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Spending less is the simplest, most direct way to increase your effective income, and build wealth. Done right, being thrifty is fun and liberating. Here are a couple of easy, favorite techniques for reducing or controlling your expenses:

  • Use wish lists to delay and defuse the need for instant gratification. I have extensive wish lists on amazon.com that I use to queue up books, music, and other things I might buy some day. Having them on my wish list ensures I won’t forget about them. I even get some “ownership” pleasure from keeping them on my list, and some benefit from reading reviews. And I often find, as time goes on, that I don’t really miss things that looked appealing at first. In other cases, the right timing comes, and I can add one or more wish list items to an order and save on shipping costs.
  • Look for the few categories where you could save a lot by watching your budget. For us, one is dining out. Years ago, we adopted a simple and painless mechanism. We keep a small change purse and every month we deposit our budgeted amount in there as cash. (If you want to forego cash, you can use one or more debit/money cards for the same purpose.) That’s our strict allotment for dining out each month. We can spend it on a few fancy evenings, or a number of take-out dinners plus some trips to Starbucks. The choice is ours. But when the cash runs out, we stop dining out until the next month’s resupply. The purse gives us a simple visual reminder of how much we have left. It’s “mad money” that we’ve purposefully set aside — and we never feel any guilt or stress around using it.