“Make a list.” That’s what I said to my wife recently when she was feeling a bit overwhelmed. With my recent annual bonus, we had decided to give ourselves a bonus too. We, as I am sure many people do, give ourselves a monthly allowance or fun money. So, when the bonus satisfied all pressing financial concerns and we had saved some of it, we decided to enjoy ourselves. My wife however, began to become overwhelmed by all of the things she was thinking of spending the money on. I found her researching everything from Disney vacations to slot machine myths.
That is when I suggested that she make a list of the items she wanted. This way, I suggested, she could prioritize the things she wanted to buy. She would also be able to figure out if she had enough money to buy everything she wrote down. If she did not, then she could then decide which items were the highest priorities. I employ this tactic when it comes to the household finances. I usually present the options to my wife and we decide together which items are the highest priorities. With this approach, I also avoid unnecessary arguments, as we are both on the same page.
The other thing a list can do is to make you wait. By waiting, it eliminates impulse purchases that are not your top priority. By having a clear vision of what you want to spend your money on, you can rearrange your list as new ideas or priorities come up. I have often heard the trick of taking your credit cards and freezing them in a block of ice, so that you can only use them in an emergency. The list works under the same principle. It ensures that you spend your money on what you truly want. There have been a few times, where I thought there were things that I truly had to have, right away. However, just waiting 24 hours was enough for me to realize that I either did not need or did not truly want a given item.
Not Just for Stuff
A list does not just have to be for material items. It can also be for goals as well. For example, many people desire to be completely debt free and have a list that corresponds to that goal. Myself, I have more than one list, one list for the household and one list for myself. My list consists of items that I want, but do not necessarily need. Since they are wants, they do not fit within the household budget. The household list consists of items for my kids, the house, and savings goals.
After I mentioned the list idea to my wife, she began to write down the things she was thinking of getting with her bonus. She estimated what each thing would cost and then began prioritizing the items she wanted the most. By doing that, she realized there were items that she really did not need. She became less stressed. It allowed her to eliminate items from her list and spend her money in such a way as to maximize its benefits.