By Elizabeth K.B. DiPietrantonio, J.D.
I called my Mother recently with a tone of excitement in my voice I could barely contain. I am almost positive she thought I was calling with news of a grandchild or perhaps the second coming. Alas, I simply wanted to share that I had purchased a set of hair products custom designed for my hair!!! I was hooked by the catchy Instagram ad and the product’s claim it was custom designed for my geographical location and lifestyle! I was SOLD. I forked over $85 for 3 products and I was happy to do so. I waited with bated breath for the package to arrive. Until the call with my Mother, that is.
My Mother sighed deeply. Apparently, she had a bridge in Brooklyn she could sell me and she broke the news that all shampoo and conditioner has water as the first ingredient. Who knew?! She doubted this one was different. My Mother was right of course. Perhaps I did get swindled. The package arrived with my name on the bottle and while the magical elixir was packaged as promised, I must admit my hair looks the same as always. Perhaps that $85 could have been reallocated and put to good use elsewhere.
Since the hair debacle, this whole experience has made me reflect on the amount of money I spend on products hawked on the internet. I am a lawyer, financial planner, grounded, sensible girl and yet I seem to be unable to resist every shiny Instagram ad. A subscription box that is endorsed by a celebrity gets me every time. These products are constantly calling my name and advertising good deals from all corners of the internet. I realized I must not be the only person faced with such predicaments in this world of temptation! I decided to give myself some serious advice and I am sharing it with you now.
- Evaluate your purchases
All those subscription boxes add up! I looked at all my weekly, monthly, and annual charges. Sometimes it can be hard to keep track. For instance, I was paying $10.99 a month for a makeup service and $49.99 quarterly for a larger box. I thought about which one really gave me true happiness and products I loved. I realized the larger box really made me happy and decided to keep one but not the other. I was also paying $10.99 for a music service I never used and $10.99 for online Pilate’s classes I never took. Going through my bank accounts and adding up all the things I had signed up for helped me to evaluate my choices and decide what I could live without.
- Make a…stay with me do not be scared…internet spending budget- factor it into your life budget!!
Guess what…unlike calories between Christmas and New Year’s, money you spend on the internet counts!! Take time and look at what things cost you monthly and annually. Are those online meal services replacing grocery bills or are you duplicating spending? Factor what you are spending on these online subscriptions into your general budget. If you have a meal service it goes under food in the budget and if you have a clothing bento box it goes under clothing. Remember internet spending is just like regular spending. Figure out if you are really doing yourself any favors! Would you buy the things that come in your subscription box on a normal basis or are they actually unessential?? This step really helped me evaluate the true value of the products I was receiving.
- Fun money
In the budget, you can have funds that are at your discretion or “fun” money. It is important to make sure you pay off all your bills, contribute to a retirement fund, and save money for an emergency fund. Then take a portion of that money and allow for fun. Never put “fun purchases” on credit cards you cannot pay off. Once you have your “fun money” evaluate your preferences. It is all about balance. Treat yourself but do not rack up credit card debt on unnecessary items.
- Beware of instant gratification
If you see something like a wine subscription, the most amazing new lip product, personalized hair care, etc. take a step back before you click and consult the plan. Never buy anything immediately. You can always make a note and scroll back. Once the plan is in place you can look and see if there is room in your fun money for that must have adorable custom underwear they send once a month. In this world of instant gratification it can be easy to overspend. You can have whatever you want with the click of a button. Take a deep breath, avoid the temptation and consult your plan!!
- You can change the plan
Remember a budget can be fluid. If you have a huge expense one month, for example, something random happens to your car and you need extra money in your emergency fund. You can reallocate from your fun money fund. Do you absolutely have to have a (brand that shall not be named) coat made of geese feathers this winter?? Figure out if you can go without manicures for the foreseeable future. The beauty of knowing what you can spend on things puts you in the driver’s seat. You can gain a sense of control and make a choice you feel good about based on the facts of your situation.
- Finally and most importantly…Do not be too hard on yourself!!
It’s a process. This stuff can take years to get right. If you clicked on a pair of boots that were not in the plan and you cannot return them don’t beat yourself up. Rearrange, reallocate and breathe deeply. Enjoy the boots and find a way to make it up later. Nobody is perfect but you have the power to control spending, get what you want in time, and plan for your future.
If you are looking for more advice on this topic, feel free to contact Elizabeth K.B. DiPietrantonio at DiPietrantonioe@jgua.com