Many of us don’t give a lot of thought to the actual process of decision-making, but there is a great deal of literature to be found on the process. For the sake of brievity, we can boil it down to a few basic steps:

– Define the problem

– Determine criteria for solving the problem

– Determine possible solutions

– Evaluate the possible outcomes and make a choice

– Evaluate the decision to see if you made the right choice

Often we chose hastily based on what will serve our needs right now, and not our long term goals. Other times we avoid making a choice, and the choice is made for us by proxy. The best choices are the ones that we make using the decision-making process because we have evaluated how they will affect us long term and chosen based on that information. I’ll give you some examples from my week to show you what I mean.

Here’s where using the Decision-Making Process served me well…

About a week ago Little M received an invitation to go to a birthday party to be held at a water park this afternoon for one of her classmates.  M commutes with me everyday, so her school, classmates, and the water park are all about an hour from our house. The party started at noon which meant M would have to have a very early lunch and catch whatever Zzzzs she could in the car on the drive over (and then home again) in place of a nap. The party was scheduled to last several hours so we would most likely arrive home around dinnertime. All this meant was a little extra planning on my part, a bit of a long day for us both, and possibly a cranky toddler by early evening, but it was all completely manageable.

The problem came yesterday morning when M woke up just on the edge of being really sick. What to do? Yesterday from work I monitored M by calling the school to check on her, and I informed the birthday girl’s Mom about what was going on. Today I determined the problem (M is still borderline sick and not her normal self), established the criteria (I don’t want her to get any sicker), determined solutions (a – stay home, b – drag her to the party), evaluated the outcomes (a – staying home allows her to rest and get back to normal, b – taking her to the party risks her getting sicker and possibly ending up at the doctors forcing me to miss work, use personal time, etc.), made a choice (stay home), and evaluated the decision (M was more subdued than usual, ate her lunch quietly, and went down for a nap early meaning she was tired and needed extra rest). Good decision!

Here is where not using the Decision-Making Process has caused us extra expense, and then finally using it saved us money all in one example…

It’s a couple of problems in one, so flowchart it if you must.

Problem A: On Tuesday my husband’s cell phone suffered a fatal attack of Can’t-Be-Fixed. This was a lucky break for him because he desperately hated that phone and reminded me of it regularly. The problem was he wanted to upgrade to a smart phone, but I was extremely frustrated at how much we were paying for my smart phone and I didn’t want to double that amount. For the sake of keeping the man happy I started doing some research online for possible smart phones for him to determine phone costs, plan costs, etc., and ended up in a live chat with a rep. During the course of the conversation I vented my frustration about the cost of my phone and found out that we were paying $30 a month for a service I had not asked for and didn’t want but that the initial sales rep had said I was REQUIRED to have. Not true. I/we learned the hard way that if we had made the decision then, or any time in the last 18 months, to question that charge we could have saved ourselves a lot of money. But at the time of the initial purchase we were more focused on our getting our couple month old baby out of an extremely packed store during cold and flu season (short term goals), and in the time since, well, lazy is all I can say (choice by proxy).

Moving on to Thursday, we hit the cell phone store. My husband had decided on a smart phone, and its monthly data package was extremely reasonable.  The phone he chose was eligible for a rebate, and we had a gift card that would cover half the cost of the phone, so after rebate the phone will end up costing us $30. (Ironic, I know.) We talked to the rep in the store and got the unnecessary charge removed from my phone and a similar (though not as costly) bogus charge removed from my husband’s phone, and voila, we both have smart phones and our bill will be cheaper than before.

Problem B: My husband hates MY cell phone because I’m constantly trying to take pictures of a moving target (Little M) with it and I end up with 1 good shot for every 9-10 blurry ones. I don’t hate my cell phone, I hate my 8-10 years old point and shoot camera that eats batteries and is slower than molasses in a snow storm, which is why I’m always grabbing the cell phone to take pictures. The problem – my husband wanted me to get a better phone to take pictures, I wanted a better camera to take pictures. To make him happy, we checked new phones at the cell phone store. I’m not eligible for an upgrade for a few weeks, but when I am the natural upgrade would be $125 after rebate and I would still be getting cell phone quality pictures of M. Not what I want. To make me happy, I researched new point and shoot cameras, I went to the big box store and touched the display cameras, I read reviews online. Finally, yesterday, I found a point and shoot that had all the qualities I wanted and was reasonably priced, and I could get free shipping with my order. I weighed all the possible scenarios and made the decision to order the camera.  Then, that evening, I opened the mail and had (surprise!) two birthday cards with almost enough money to cover the cost of the camera, save $9. Patience and good decision-making saved us money, and solved several problems.

What decisions are you making hastily, or putting off all together that are costing you money, or creating problems in your life?  Make the decision to make a GOOD decision.