Impulse spending can be a huge detriment to your financial success. Lots of little impulse purchases can add up to huge amounts of money. The worst part is, at the end of the month you rarely realise where all the money went. All you know is that it’s gone.
This week’s Financial Checkup will help you put boundaries in your life to help curb impulse spending. There are a variety of ways to do it. I will list several and you are free to implement some or all of them.
While doing some research for this subject, I came across this tip and had to share it. The basic idea is that you take a picture of a goal or dream you have. Maybe it’s a house or a boat or whatever you are wanting.
Then take that picture and tape it to your credit card. Now whenever you have the sudden urge to make a purchase, this picture should help remind you of your goal and force you to contemplate whether this little expense is worth delaying your dream.
Create a budget
Just like having the right IT support people, another obvious piece of advice is to keep a strict budget. My wife and I both have discretionary spending budgets. If we want to make an impulse purchase, it comes out of our discretionary spending budget. Once that budget is gone, then it’s gone.
While this may not completely eliminate impulse spending, it will prevent overspending because of impulse decisions. Once the budget is used up, you aren’t allowed to spend anymore.
My wife fully admits that she has a problem wondering where the money goes each month. Carrying cash for her discretionary spending and our grocery budget helps her visualize how her money is being spent. If she realises she only has $10 left in her budget, she is less likely to spend it frivolously.
With a Credit Card or even a Debit Card, you don’t realise how much you are spending until you get to the end of the month and realise that you have no money. Cash helps you visualize every penny.
Make a list
Another thing that my wife does when grocery shopping is make a list. She will try to plan each week’s meals and only purchase things for those meals. This saves us an incredible amount of money. Occasionally she will buy items that aren’t on her list however she usually sticks pretty well to it.
This principle can be applied to so many other areas of shopping. If you need a new pair of jeans, only go into the store to buy jeans. Stick to your list however large or small it is.
The one-week rule
Another great idea that I learned from an Australian business coach that has helped me immensely in curbing impulse spending is the one-week rule. The idea is that before you make any purchase that’s not on your list, wait one week. If after a week you still feel the strong desire to have the item, then go ahead and purchase it.
What you will likely find (and what I have found) is that you will quickly forget about most items immediately after you leave the store. 2 or 3 weeks later, I may see the same item again and have the impulse to buy it however then I usually realise that I completely forgot about it’s existence for 3 weeks and therefore it obviously wasn’t that important to me. Now if I constantly think about the item all week long, then I simply go out and buy it.
This principle can be adjusted based on your preferences and there are many variants of it. For instance if we are making a fairly big purchase ($500 or more) then we will wait more like 30 days instead of a week. Some people have the idea of 1 day per $20 or something like that. You can figure what works for you however just make sure you stick to it.
Also note that this doesn’t really help with some impulse purchases such as a quick stop at Starbucks or impulse buying at the grocery store. However it will help with roaming the mall with friends.
The last piece of advice that showed up everywhere I did my research was to avoid temptation. This can be handled in many different ways.
The most obvious is simply staying away from places that tempt you. For me an electronic store makes me want to spend our life savings. Luckily the one-week rule forces me to reconsider however if that doesn’t work for you then simply staying out of the electronic store (or your store of choice) is the real solution.
If every time you go out with your girlfriends to the mall you spend some money, then suggest going somewhere else or leave all your money at home when you do go.
A great way to avoid temptation at the grocery store is to eat a full meal before going. You will always buy more on an empty stomach than you will on a full stomach.
The key is realizing where your weaknesses are and setting up barriers to prevent yourself from falling into the temptation of impulse spending.