If we change the popular question, ‘what a girls wants’ to ‘what a girl needs’, chances are the latter list of answers would be drastically shorter than the former. But who would dare to restructure the question? After all, life in these times is more about wants than needs, despite the much talked about inflation. So, what is it that makes it so difficult for us to sift our needs from our endless wants? I asked myself this question and identified the common traps most of us fall into.
(1) The cooking show culture. Nothing has harmed the kitchen budget more than these cooking shows. From expensive sauces to exotic veggies, from fancy cookware to nonsense Totkas, these shows are the perfect recipe for making the kitchen budget spiral out of control.
(2) The branded culture. MAC mascara is clearly a want and not a need, or is it? Enough said.
(3) The sale ‘whale’. Yes, the sale ‘whale’ takes in whatever comes its way, completely oblivious of what is needed and what is not. Accept it: the *up to 70% off* billboards do make you concoct a sudden need for bed sheets, towels, out-of-season clothes and what not.
(4) The supermarket culture. The colourful aisles of a supermarket lure you into piling unnecessary stuff into your trolleys, mostly in the name of bargains. I once stocked up on diapers, which were being offered at a discount, and my baby was potty-trained soon after; I still have three unused packs mocking at me.
The next pertinent question is: what now? We can’t stop watching television or making use of sales or going to the super markets, etc. What we can do, however, is to be smart buyers. It’s easier said than done, and requires strict measures and a strong will. Let’s start with the following pointers.
(1) Ask yourself the basic question repeatedly: “Do I need this?”
By doing so, you will be able to control those impulse-shopping urges. Look for alternatives based on what you already have. For example, all those fabric exhibition billboards were tempting me to no end, but a look at my wardrobe put some sense in me and stopped me from spending what I’d rather be saving.
(2) Make lists and stick to them.
This, perhaps, is the most important measure to take. Make lists of whatever you need and whatever you want in two separate columns. Then decide which ones are urgent and which ones can wait. Also, promise yourself to stick to them and not be trapped by sales, bargains and special offers, unless you absolutely must.
Detach yourself from television ads, cooking shows, fashion shows and from whatever provokes expenditure. The key is to watch them as entertainment shows only, once in a while, rather than ‘instructions to follow’.
(4) Avoid needless strolls in malls/Bazars.
Visit malls only when you need to, rather than treating them as hang-out spots. Allah (swt) reminds us of our weak nature and instructs us not to even venture close to sin or sinful behaviour. If you are a habitual spender, stay away from malls as much as possible.
(5) Tackle peer pressure
We think this term applies to teenagers only. However, there are plenty of spoilt grown-ups walking around who just cannot reign their desires. Steer clear of all such friends and parties that make you feel small on account of your financial status or drive you to splurge in order to keep up with them.
(6) Strapped for cash
Before going shopping, make a list, put the estimated price next to next item and roughly calculate the total bill you’d have to pay. Take the exact amount with you. Leave extra cash and debit cards at home; with no money in your pocket, you are less likely to be tempted by the ‘luxuries’.
That said, it is important to treat yourself once in a while to avoid feeling deprived. That way you’d be able to distinguish it easily as a luxury and not a ‘need’ per se. And, most importantly, always look at those beneath yourself on the social ladder; it will help you to be thankful to Allah (swt) for His blessings.