Thursday, October 28, 2010

Use a wish list to save money and reduce waste

“I want, I want, I want.” We are wired to shop, to hunt, to gather.  At some point, however, our overflowing closets, garages, rooms, and depleted finances say, “Stop!  Please stop.” We can also help reduce waste by limiting our purchases. Consume less; pollute less.

You can still have what you want, but there’s a better way than constantly pulling the buy-impulse trigger, and it involves one small thing: making a list or a wish list.

Seven steps for using a wish list wisely:
  1. Using either the “Notes” App on your iPhone or similar feature on your mobile device, start building a list. If you do not want to keep your list electronically, put a piece of paper in your wallet with a tiny pen.
  2. When you get the urge to purchase something, ask yourself if it is a need or a want, and by all means purchase it if it truly is a need ... in other words if your survival and true happiness depend on it.
  3. Also ask yourself if, with a little research you might find the item elsewhere at a better price. The Internet is a wonderful tool for comparison shopping. Perhaps you buy a particular item often, such as energy bars or Dry Cleaner’s Secret dryer sheets.  At, you can buy in bulk and save almost half, provided you buy enough to get free shipping. Did you know that pays for shipping both ways and will give you a full year to make a return? will search all travel sites to find the best air, hotel, and rental car deal.
  4. Here’s where the list comes in: If the item you are lusting after is not a “need” but is merely a “want,” don’t buy it yet.  Put it on the list.
  5. As the list grows, review it, play with it, enjoy it, re-sequence it, and remove the stale items you (gasp!) no longer crave. Time made these items inconsequential to your life.
  6. For the things you still want, find alternative ways to acquire them that don’t involve full price. If you are a reader, borrow the latest best-sellers from the library for free. Go online to extend the use if need be. DVD movies are free to borrow from the library too. Chat with friends about the things you want. Maybe someone just upgraded their laptop and would be thrilled to pass the old one along to your child.
  7. Use your creativity to get what you want by re-purposing things that you already have.   If you need a small plastic bucket for a project, don’t buy one; just grab your kids’ beach bucket. If you want a new outfit for that wedding or party coming up, instead of wasting hours and money buying something that will become ho-hum and tired eventually, swoop your favorite pashmina over your shoulder and secure it with a pretty brooch. Then you can wear that simple black cocktail dress yet again and no-one is the wiser.

Now you can change your tune from “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go” to “Don’t worry, be happy!”

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