Sad Sally, Happy Hanna: The Last Straw?

"You wouldn't believe the bargains I've found today, Pete!" beamed Sally. "I've saved a fortune shopping at the sales - you'll be so proud of me!" she staggered towards him in an effort to hold on to all her bags. Pete said nothing, but watched in stunned silence, mouth agape while Sally retrieved yet more bags from the car and heaved them inside.

"Phew - I could have used some help, you know!" she puffed. "What's with the stunned mullet face?" she asked, catching sight of her husband's expression. "Oh, I know - you can't believe I actually went shopping at the sales! Silly old Sally, who always pays full price for everything, I know what you're thinking! Well I did - and I can't wait to show you all my bargains!" "No Sal, that is NOT what I'm thinking!" Pete finally spoke, struggling to keep his voice calm. "What I'm thinking is how the heck did you pay for all this? We don't have any money, remember? Don't tell me you used the overdraft again?" "Of course, silly! How else could I have taken advantage of so many fantastic discounts? Oh come on, Dear," Sally tutted impatiently, "surely you don't really expect us to miss out on these kind of prices? Before you say anything, there are no exchanges or refunds on most of them, so I can't take them back. But that doesn't matter because I know you're going to love my bargains when you see them for yourself!"

"Forget it, Sally - I don't want to see them EVER," Pete growled, his temples flushing bright red. "Oh honestly - what have I done now?" Sally rolled her eyes dramatically. "OK, I'm sorry, I should have consulted you first and told you I was going shopping, but you'll get over it - you always do!" she smiled sheepishly.

"Not this time, Sal," Pete paused for a long moment while he swallowed his anger, before announcing calmly, "I think we should separate our finances". Sally's eyes popped out of her head, "What do you mean? Are you leaving? Don't you love me any more? Oh, Pete, don't go! I - I'll change, I promise..." "Don't be daft - I'm not leaving you!" Pete tried his best to reassure her. "But I am sick and tired of being in debt. How else am I supposed to stop you from spending MY money?" Sally burst into tears.

Stop, Think and Save

This month Sally made some classic errors. She went shopping at the sales when she didn't have any money to spend.

It is a very easy mistake to make. The sales are there for one reason. They make retailers lots of money. Yes, you can most certainly pick up the odd bargain if you are very, very careful. But if you are trying to reduce your spending be wary, be very, very wary.

The only way Sally is going to turn her finances around is to start guarding her wallet and stop buying luxury goods. This covers new clothes, trinkets around the house, new appliances, semi-prepared food, new lunch boxes and school bags, beauty products, 'feel good items', anything that isn't necessary for survival.

If she is going to change her current situation then she has to stop buying things. Credit companies will tell you it's okay to buy things when you haven't got the money or you already have massive debt. It's not! You are only digging your hole deeper.

To get ahead you need to learn how to protect your wallet. Here are eight steps I use to stop myself from unnecessary spending. We call them the Eight Steps to Happiness.

Step 1 - Stop yourself!

Before you reach for your cash, before you grab your credit card, before you pick the item up of the sales rack, pause for just a minute. Stop yourself and start your brain thinking about whether or not you are about to make a good or a bad decision. A marketer or salesperson's job is to make you think you need something that five minutes earlier you didn't know existed. Find a way to trigger your internal alarm bell, so you can STOP and move on to Step 2.

Step 2 - Are you hungry?

If your belly is empty then your decision making is impaired. Our bodies get confused between the desire for food and inedible objects. So if you are hungry, go away eat something, then wait for fifteen minutes before moving on to Step 3.

Step 3 - Is there something else?

There are so many other things you could buy. Is this item really the one you want to spend your hard-earned money on? There are so many other things you could achieve with this money. Will you be limiting yourself by making the purchase? If you have decided that this is the only thing you want, go to Step 4.

Step 4 - Is it worth the effort?

Every time you reach for your cash, ask yourself if it is really worth the effort. Every $15 you spend is an hour you are going to have to work. Is it really worth the bother? Just leave your money in your wallet - it's so much easier than having to earn extra money! Now, if you have decided the purchase is really is worth the bother, move on to Step 5.

Step 5 - What will you gain?

Now, work out what you or your family will gain by buying the item. What are the long-term consequences? Will it improve your health and happiness or genuinely give you more free time? How? If you cannot answer these questions positively, then leave your money in your wallet. It is important that you are really skeptical. Now move on to Step 6.

Step 6 - What will you lose?

Every time you buy an item, you both gain something and lose something. If you are lucky, the only thing you lose is cash, and the time it took you to earn that money. But this is not always the case. A great example of this is a computer game. You gain entertainment, but you lose quality time with your family. Once you are certain you have worked out everything you will lose, move on to Step 7.

Step 7 - Is there a better way?

Now it is time to shop around for a good price and work out the smartest way to buy it. How can you get the best value for your dollar in the minimum time possible? Occasionally, working it out for yourself will take more time than you save, but you will get satisfaction in knowing that you have NOT been tricked and are doing the best for your family. Once you have researched your purchase and found the best way to buy it, move on to Step 8.

Step 8 - Do you have the spare cash?

Most of the time, buying things on credit is stupid. So if you don't have the cash, remain free, walk away and live happily ever after. Nothing is worth burdening yourself with debt for. This means you should avoid credit cards, lay aways, interest free loans, mortgage refinancing facilities, etc. Only buy something if you have the spare cash - and if you don't, go home and save until you do.

These Eight Steps are the key to holding onto our dollars so you can live a better life free from money stress.

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