How to Use Deliberate Experimentation to Improve Your Finances

Test varied savings and budgeting methods to discover what works for your financial life.

When most people think of scientists like Isaac Newton, inventors like Thomas Edison, statesmen like Benjamin Franklin or entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos, they tend to think of people who rode a rocket ship to success. While each one of these individuals achieved many successes in their lives, the most important attribute they had in common is that they failed, over and over again.

However, it’s not just that they failed, but how they failed. They repeatedly tried experiments in their lives and their work to see what would succeed and what wouldn’t. They came up with an idea, tested it to see if it actually worked, then quickly moved on to the next experiment, retaining the things that worked and tossing the ones that did not.

This process is called deliberate experimentation, and it’s not just something for hyper-successful self-starters. It’s something you can apply successfully in your own life and in your financial choices.

By simply conducting little experiments in your life to see what works and what doesn’t, you can quickly adopt a more successful pattern of money use in your life and get more value out of every dollar you earn. Here are some deliberate experiments you can try.

Whenever you buy a household product or food staple, buy the store-brand version. Try out that store-brand version instead of the one you always buy. If you don’t notice a difference in quality, you now know that you can always buy that product. If it’s not up to your standards, then you’re only out a dollar or two, and you can buy the name-brand version next time.

Try different methods of making your own coffee at home or at work.Cold-brewing your own coffee is amazingly simple, as it just requires a cloth tea bag, some cold water and a pitcher left in the refrigerator overnight. See if that is easy enough and high-quality enough for you. Try adding different flavors to your coffee to see what you really enjoy and stick with that recipe. It’s almost always going to be faster and less expensive than a morning coffee stop.

Try going without cable for a month. See what happens if you disconnect your cable box for 30 days. Can you do it? Do you easily discover new sources of entertainment? If you find that it’s hard, and you end up plugging it back in, then you know cable is a good value. If you find you don’t miss it, then you can cancel your cable and revel in the savings.

The next time you make a batch of soup, triple the recipe and freeze the extras. Take your favorite soup recipe and triple it, and just before you’re about to eat it, put the extra soup into several containers (freezer Ziploc bags work well). Over the next month or two, use the frozen soups for dinner, and after the last one is used, assess whether you saved time and money doing this.

Try using public transportation for your commute. Use public transportation for a solid week or month and observe whether you’re saving money, time and fuel.

Try not washing certain clothing items. Instead of immediately washing your jeans or other outerwear, visually inspect them and just hang up any items that appear fully clean. See whether wearing the clothes again between washes works for you. If it does, not only are you saving money on laundry, but you’re also extending the life of the apparel, as laundering adds wear and tear to clothing items.

On a day when the temperature is between 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, open your windows instead of using climate control.See whether your home stays at a pleasant temperature. If it does, then you have a new tactic for saving on heating and cooling costs.

The goal of these deliberate experiments is to try something new in your own life and see whether it works for you. Does it achieve financial gain with no real lifestyle cost? Or do you find that this particular experiment ends up causing a net loss in your life? Try something new, evaluate fairly whether it works or not, discard it if it fails and keep it if it succeeds.

Over time, deliberate experiments in all areas of your life will result in a better personal, professional and financial you.

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