'Never, Ever Go Shopping' and Other Important Wealth Advice

CC BY 2.0. reyner media

Save money by implementing some basic behavioral changes.

Are you trying to figure out how to save money and become more frugal? There is a great post by money management blogger Mr. Money Mustache called “Wealth Advice that Should Be Obvious,” in which he lists a number of behavioral changes that will help save money more quickly.

Interestingly, many of the same practices that save money while freeing oneself up for more adventurous, non-materialistic experiences are also good for the environment. Frugality is intimately linked to living a greener, less wasteful and consumerist lifestyle.

1. Do not think of restaurants as a source of food.

Sounds a bit counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Restaurants are overpriced in order to make money, which means that a last-minute meal to fill your empty stomach will promptly empty your wallet. Feed yourself instead with food from your fridge and pantry via your backpack while out and about. That’s not to say you should never go to a restaurant; just use them (and coffee shops) for “carefully planned experiences with good friends.”

For the environmental side of things, avoiding restaurants and the tremendous waste they incur is a good idea. You can ensure a zero-waste meal if you’ve packed it yourself.

2. Never, ever “go shopping.”

I know shopping is the official national pastime, but you should avoid it like the plague. It is the easiest way to keep from buying stuff you don’t need and can't afford, and will probably just end up in a landfill site within a few months. The only shopping you should do is grocery shopping.

As Mr. Money Mustache writes, “For everything else you start a list. Replacement parts for the broken faucet. A new pair of hiking boots next year because your old ones only have a few hundred miles of hiking left in them. And eventually, when the items on the list become urgent, you go on a fast and targeted mission to buy only that item. Then you return and cleanse yourself with a hot shower to wash off the Shopping Juice.”

3. Stock up when things are on sale.

Last week almond butter was on sale at the grocery store for 50 percent off. That never happens. It is a major reduction for a pricey item, so I put six jars in my cart. In retrospect, I should have taken all of them. My family eats almond butter, about one jar per week, and it wasn’t due to expire for another year. I was trying to save money on that particular day, and yet I could have saved far more by buying all the available almond butter.

You should always buy as many sale items as possible if it’s something you use on a regular basis, especially if it’s a really great deal. “Apply this philosophy in all areas of life, whenever presented with savings on an item you already use. It minimizes both the time and cost of shopping.”

4. Don’t buy stuff you can’t afford.

This is a biggie. You should be able to maintain the lifestyle you establish for yourself, even in a time of financial crisis – say, if interest rates start climbing. You should not be making payments to service debt. If you can’t pay off your entire credit card statement monthly, then you’re spending far too much. Mr. Money Mustache goes even further to say that having any consumer debt should be viewed as a full-out emergency until it has been completely eradicated. Needless to say, if you’re worried about whether you can afford something, you probably can’t.