Nothing good comes from making quick, impulsive decisions. This is a money lesson I learned the hard way. It could be a decision about on where to invest, where to purchase real estate, or even where to buy the best shoes. No matter the decision, when it came to spending money, I’ve always done better when I took my time, weighed the pros and cons, and gauged how valuable the purchase was.
When I was in my 20s, like almost anybody at that age, I never considered the value of an item when making a purchase. I would go out on a Friday night wearing an outfit I bought that afternoon, come home, throw it in the corner of my room and never wear it again. The “horror” of wearing the same outfit twice was just to much to bear.
And I did this over and over again, until one day my very money-savvy friend challenged me on my process. She said, “I want you to go in your closet and add up the costs of all the outfits you bought for cheap that you only wore one time. Rubina, you will be astonished by how much money you have spent.”
That day, I tallied more than $1,000 in clothing, and that was only the clothing I bothered to hang up in my closet. It was then that I realized why I wasn’t saving very much – rushing out every Friday afternoon from work to buy an outfit for that evening was stunting my financial growth. So I started to get savvy, buying quality over quantity. I also started looking for sales and buying early so I didn’t feel pressured to impulsively buy any outfit I laid eyes on before an event.
Being impatient also hurt my investments... It was awful
But the problem didn’t only lie in my closet. I kept making the mistake of being impatient in other areas of my life.
When I bought my first house, for example, I went out and bought everything I thought I needed within a few weeks. After all, I had to get the house ready! As a result, I made bad purchases on household items I didn’t need and furniture that didn’t work. So I ended up donating or selling a lot of brand new items and wasted a lot of money re-purchasing items that worked better with my new home – items that I should’ve purchased from the start if I had just spent some time thinking about what I actually needed.
And being impatient also hurt my investments. When markets were sinking in 2008, I capitulated and went to cash. I was scared my money would turn to dust. But then a few months later, I realized the markets were swinging wildly and I felt I could make a lot of money by day trading. So I did.
On my best day, I made $600. On my worst day, I lost $3,000. It was awful.
That was my wake up call. I had to start being more patient with my decisions. No more last-minute purchases and money choices.
If you take time before spending your money, you will always be ahead
I started a $100 rule – if I had the budget to buy something that costed more than $100, I would take 24 hours to decide if I really wanted it before purchasing. If I was still interested in it the next day, I would go back and buy it.
When it came to my investments, I also stopped buying anything on speculation. Now, I only invest in companies after doing my research and evaluating if this is an investment worth hanging on to for at least 10 years. I’m always up to date with what is happening in the stock market, but I don’t let the headlines bother me. If markets are down, that’s fine. And if markets are up, that’s if fine too. The way I choose to invest will not change – and for my own financial sake, this is for the best.
Now, I also make time to do research on the smaller ticket items. For example, I just bought my mom an in-home blood pressure monitor. While the old me would’ve just bought the first one I saw online, the new me did some research and compared models before making a decision. It took a few days, but I did end up getting a steal on one that works perfectly for half the price of what I thought I would originally spend.
Some other life changes – before, I would solely make purchases on my credit card and think about paying it off later. Now, I try to think ahead and pre-purchase items like gifts for a birthday coming up, or save money for the holidays during the summer. I know these sound like small decisions, but we make them every single day. It just goes to show, if you take time before spending your money, you will always be ahead.
Patience has served me better than any other lesson. It can take a while to get there, but learning to take your time with any money decision will save you more.