Thoughtful woman shoppingHow often do you go to the store with a shopping list and leave with the items on your list, plus five other random items?

I am guilty of this, we all are guilty of this.

My list quickly goes from the needs to the wants. Soap, detergent, toilet paper, nail polish, flip flops, purse, shovel, car wax and a lawn gnome.

Okay, maybe the last three items I didn’t actually purchase but it illustrates the point I am trying to make. How often do you find yourself buying random things you think you need, or justifying to yourself a purchase you want to make versus a purchase you need to make?

Today, most twenty-somethings are swimming in some form of debt. Student loans, credit cards, it’s all there. And even beyond the twenty-something group many adults are in over their heads trying to tackle personal debt, two mortgages or a high car payment.

The average full-time employee earning the federal minimum wage earns just over $15,000 dollars a year, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Perhaps you’re in a better situation than most, and the point is not to say you can’t treat yourself and enjoy the fruits of your labor. But saving money has now become a luxury many Americans can no longer afford.

I remember when I made the decision to go back to school full-time. The change forced me to work part-time only, drastically cutting my income down from what I was use to. The change was hard to acclimate to, and it took me a few weeks to budget accordingly and learn to say ‘no’ to certain purchases.

I soon came to realize that most of what I was buying were items I didn’t need in order to survive. They were little things I would decide I wanted and would get them.

Once I started forcing myself to live more modestly, I soon realized I was still able to save money even when a whole lot wasn’t coming in. There were times when I had to forgo happy hour with friends because I didn’t need to be spending $14.00 on a glass of wine.

Overall, I learned that if I needed to self justify a purchase I probably didn’t need it. And if the item was something I found I really wanted, I would save for it and buy it when I was comfortable spending the money on it.

I no longer wanted to live in fear of spending my money on things I really didn’t need, wasting what I could be saving for when college was over, and it came time to find a full-time job again.fred

That extra cash would become my safety net for whatever may happen.

So when you find yourself attempting to self justify a purchase, or pushing a Target shopping cart with your deodorant and lawn gnome inside, just remember that age-old saying, “You might want it but do you need it?”

As sad as it may be to put Freddy the Lawn Gnome back onto the shelf, you can always buy a $10.00 bottle of wine for later because the bottle will be cheaper than the glass at Restaurant Expensive.

Plus, at home you can wear sweat pants while you enjoy your wine, and that never has to be justified.