A story in The Wall Street Journal headlined "It's really OK to say, 'I can't afford that'" captures the spirit of the times for Americans right now.
Over the past five years, we've reached a point where people can finally say to their friends, "No, I can't go out with you to hang out because I can't afford it."
This is happening particularly with young people who don't want the risk associated the spending habits of friends when their own work situation is uncertain.
If this strikes a nerve with you, I have some advice you need to hear. Particularly if you need to stop your spending in stores, I've got ways for you to do it.
There are a lot of reasons why people get into debt. Somebody may have an extended period of job loss and then they find work, get on their feet, pay their bills and their financial picture heals. But then there are those people who get into debt because it's a consumption-based thing. That's a whole different game.
When I talk to people who are in debt, I tell them to do 'the closet test.' Go in your closets and write down everything you have that you didn't remember you bought, or things that didn't make it out of the packaging. Those are probably the things you've spent money on that you have to overcome.
Let's face it, we are shopping fools in America. Nobody else on Earth shops like we do. Many times we shop emotionally. We buy things that later it's like, "Why in the world did I buy that?"
Here are my simple rules for cutting back on spending when you shop:
- Shop in stores with concrete floors. If I'm in a fancy store, I know I'm paying for it being fancy with the higher prices. So I avoid them.
- Don't get a cart when you're shopping. You'll put things in your cart you probably didn't need. I just use my arms; whatever I can carry is what I'll buy. I get to the point where I can't carry another thing. So when something catches my eye as I'm walking to checkout, I have to assess what I have in my arms and decide if I really need this new thing. If I do, I have to put something back. I use that as a way to control my wants.
- Stay out of the store to save money. You can buy groceries on a weekly basis of course, but try to shop for non-perishables and other necessities only eight times a year.
One of the challenges we face in our nation is that everything is available all the time. It's hard to overcome 'want-itis' when stores are open 24 hours a day. So we definitely have more work to do if 60 million of us are upside down in life!