We are humans and humans like stuff. That’s why we all are guilty of buying things we don’t need at one time or another. But for many of us, it can become a serious problem if it gets out of hand.
It may be because of poor foresight, an addictive personality, or just a product of being raised to equate having material possessions with being well-off, but it always has the same results: less money and more regret.
Fortunately, there are ways we can all stop making impulsive decisions with our money.
“Make a budget.” It’s such an easy thing to recommend, but it’s easier said than done.
You may have trouble sticking to it at first, but it’s still something you ought to try. Being able to stick to a budget would single-handedly eliminate many of your impulse purchasing, but not all of it.
Again, we’re only human. That’s why you do more planning than just a budget.
It may seem increasingly old-fashioned (and the cashiers might be annoyed by it) but paying in cash is a great way to curb spending because it puts everything into perspective. You’re actually seeing your money physically go away.
Whatever you do, don’t put careless spending on a credit card because deferring payment until later is the fastest way to lose track of it.
If you’re really up for the challenge, only take the cash you’ll need with you to cover your planned purchases and no more than that – just don’t forget about sales tax.
Speaking of planned purchases, shopping lists aren’t just for the chronically forgetful. They’re a great tool for self-discipline so you know what you need to buy and nothing more. The only question is, can you stick with it?
Psyching Yourself Up
Sometimes the right mentality can take you far. Get yourself into a spot where you don’t want to be making spur-of-the-moment purchases anymore.
They say you ought to shop with a clear head. This can mean not shopping when you’re having a particularly emotional day, but also avoiding shopping when you’re already itching to buy something frivolous or even when you’re just tired.
By the way, you’ve heard the old adage that you shouldn’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach because you’ll want to buy everything, right?
Well, they’ve done some research and it turns out you really ought not to be shopping for anything when you’re hungry. Apparently, that feeling of starvation makes us feel needy for anything and everything, so you’re more likely to make a transaction you’ll later regret.
Get some practice on your mental math skills by putting into perspective exactly how much an impulsive purchase might set you back.
We aren’t just talking in terms of dollars and cents, but in terms of how many hours you would need to work to make that money back. Your answer might be enough to dissuade you from buying what you’re eyeing.
Also, be sure to keep good company while you’re shopping, which may mean several friends or nobody at all.
Do you have a friend, family member or significant other who will help steer you away from buying what you don’t need? If so, ask them to tag along when you’re out shopping. If not, make a point to shop alone so you won’t give in to peer pressure.
It’s also best to avoid buying things that are nonrefundable. If they’re telling you from the top an item isn’t eligible for returns, then there’s probably a reason for that which isn’t in your favor.
In an ideal situation, we would all be able to look our temptations in the eye and deny them, but some of us still need help getting to that point. In the meantime, it might just be best to avoid tempting situations altogether, at least for a little while.
Don’t go to retail spaces if it’s not necessary. It can be tempting to go browse around the mall on a rainy day, but that’s just a bad decision waiting to happen.
If you find yourself thinking of shopping as a “hobby,” it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that you’re a bit too hooked on blowing money and you ought to deprive yourself.
This also means avoiding websites like Amazon and eBay. If you need to go so far as to block the websites, go for it.
While you’re on your computer, be sure to unsubscribe from any corporate email lists that send you sale alerts and coupons, because most of the time, you won’t need to be buying anything. Sales and coupons literally only exist to get people to buy things they otherwise wouldn’t need to – otherwise, why would prices be cut? When the time comes to buy something new, you can go searching for sales and coupons then, but no sooner.
Ponder the Problem
If you’re confronted with the chance to buy something, and you really want to buy it, but you also really don’t want to buy it, take a step back and think about it.
There’s a trick some use, but it doesn’t have one name because it doesn’t always last the same period of time: it ranges from “the 24-hour rule” to “the 30-day rule.”
The idea is if you see something you want to buy, wait a day, or two days, or a week or a month. This will give you time to think about it, and if you still want it after that (and if you think it’s a good purchasing decision), then go ahead and get it.
We propose we merge the two most popular versions of this strategy: think about it for a day with small purchases, and a month for bigger ones. With any luck, you might even have completely forgotten about it.
Other Good Ideas
If you’re buying something big, don’t just take some time to think about whether it’s a smart decision – research whether it’s a smart decision.
Look up whether it’s a good product and whether the price you saw first is a fair and economical price. Granted, this much exposure to the tempting item may bolster the urge to buy it. But if you discover the price you originally saw in The Merchandise Store was much higher than the prices everywhere else, you’ll be glad you bided your time. If nothing else, you’ll be making a less-bad decision.
If all else fails, consider this: what was the last thing you bought on a whim? How long did it provide you with utility before it became boring and useless? Did you regret purchasing it? Can you imagine this item will go down much the same road? Sometimes you’re the only one who can scare yourself straight.
Replacing Bad Habits with Good Ones
When you successfully stave off the urge to buy something, why not do something good with the money you (literally) saved?
You can put that money away and start adding up all the money you would have otherwise spent on something wasteful, and you’ll be surprised at how much it adds up.
Then what do you do with that money? You could save it for an emergency, which is probably the smart decision.
You could also put it toward a much bigger prize for yourself like a vacation (to reiterate: if you’re successfully staving off impulsive buys, the money will add up). Or if the reason you like buying stuff in the first place is because it makes you feel good, then perhaps you’ll feel good donating to charity. The great thing is, once you’re out of the grasp of careless spending, you’ll have many more options.
If you look for advice elsewhere for cutting impulsive spending, you’ll see some people assuring you it’s okay to splurge sometimes, and others insisting it’s a bad habit we all need to quit cold-turkey.
But only you know how much it’s effecting your finances and your life. Maybe you can afford to live a “vices in moderation” lifestyle, or maybe you’re seriously strapped for cash and you need to cut a bad habit?
In either case, now you know how to do what you need to do.