This week, for the first time, my old Money Mantras will take their new pride of place back in the weekly email. The aim of the mantras is simple, before you spend to ensure that you?’re using your money wisely…
So before going into why they’ve been added, “here’s Graham with a quick reminder” (does that Blind Date reference show my age?)
Where the mantras came from.
Early in my career I was asked to devise a “Martin’s Money Mantra” to sum up beating your spending impulses for a telly programme. Yet after racking my brains for hours to create one simple spending panacea, I failed.
Different scenarios require different approaches, so I ended up with two; each has questions to ask before you buy.
Perhaps the most difficult to self-assess is “will I use it?” which examines what economists call Opportunity Cost – in other words, could you get better use or pleasure out of the same cash buying something else?
So is a stunning £300 dress that’ll be used once worth it, if the same money could buy other items used more often?
My favourite example of this is shopping with a female friend, who hates me telling this story.
“She’d spotted two pairs of leather boots and was deliberating between them. I checked prices – one £40, the other £110 – yet she was only concerned with preferred style.
So I whipped £70 cash out and held it up with the £40 pair to show the real decision was one pair of boots plus the cash, or just the rival boots alone. She paused and with genuine interest said "wow, I’ve never thought of it like that before".
Five minutes later she bought the more expensive boots "you can’t win em all!”
If you’re wondering why the weekly email doesn’t contain the ‘cheaper anywhere else’ line, it’s a mixture of space and expediency we were short of space to make it look good. And as things in the email tend to be the best available deals anyway, that seemed the obvious one to go.
Why I’ve added the Mantras to the weekly email
The aim is to counter the slight duality of the content we have – on one hand helping those with debts or limited cash manage their super-tight finances, while at the same time telling others about restaurant vouchers and bargains.
I thought it worth explaining my thinking.
What MoneySaving is all about
This clash stems from the site’s philosophy, which ever since it was founded has been about “managing your money well, cutting your bills without cutting back, living a better life on the same cash”
Yet how to do that depends on an individuals own financial circumstances, which in essence boils down to a number of separate remits:
Helping people improve their money and debt managment skills. Here with tools like the budget planner or places like debt-free wannabee board or articles like the credit card shuffle (how to cut debt costs without new credit) we aim to tackle the fundamentals.
Deals and bargains. The site’s always looked at deals since it first launched, but since then the growth of online vouchers, codes and deals has been huge. It fits at the core of the MoneySaving philosophy I wrote about in my Money Diet book way back when. After all, MoneySaving is about having more and spending less, so showing people how to pay less for things they’d buy anyway is a core part.
Fighting for financial justice. Not within the remit of the site when it started, its something that we started to add in about five years ago with consumer rights, bank charges, council tax rebanding and PPI reclaiming.
Where there’s a clash
If someone’s got cash and wants a new iPhone, telling them they can get it for £300 not £500 is a great piece of info. Yet if someone who’s in bad debt buys the same £300 iPhone, it isn’t MoneySaving.
This is the classic duality of what we do; it’s always been an innate conflict. Some still mistakenly assume that the site is used primarily by those in debt "actually the stats don’t bear that out" past polls show we have more savers than debtors and the top savings article is consistently the most popular (outside of deals) on the site.
We’ve generally taken the view that as the site is for adults, they can work out where they fit in, so certainly we don’t want to stop telling people about deals. I wouldn’t want to remove restaurant vouchers from the site to paternalistically protect those who can’t afford to eat out.
Yet having thought about this a lot I thought it important to place a permanent reminder that good money management should always overturn spending impulses, hence why the mantras are going in (we may look to add them to the shopping and deals sections of the site too over the next few weeks).
I hope it may make some stop and think before being temped into what may indeed be a cracking deal, but one that isn’t right for them.