands.
You can also take a look at less-than-necessary expenses like entertainment and clothing. For one person, you likely only need one streaming service (maybe two or three for larger households). Clothes are more affordable at thrift stores, resale marketplaces, and outlets, meaning you can get more for your money. These little things add up and will markedly reduce your costs over time.
5. Don’t Jump the Gun on Major Purchases
There always comes a time when you’ll want or need something that will set you back quite a bit. Maybe you’re in the market for a new washing machine or TV. The market price can be overwhelming, but your goal is not impossible — it’ll just take some time to make it work. Begin by laying out your options. What models are currently available and at what stores and for what prices?
Once you’ve narrowed down your prospects, you can begin monitoring particular products as price and availability fluctuate. You can use a price tracker to keep watch on certain websites, subscribe to newsletters to get discount alerts, etc.
The more patient you are, the more likely you’ll be able to succeed in getting a better price. The best part is, you won’t have to go without the product and can be proud of your savvy spending.
The things we want the most often feel out of reach — and sometimes they are. But with a little bit of effort and luck, these things are not impossible to get for ourselves. Next time something seemingly too expensive catches your eye, take a look at how you spend your money elsewhere. You’ll be surprised how much budget room you can make with a few tweaks to your spending habits.