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Have you ever bought something you don’t need on a whim? If so, you’ve experienced impulse spending. Some stores (I’m looking at you, Target ;)) are great at getting us to buy things on an impulse that we don’t really need. Pretty things to decorate our homes, makeup items to make us more “popular,” etc, etc. All those marketing messages can really get to us after a while and end up with people spending money they don’t have on things they don’t need. Here’s how to stop impulse spending.
As you can imagine, impulse spending can wreak havoc on your budget if you’ve finally created a budget and are trying to faithfully stick with it. A few years ago, I found myself spending way too much on random things I bought online (or sometimes in stores) and spending money I should have been saving. So, since then I’ve come up with a few rules that now stop impulse spending before it starts.
3 Rules to Stop Impulse Spending
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1. Use the 30 day rule.
If you see something online or in a store that you just HAVE TO HAVE, stick it on a wishlist (bookmark the item, take a photo, add it to your Amazon wishlist, etc) and then wait a month before coming back to it. Thirty days later, you can look at your potential impulse purchase more wisely and see if it’s something that you still really want. I’ve found that 9 times out of 10, after 30 days I no longer want the item and that saves me a whole bunch of money in the long run.
2. Use the old “make do or mend” rule.
Make do or mend was coined during World War II to encourage people to repair or repurpose their clothing when most of the clothing was rationed at the time because of the war. A few months ago I thought about getting a new pair of (expensive) ballet flats and after putting it on my wish list for a couple months, I finally decided to just stretch out the potential purchase as long as possible. So instead, I used a little fabric glue to repair my current pair of flats and they’ll probably hold up for another year or two before I finally have to break down and buy a new pair. It might sound silly, but depending on what brand I purchase, that could be $50-100 that I don’t have to spend for another year or two. The more years of life you can get out of your possessions, the better.
3. Ask yourself, “Why am I really buying this?”
This question gets a little psychological. 😃 Sometimes we buy things not because we actually need them, but because we think they’ll make us look better or smarter or cooler or more popular or whatever. So dig deep on this one. Do you actually need what you’re about to buy, or are you buying it for some other reason or hoping it will improve your life in a way that a set of placemats just can’t? 😃
The Most Important Part of Saving Money
Sometimes it’s hard to cut expenses or save money and we can end up way over budget for the month. In times like those, it’s important to remember the most important part of saving money. Without this, saving money is so much harder than it needs to be.
There are lots of tips out there for saving money, but whether or not you actually shave your expenses and don’t over-spend comes down to one small thing:
Why are you saving money?
If you’re just doing it because you feel like you “have to” or someone told you to, the changes probably aren’t going to stick and you’re more likely to sabotage your efforts or going on a spending binge and ruin all your hard work.
But if you have a solid, compelling reason “why” you want to save money, such as financial independence, getting out of debt, freedom, early retirement, so you can afford to start a business, or some other reason that actually gets you to stick with your decision, you’re going to have a much easier time being frugal and scrimping and saving.
Maybe you want to pay off all your debt. In that case, you might just be frugal for a short period of time until you’re out of debt. Knowing that this might just be a temporary way of living your life can make a super frugal lifestyle much easier to deal with.
Without a strong reason “why,” saving money becomes so much more difficult because it feels more like you’re suffering for no reason than actually working toward a particular goal.
So, what’s your reason why? Figure out why, deep down, you want to start saving money, and remember that each time you’re tempted to overspend or buy something you really don’t need.
Financial freedom is a lot more appealing than a new bottle of nail polish (unless it’s in your budget, of course). 🙂
P.S. You can also save money by getting cash back for free on things you buy through Ebates!
If you find yourself about to buy something you might not need or that might be a waste of money, keep these rules in mind to try to stop impulse spending before it becomes a problem for your budget. Good luck!