The Power of No

December 1, 2012 Money Saving Ideas

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Here are a lot of weapons in the arsenal of money-saving tips, but the most powerful, by far, is a mere two-letter word. It is also, however, one of the most difficult words in the English language to utter, especially when you have to say it to yourself—even more so when the war of “wants” versus “needs” has the “wants” always winning the battle.

That tiny little word is the word “no.” We all know this isn’t a state secret—if you want to save money, stop spending it! But if the average amount of average consumer debt is any indication, many of us struggle with the word “no” on a pretty regular basis.

Saying no isn’t easy—I’m not going to lie about that. But all the coupon clipping and deal grabbing in the world is not going to save you the amount of money that not spending it in the first place is going to do. No matter what the extreme couponers say, even if you only pay 15 cents after coupons for 100 bottles of body wash, you would have saved even more if you hadn’t bought them in the first place. Now, I’m not saying to not buy the things you need to get through your daily life. I am saying, however, that if you truly want to save money, you need to master the word “no” in relation to some of the non-necessities of life.

A good place to start is your grocery budget. If you grocery shop on a weekly basis, look at the contents of your refrigerator at the end of the week. How much food are you throwing away? How much does that food cost? That’s how much money should still be in your pocket—it’s as if you have literally thrown your money away. Make a grocery list based on the food you and your family will actually consume, based on meal plans you can actually stick to, and buy only the things on that list. It doesn’t matter how many tasty treats you find at the store—if it’s not on your list, don’t buy it.

Another instance when the word “no” is especially helpful is when it comes to eating out. Oh, it is so tempting,–pizzas, pastas, tacos…all made by someone else and delivered handily right to your table or car. Realistically though, the money that you spend to feed a family of four at a sit down restaurant could probably feed your entire family 3 meals a day for a week. Do you really want to blow an entire week’s grocery budget on one meal?

Going out with friends is another budget buster. No one likes being the party pooper when everyone is going out for drinks or to a show, but that night can put a budget in the red so very quickly. If you start feeling like a social pariah because you never say yes when the gang is headed out, invite everyone to your place instead. Host a potluck, be it indoors or a backyard barbecue, and you can still be social without draining your bank account.

Many of us have a weakness for a sleek, shiny brand new vehicle. A new automobile, however, is one of the worst investments out there. It depreciates the moment you drive it off the lot, and you’ll never recoup the full amount of money you paid for it. It may not have the new car smell, but a used vehicle will give you more for your buck, and many still come with a warranty. When you are looking for a new-to-you vehicle, skip the new car showroom and check out the vehicles on the used car lot or consider buying from a private party seller.

Clothing is yet another area where many of us spend too much. Do you really need more new clothing? Even if you have a special event coming up, you could always recycle an outfit you have worn before or possibly borrow something from a friend. If you absolutely must buy clothing, try checking out consignment stores or thrift shops. Many offer next-to-new clothing at a fraction of the cost.

Although it can be difficult, saying no to the bevy of school fundraisers and other charity sales can be a way to cut back on your spending. Not to say that there aren’t many worthwhile charities out there, but if you would like to give, give directly without buying the drivel that often comes along with fundraising efforts. The charity only sees a fraction of the money you spend on candy bars, candles, etc., so it’s really more cost effective to give them that money directly than to spend the extra on something you probably don’t need anyway.

This is the one that often gives people the toughest time—gift-giving. Realistically, do you really think that the people you love and cherish would like to see you go into debt simply to buy them a gift? People who truly care about you would certainly say no. Instead of spending cash on a trinket they could probably do without, offer to spend time with your loved ones instead. Choose an activity the “recipient” enjoys, and spend time with them doing that activity. Often this means more to the recipient than a tangible gift anyway, especially if you explain that although you would like to continue celebrating their milestones (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.), you can no longer afford to buy expensive presents. Most people will be incredibly understanding, especially when you offer the gift of time instead.

If you are truly committed to saving money, make the word “no” your best friend. You just might be surprised at the things you can say yes to once your finances are in order again!