You know the feeling. You’re shopping and you see that one thing that you can’t live without. You’re surfing the web and there’s that one thing, and it could be yours with a click. That new iPhone app could be yours with a flick. That new book could be on your Kindle in under a minute. You know the feeling.
The problem, of course, is that all of these things cost you money. Not much money, but $0.99 here, a couple bucks there, $10 for a whole album or a new book, and it adds up quickly. Cutting out all impulse spending would solve the problem, but going cold turkey in never easy. How do you control impulse spending without cutting all the fun out of shopping and browsing?
Before you hit the store, or the web site, recognize you are going to see a lot of tempting items, a lot of enticing ads. Since you know ahead of time that it’s going to happen, you can plan how you will handle them. Steel yourself now. Prepare yourself mentally to ignore anything but what you’re there to get. If you’re going to Amazon.com for a present for your folks, get the present and get out of there. Pay no attention to the “People who bought this also bought…” messages.
Make a list
Speaking of getting only what you need, make a list of items you intend to buy before you go to the store or web site. A list is a very handy tool for keeping you focused on the goal, and it can be used just like a To Do list. As you get each item you can check it off your list, and when all the items are checked, you get to come home.
10 second rule
The ten second rule is for those times when you pick up something interesting that wasn’t on your list. Spend ten seconds asking yourself questions like, “Do I really need this?” or “Could this money be better spent elsewhere?” or “What value will this add to my day?” It will be obvious, after ten seconds, what you should do with most of the things you pick up.
And, of course, don’t forget to reward yourself. Every time you successfully resist the temptation to buy something you don’t need, take the money you would have spent and apply it toward one of your debts. Or just put it in your piggy bank. I think you’ll be surprised how quickly the savings add up.
This article originally appeared in the January 7, 2009, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.