Is the term disposable income not a misnomer? This isn't money you throw away. It's money that makes your life better.
In the never-ending lesson that is parenthood, the other day I said to my five-year-old son, "No, money does not make you happier. But it does allow you to do things that make you happy. Like going on a ski trip to Colorado."
And many studies report this: buying things won't make you happy, but having experiences will. (And sure enough, that new car won't make you happy after a few weeks. But driving that new car to the airport so you can fly to Nevis will make you happy.) The reason is simple: the novelty of an object wears off quickly and that object becomes a regular, everyday part of your life. But memories of experiences stay with you, and get repeated in your mind.
So even if you have plenty of 'disposable' income, more is always better. Here are four tips to make the most of your extra cash:
Buy necessities as you find them
When you buy out of need, you pay more. If you buy things as you find them – in the sales or at an outlet – you'll never be required to go on a hunt for, say, a new winter coat, a pair of open-toed heels, or an everyday work bag. It also make shopping more fun, because nothing is worse than feeling the pressure of finding a particular thing and then paying full price for it.
Pay attention to small purchases
At the grocery store, chemist or market, pay attention. If your laundry detergent, ice cream or olive oil is on offer, stock up. Look at the cost of the fresh vegetables you're buying. Are you about to buy £20 worth of cherries because they aren't in season? Could you opt for zucchini instead of asparagus, and save a few pounds on dinner tonight? (Don't skimp on things that are important, though, like grass-fed beef and hormone-free chicken, even though they will be the most expensive on offer.)
Make your money go further
If you want to spend a weekend in Miami Beach, go in July. If you want to take a long-haul trip to Australia, fly on a Wednesday, the slowest (and usually least expensive) travel day. If you're going to get a massage / try hydrotherapy / visit a rock climbing wall, check out sites like Groupon for vouchers that will help you do it for less.
Say no sometimes
Not when it matters, of course, but when it doesn't really, try saying no. No to those shoes you don't need, no to the cool coffee table that would only replace your current (and perfectly fine) one, no to £55 iPhone case when the £15 version will do just fine. You'll find it's easier than you think, you'll be proud of your exceptional willpower, and you'll discover that not having that (fill in the blank) doesn't impact your life at all.
Just a few tweaks to your spending habits, and you'll find you never have to say 'no' to experiences. And that, friend, will bring you happiness!