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How to Deal with Distractions that Cost You Money

The following post is from Christina of Northern Cheapskate:

source: Rennett Stowe

Do you suffer from shiny object syndrome?  Do  you start one project only to flit to the next?  Get sidetracked by some great new thing (shiny object)?

All of those little distractions can cost you money.  While daydreaming, you get into a fender bender with your car.  You get distracted by your kids in the store, so you aren’t able to focus on your shopping list.  You get distracted at work (by co-workers, family issues at home, or the internet) and it costs you opportunities and promotions.  You’re distracted by advertising and lured into buying things you may not actually need (or even really want).

There is so much competing for our attention these days – and so much information coming at us – that it is very easy to get distracted.  When you’re distracted, it’s easier to make bad choices when it comes to your money. It’s easier to make impulse buys, make poor decisions, or make mistakes that cost you.

Have a plan.

Start every day with a plan.  Make a list of the things you have to do and follow it.  Never go to the grocery store without a shopping list.  Set short-term and long-term goals and assess your progress regularly.  If there’s a plan in place, it’s much harder to get sidetracked.

Take a minimalist approach.

Less is more!  Do a massive purge of clutter.  Unsubscribe to magazines and e-mail newsletters that you never read. Turn off the television. Unplug from all those gadgets. Eliminate all those little time wasters and things that tempt you into spending money.

Focus on a few causes or projects that are most important to you and let go of the rest.  It’s easier to juggle everything when you have fewer balls in the air.

Set a timer.

Have you ever logged on to your computer to pay a bill or check your bank account and discover that you’ve lost 2 hours of your day to Pinterest and Facebook?   Eliminate distractions by setting a kitchen timer or setting an alarm on your phone.  When you give yourself a strict time limit to get things done, you’re less likely to get distracted.  I’ve even known some women who set the parental controls on their TVs and computers to make sure they stay on task.

Keep a notebook handy.

Sometimes distractions pop up that you just can’t ignore.  For those occasions, I try to keep a notebook around to jot down things I need to remember or deal with later.  If I don’t have a notebook, I’ll use the notepad or memo function on my phone. This allows you to make sure you remember the things you need to remember without disrupting the project you’re currently working on.

Recognize what’s real and what’s hype.

It’s easy to get sucked into a good sales pitch or lured into the drama of a highly persuasive person. Make sure a deal is really a dealFigure out how to tell what needs attention and what doesn’t.

Figure out what your time is worth.

When I find myself getting distracted, I stop to think about what my time is worth.  For example, if you have a job that pays you $15 an hour, and you just spent the last hour playing Angry Birds, then you’ve just lost $15 in productivity.  Stop to ask yourself if what you are doing is helping you reach your goals.  If the answer is “No”  then stop what you’re doing and go back to your plan.

It’s not easy avoiding all those shiny objects trying to get our attention.  Having a few strategies can help.

How do you handle distractions?

Christina Brown is the creator of Northern Cheapskate, a blog dedicated to frugal living through coupons, freebies, and money-saving ideas. She lives in the rural north woods of Minnesota where she clips coupons, pinches pennies, and chases her three boys (a 7-year-old and twin 5-year olds) as a stay-at-home mom.