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(Mark Lennihan)
(Mark Lennihan)

Smart Cookies

Save money with the same tricks retailers use Add to ...

Who hasn't gazed at that little black dress or designer suit in the store window and imagined wearing it? There's a reason clothing stores spend so much time and money creating the perfect window displays. Retailers know the power of visualization. Yet, when it comes to building wealth and creating the lives we want, we often overlook that powerful tool.

Have you ever stopped to envision what you want your life to look like one year - or five years - from now? Will you still be living in the same condo or will you be in a new home? Will you be single or married? Will you have kids? Will you have the same job or will you be in a different career altogether?

Whatever you want - no matter how far-fetched it may seem now - should be included in your plan. Include as many details as you can, so you can truly picture how your life will look and what it will take financially to get there. Taking a look at where you are and where you want to be will help you to see how your current actions fit, or don't fit, into the bigger plans you have. Awareness alone is often enough to keep us from making unnecessary purchases that can sidetrack our plans.

One big reason so many of us get sidetracked is because we spend without thinking or buy on impulse. How often have you spent more than you intended because you didn't have the time or the energy to shop around? Debbie Frye, general manager of Flyerland.ca, says spending just 15 minutes a week comparing prices and signing up for online price watch alerts saves her family up to $50 a week. How often do we pick up our favourite magazines from the drugstore knowing that spending a few minutes ordering online will save us more than half of the newsstand price, or open the phone bill to see that we've run over our allotted minutes because we didn't think about tracking our time or taking five minutes to download tools to make it easier?

Becoming more attentive to how we're spending our money now and planning ahead will help us get a better idea of our priorities. If socializing is really important to you and you don't want to cut back on your nights out, try meeting friends for a drink after work instead of dinner and just sharing a snack at the bar if you're hungry. If it's quality time that you want with your friend, for example, does it really matter whether it's over a $60 bottle of wine or a $2 cup of coffee? If it's a cultural experience you're after, look into the local museums or art galleries.

We're often seeking intangible benefits when we spend our money, so once we realize our motives, we can discover ways of getting the same rewards for less money. And when we think about our ideal picture today, tomorrow and 10 years from now, we'll have a clear idea of what truly brings us joy, and what doesn't. We'll be less susceptible to sales pitches, mindless spending or impulse buys, and more in tune with how to spend on the things that matter and how to cut mercilessly on the things that don't.

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