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“I gotta have it!” vs. “Oh snap, what if my rent check bounces?”

Written by JR Weiland

How often do you make a purchase? And be real. Actually, don’t answer that…

I’ll go ahead and bet you make at least one purchase every day. And if you do so less frequently, then you probably still buy plenty of things that not only add up, but also represent a bunch of stuff that you could easily do without.

With today’s easy access to credit and debit cards, it’s become a habit for us to see something we want, swipe a card or hit up an ATM, get what we want, and not think twice about it.

This, my friends, is a very, very bad habit – and one that may hinder you from becoming a wealthy individual one day. In fact, this is exactly the type of behavior that leads to out-of-control credit card debt, which can ruin credit scores and set people back for years.

So how do you break this habit? First, you must define your version of a “need” and a “want”.

"Needs" are at the top of your priority list and start with the basics like food, housing, clothing, transportation, etc. Wants are the more superficial items – things you don’t need to survive, but you like because they make up your current lifestyle. You know what I’m talking about – it’s that lifestyle that’s so great it’s making you live PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK.

Picture yourself at age 70. You’re feeling old and tired, but you still need to work because you didn’t save a dime for the last 45 years… all so that you could wear the best fashions when you were 30 and because you just had to drive a new car every two years. Sounds lame to me. I prefer the picture myself smiling on the beach in the Caribbean at that age.

Next, you must become aware of the fact that we all sometimes (if not most times) spend without thinking. You must develop the habit of questioning the value of every purchase you make. When you question every purchase, you’re subconsciously determining whether it is indeed a need or a want. Taking control of this behavior could start with the things as small as whether or not to bring a sack lunch to work, going out to dinner or your daily trips to Starbucks.

How about for the next month you try this: Each time you catch yourself preparing to buy something, or go out to eat even though there is plenty of food at home – you STOP. Instead, put a note in your phone with an estimate of what you almost spent. Do this every time you have the chance. Stop, don't buy, note the amount you almost spent. Then, after one month, add up how much money you didn’t spend on the superficial “wants”, multiply your monthly number by 12, and you’ll see how much money you could save in a year.

If you want to take it a step further, enter that number into an online investment calculator to see how much that money could potentially grow after 5, 10, 15, 20 years if you hadn’t wasted it and invested it instead.

I assure you if you keep these things in mind, it can change the way you think about money, the way you spend money, and eventually it can lead to a life with instead of without money.

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