As I scan all the personal finance sites out there, I am continually amazed by how creative people get with saving money. It’s so good to see thrifty becoming cool.

As my wife can attest: I was thrifty when thrifty wasn’t cool. In college, I drove a 20 year-old 4-door Ford Galaxy with no air conditioner or cruise control. Why? Because it got me where I needed to go, it was easy to maintain by myself and (drum roll) it cost me only $400. When I graduated, I upgraded to a much more efficient Ford Escort. It had a factory AM/FM radio, manual everything and cost me only about a month’s wages. See a trend?

Many of the couponing tactics and cash-back strategies I read about would probably never work for me. Don’t get me wrong; I leverage every opportunity to save money that I can. The reason many of the things people do to save money or get cash back won’t work for me is that, generally speaking, I’d have to spend money on stuff I might not need in order to save some portion of what I spend.

By the way, my current vehicle is a GT mountain bike that I paid $80 for at a flea market back in 2003. Full disclosure: we have a newer crossover style vehicle that my wife uses as her primary vehicle and I get to drive when I need to. It’s completely paid off.

In other words, many of the purchases we spend money on are things we want, but don’t really need. And this brings us to the three simple words that can save you a ton of money in your lifetime.

I learned these words early in my adult life and they have never steered me wrong, when it comes to managing money. Ready?

Here are the 3 words:

Want or need?

If you pose these three words to yourself before every purchase, I am confident you will begin to spend money differently.

Let’s run a few commonly purchased items through the “want or need?” filter:

Housing. Everyone needs to live somewhere, but for most of us, that corner suite on the top floor of a high-rise condo is more of a want.

Transportation. In many large cities these days, all you need to get around is a transit pass and/or a rideshare app on your smartphone. But apparently enough people want shiny new SUVs to keep those dealerships in business.

Phone. The people that camp out for two days before the latest version of a certain brand goes on sale: do you think that’s driven by want or need?

Clothing. Sure, some brands feel better or look better than others. But do we need to buy a particular brand at the brand-name store? Or do we want to? Thrifty people want to pay less for quality brands and do so at consignment and thrift stores.

Coffee. Why would anyone want to pay $5 for a single fu-fu drink when they can make a week’s worth of coffee at home for about the same price? Notice I’m not denying that coffee is a need.

Next time you clip or download that buy one get one free coupon, consider asking yourself, “The one I have to buy – is it a want or need?”

If it’s just a want and you choose to pass, you just saved yourself the cost of the first one.

I think you get the picture. My aim here is not to judge others for how they spend money. (I’m sure some people think I’m extreme.) What I hope comes through in this message is that we can all find more money to save for the future or pay down debt with.

The key is to ask ourselves this question with each purchase: “Want or need?”

 

 

 

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