What Does An Insomniac Who Has Personal Finance Blog Do At 2AM?

I spend an hour creating a flow-chart of my “should I buy this” thought process. Seriously. Here it is, in all it’s non-glory. (Click the small image to see it full-size.)


I’ve really, really been struggling to go to sleep (and stay asleep) lately, so I’m up at all hours, catnapping during the day… I’m going insane. I wanted to write this really awesome post about making wise spending decisions, but my brain is in hyper-mode and my thoughts are swirling and they refuse to focus. So, I downloaded some free flow-chart software, and started fiddling with it. I’ve never actually used a flow-chart so I’m sure I have all of the shapes wrong, but you’ll get the drift if you take a look. Basically, this is how I manage my spending habits. If I need it, I research it, and then I work until I have the money to buy it, and I buy it. If I want it, I go through the same process, delaying a purchase until I can pay cash. Once you move away from credit cards, you have to learn to plan and prepare for every purchase, big or small. I now longer “charge it” and worry about it later. Nope. I go through this process, day after day, month after month. Hopefully this post will inspire you to think about how you manage your spending. I need some sleep!

Edit:  Here’s a link to the free program I used to make my flowchart: yEd – Java Graph Editor

20 thoughts on “What Does An Insomniac Who Has Personal Finance Blog Do At 2AM?

  1. One small suggestion: loop “Delay Purchase” back to “Research Prices” rather than “Do I have money to buy?”. You probably don’t use this process when shopping for a pack of chewing gum, but for larger purchases.

    OK, sorry, TWO small suggestions: you COULD eliminate the “Have I researched prices?” step altogether and “Research prices” could take its place. You obviously research the prices no matter what, so evaluating whether or not you’ve done it is an extraneous step.

    By the way, which flowcharting app did you get?

  2. I’m with you on the insomnia! This is when I do the vast majority of my blogging. Or maybe I’m just a procrastinator…

    Of course, the place where most people stumble in your flow chart is the very first question – “Do I need this?” This seems like a straightforward question, but really isn’t. What does one truly *need*?

  3. That’s really good – simple and to the point, covers all the bases.

    I’m going to print out a copy and keep it with all my money/financial stuff.

  4. This is pretty cool. It captures the way that I think through purchases pretty well. I’d never laid out the individual steps like this though.

    One suggestion for an addition: Sometimes I’ll see a “want” item but have no idea how much it actually costs. I’ll research the prices and find out that it is too expensive to justify purchasing and I’ll decide not to buy it. I would add a decision box to get from Research Prices to Do Not Make Purchase. Perhaps “Reconsider Purchase” or something like that.

  5. Or how about a step that says something to the effect of “ask for it for Christmas” ?

    Sometimes if there is something I want, but I just can’t justify buying it myself, a good thing to do is ask for it for Christmas. People (esp. my mom) love knowing they got me something I really want but won’t buy for myself. 😉

  6. As long as we’re critiquing – I would also add a step between “Do I have the Money” and “Make Purchase” to decide “Is this my priority”. If I’ve gone through these steps and I have the money, I still need to evaluate whether the purchase will displace some other purchase I want to make.

    For instance: If I buy that new power tool, will that mean I can’t buy those new trees I want to plant in the back yard to shade the deck?

  7. Nice! I’m very similar in that I will research prices for a very long time. My wife always complains that I take far too long to make a decision but I always try to make sure that I am making the most cost-effective decision, where she prefers to just buy it once she decides that it will be purchased.

  8. @Jamie:
    You could route from “Research Prices” back to “Do I want this item?” rather than to “DO I have money to buy?” and the extra box wouldn’t be needed. Many times I have thought I wanted something until I found out how much it cost. 😉

    I love the “ask for it as a gift” idea. I need some wealthy friends. 🙂

    To me, that’s all part of asking “Do I have the money?”. In my study of decision strategies (which look a lot like the above flowchart) I’ve found that many of those rectangles are actually representative of their own little sub-flowcharts. For example, the “Do I need?” and “Do I want?” steps are quite complicated decision strategies all by themselves.

    Thanks for the pointer to the application. It looks nice, and the price is right!

  9. Oh noes! I tend to force myself to stay up to finish all my tasks for the day. If I don’t sleep well, I have scary moments on the road when I commute. I take magnesium to relax myself before going to bed. I find that it works!

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  12. I need to use this for the holidays. “Sorry honey, this gadget was delayed until next year. You already got the other 10 presents.” I know you weren’t sleeping, but this will make others sleep a bit better.

  13. NCN, I know this is an old post but you should resize the image anyway so people can sample the picture a little bit before clicking to enlarge. Ala what the Consumerist did when they linked to this post.


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