By Phoenix Ebner
One of the biggest problems for many Americans is budgeting and saving their money. After all, we live in a society that prides itself on its egoism and materialistic desires - where there are holidays for buying "things," and people get trampled to death so that someone can get a good deal on a new television.
America now revolves around the "latest and greatest" products, a society where that phone you bought last year is now out of date; and we'll do whatever we need to in order to get it. Slowly but surely, the American Dream has evolved into working hard to get the newest model iPhone, the latest fashion trends or whatever luxury item the media tells us we need.
As Ellen Goodman said
, "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it."
So the question is, how do you save money when the world is telling you to keep spending?
Why Do We Buy What We Don't Need?
There are lots of reasons that a person may buy products that they don't necessarily need or without knowing if they will ever actually use the product. The Huffington Post touches on several reasons
we buy stuff we don't need to, and it fundamentally comes down to emotional and psychological motives. The first is because we want to impress other people; having the latest and greatest product shows wealth and allows people to feel a sense of pride over their possessions. Some people are chasing a "high" that they get from shopping, being exposed to all the glamor of the advertising business and finding all these amazing products can be thrilling for many people.
Which leads us to the next issue, exposure to too much advertising. Companies spend exorbitant amounts of money on advertising because they know it works and they know it will help sell their products. So how do we combat a society that's overflowing with advertising? Try to skip out on as much advertising as you can, don't pay attention during commercials, skip the ads in your favorite magazines or even spend a few extra dollars to use your subscriptions advertisement free.
Need vs. Want
The first and probably the most obvious first step is to separate your materialistic desires into two categories: "need" and "want." This doesn't mean you can never purchase anything you want and only buy things that you need, that would never work. But, when you first consider purchasing an item determine if you, in fact, need the item or if it is something you simply want. If you determine the item is a want, then decide if you, first, have extra money to be spending on this item and, second, if this is something on your list of wants that you desire more than most of the others.
If it's a want and you'd rather purchase something else in it's place, then simply don't buy it. Similarly, if it's a want and you don't have enough extra money to justify buying it, don't.
Online shopping may be one of the most dangerous ways to spend more money than you plan or even know you're spending.
Online shopping is one of the many modern conveniences that we have in or society today, but how convenient is it for your wallet. Because of the ease of shopping, many people end up spending more shopping online than if they went to a store. With a few simple clicks, we can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars from the comfort of our homes.
The easiest way to combat this overspending is obviously to physically go to the store and pay for your items with cash. Of course, this isn't always practical. So how can you change your online shopping habits? A good tip is whenever you are able to, go to the store and shop for the item or items in person. Sometimes just the effort of having to go to the store is enough to deter the purchase.
Paying with cash is also a great way to discourage bad spending habits. It's much harder to hand over a handful of bills than it is to swipe a card. This again can help to dissuade you from making frivolous and unnecessary purchases.
Savings and Emergency Funds
So now you've cut down on your spending, but what can you do with the extra money? A savings account, a retirement fund or an emergency fund are all great places to store extra money that you have. According to Time Money,
nearly half of Americans can't come up with $400 to cover an emergency expense without the need of selling something or borrowing money. Having an emergency fund can mean the difference between an inconvenience and a major disaster when the need arises.
An easy way to start an emergency fund is with an automatic savings account. By allowing a certain amount to be moved from your main account or be withdrawn from your paycheck every month it will allow you to easily accrue a suitable savings fund. With this method you have control over how much money you want to put in there each month, whether it be $50 a month from your checking account or 5 or 10 percent of your paycheck every week. The savings will accumulate quickly and, should the need ever arise, they can save you from long-term financial issues.