It is getting easier to buy things now. With Shopee, Lazada, Taobao working their magic with their 9.9, 10.10, 11.11, 12.12 sales, consumers like you and me are finding it hard to resist buying. You are not alone in this. Shopee, Lazada, Taobao’s amazing algorithm makes sure that they show us things that are of interest to us and will keep reminding us until we press “add to cart” to achieve our happiness (or end our misery). It is only at the end of the month that we log into our Ibanking account to see that we have already spend over hundreds or thousands of dollars shopping.
First thing first
This is not a post to advocate not spending. I believe expenditures are important and necessary to our productive and creative self. It will be quite lame to live a life saving every single cent and not enjoying the joys of the world. Thousand of blogs out there are advocating on “saving money on the Starbucks” or “stop buying the avocado toast”. While it certainly makes financial sense, it is also certain that it will be a miserable life. Let me give you a real life example.
When I was 24, just graduated from University. I was poor and was determined to save every single cent. In the months to come, I only ate at the mixed vegetable rice stall at hawker centers. It costed me $2.90 when I bought a combination of 2 vegetables and 1 meat. I also refused to buy coffee/tea. This saved me a lot of money but I assured you that I was not looking forward for my meals at all. Financially, it make sense. Psychologically, it took a toll. I change a lot after that and you can read more here.
My suggestion in this ultimate shopping guide aims to help you find a balance financially and psychologically. That being said, saving money and investing them is the cheapest way to become financially free.
The 4 Quadrants of Spending
After sharing about personal finance for over 8 years, I realised 99% of what you buy will fall into the 4 Quadrants. I will sharing real examples and also for those of you who needs rule of thumbs, I will be glad to provide that for you.
The Cheap and Useful
The cheap and useful is the most straight forward of all. Just buy it. This is because it is going to help you with your pursuit of growth and it is also affordable. An example of cheap and useful will be like a book. A book increases your knowledge in the subject matter. You may get more insights after reading a book. You can even read it again and still get insights for it. I buy books almost on a monthly basis and I can feel myself growing in knowledge. (Sidenote: I’m in the process of getting a affiliate program with bookdepository. I strongly believe in daily learning and hope you can do the same too). In this quadrant, it is your cheapest opportunity to succeed. Previously, I wrote about 3 books to read during COVID-19. I’m probably going to update that soon.
The Expensive and Useful
There will be times when the product or services is expensive. However, my advice is invest and buy it. This is because these product or services will probably allow you to be more productive and more effective. Some examples of the expensive and useful are an IPad, a good handphone, a good powered laptop (especially if you are doing video editing) or standing desk. These will increase your productivity on a daily basis. The last thing we want is to create a bad experience when you hustle. Some other products or services includes a gym membership, a coaching or investment class.
4 years back in an feeble attempt to save money. I settled on a Xiaomi 3 phone. The specs were okay and I got it because it was cheap. The phone started to lag after 6 months. It was such a pain finding information on a phone. On one fateful day, my hands slipped and the Xiaomi 3 came crashing down on the floor. When I picked it up, the phone screen was already died. The phone refused to reboot and I spend the next day and a half buying a new phone and transferring all my data to the next phone. I probably missed out a day of text. As a self employed helping clients, the worse thing that can happen is to suddenly become uncontactable. I bought Huawei’s flagship P10 Plus after that and never looked back.
Invest when you need to.
The Not Useful (Be it cheap or expensive)
The expensive and the not useful will usually fall into the luxury market space. I once knew a lady who spend $800+ on a pair of slippers. She has worn it once before and she stopped wearing it because she’s afraid the slippers will be exposed to the rain. For those of you who are curious, this is the slipper.
On the other side of the quadrants are the cheap and the not useful. While it seems harmless due to the same quantum, the accumulation of these products will add up. Examples of these are like a low quality shirt (you know you can feel it).
I once when to taobao to buy a pair of jeans. The jeans cost only $5 and I felt that it was “useful” for me. When it arrived, the cutting was terrible and there was this weird smell on it. After wearing it for one time, it went even more out of shape and my pocket had a hole in them. I threw it away and swear by Uniqlo now.
A very general rule for those in the not useful quadrant is to not buy it.
However, like all things in life, you can be flexible. If the part of Hermes Slippers is essential for your happiness (or for whatever reason logical or not), consider buying a second hand one. The second hand market is a big one. You probably will save lots just buying on a second hand market. The best part is that no one will ever know that you got it second handed! Hang on for another tip coming below.
Disclaimer: Useful or Not
One of the most common question my client ask me is “How do we know if this is useful?”
The fact remains that the usefulness of the item is subjective and highly dependent of oneself. For example, the gym membership is expensive and “useful” ONLY if you go to the gym and workout at the gym. Otherwise, it is not useful at all. To help you further if you are unsure if the product or services is useful or not, I have created this rule of thumb for you to consider.
If you are NOT SURE that the item is useful, and it cost > 15% of your monthly income, then don’t buy it.
If you are KNOW that the item is NOT USEFUL BUT you know you will feel happy, and if it is > 5% of your monthly income, then don’t buy it. If you still want to buy it, consider a 2nd hand version.
Final Thoughts By Wealthdojo
Hopefully, this guide can help you make better decision in your next shopping session. Be it Cyber Monday, Single’s Day, Boxing Day, you will be prepared. Wishing the best in your financial journey.
Chengkok is a licensed Financial Services Consultant since 2012. He is an Investment and Critical Illness Specialist. Wealthdojo was created in 2019 to educate and debunk “free financial advice” that was given without context.
Feel Free To Reach Out To Share Your Thoughts.
The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organisation, employer or company. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author.