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  • Time is Money, Especially When Shopping

    When I'm on the clock, earning my paycheck, the time sometimes seems to drag on and on. When I'm coming up with the formula to amass my fortune, I've figured out it will take years and years to accomplish my financial goals. I know that, sometimes, it's better to pay for a service than to waste my precious time doing it, when I could be doing more important things. We've all heard it many times before, "Time is money."

    I've figured out that the amount of money I spend while shopping directly ties to how much time I spend doing it. If I go in for groceries at a leisurely pace, I can easily end up with a grocery bill that is triple what it needed to be. I'll do some browsing, looking for something new to try...I'll find a few new things to try.

    I've tried to limit my spending by refusing to get a big cart; I'd limit myself to a basket. But then I'd just trade it in for a cart when the milk and laundry detergent got too heavy. When the heavy load was no longer an issue, I would forget that my original goal was to keep my grocery bill at a reasonable limit.

    It doesn't matter whether I'm shopping for groceries, music, clothing, or sporting goods. If I make the mistake of being thorough in my shopping, I can guarantee that it will get expensive. I will find what I was looking for, and then I will find something that I didn't know I needed until I saw it. Or I'll see a new-and-improved version of something I already had - something I didn't get much use out of to begin with.

    I don't want to add up the price of my impulsive shopping over the years; but I know the number would be eye-opening. I imagine that it would be one of the steps in the twelve-step recovery program. As stubborn as I am, I've been determined to find my own cure for my love of shopping.

    In my quest to develop habits to reduce my spending on nonsense items, I've tried a few techniques; some worked better than others. A list helped, but I could guarantee that I would "remember" things in the store that I forgot to put on the list. Setting a spending budget for each trip didn't work very well, because I knew to set a pretty high limit to begin with based on my past receipts. The only thing no-fail method for me was to set a time limit on each shopping trip.

    When I plan out a shopping trip, I set a strict time limit before I even walk into the store. It's very important to do this before I walk in and have my judgement clouded by all the stuff I could be coaxed into buying. In addition to the time limit, I set a slightly flexible spending limit. It doesn't matter what I'm shopping for or how much of a spending budget I've had; I spend less with a time limit than I did with only a spending limit.

    A time limit on my shopping has forced me to prioritize necessary purchases and delay the ones that aren't as urgent. Some of the least urgent purchases actually drop off my list completely, as I realize that I really don't need those things. I've been learning to get the weekly grocery shopping done in a reasonable amount of time, and my total monthly food expense is down by about 30%. That's funny, I don't feel 30% hungrier...

    It was easy for me to justify spending too much on groceries; we need food to survive. What it was also easy to do was to oversupply the household with snacks and junk food, too many different types of cleaning products when a few is good enough, things that caught my eye only because they were on sale, and stuff I didn't really like all that much just for the sake of variety.

    When I put a time limit on my grocery shopping, I have to think fast. And when I think fast, only the important things come to mind. I don't have time to imagine how be more creative in meal preparation, and how to spend more money doing it.

    This trick even worked when I went into one of those media/electronics super-stores the other day. I wanted a set of speakers for my laptop, and set a 10-minute limit. You want to know what happened? I found what I was looking for, I spent less than half of what I planned on spending, and I didn't even browse the movies, CDs, or games. And I'm really happy with the speakers; they sound great!

    This strict time limit on my shopping has not only saved me money, it's saved the obvious; it gives me more time to do other, more important things. Instead of wasting half a day at this store and that store, I can get it all out of the way in a couple of hours. I'm no longer a slave to shopping!

    This is a great trick to control my expenses on my weekly grocery bill, clothing, disposable necessities, and other routine purchases. But this is not the way to shop for everything. Of course, I would never "speed shop" for a car, a home, a vacation, or investments. Large, important purchases require research, and common sense would tell me not to make hasty decisions if I'm in the market for such items.

    I don't know if this works for everybody, and I'm sure some people have no problem keeping their money in their wallet. But now the saying, "Time is money" takes on a whole new meaning for me.
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