Shopping makes us feel good. Just like chocolate or giving someone a big piece of your mind, shopping can make us feel empowered, excited and happy. But just like eating one too many pieces of Dairy Milk or really losing our cool, shopping can bring with it some delayed feelings that aren’t so fantastic. I’m a big shopper. So far, I’ve kept it under control with budgets, moving my money into accounts I can’t touch and giving myself the occasional severe talking-to. But great long-term finances come from behavioural change, so here’s how to end impulse spending for good.
Is It On The List?
The founder of The Simple Dollar has a list of books he wants to read, next to his computer. Everytime the temptation arises to buy a new book, he checks the list. It’s a fantastic way to remind ourselves of how much we have already. Probably, I would have books galore, sitting unread on my shelves. Having a list is an incredible way to remind myself of those books, before I add to the contents of the over-full bookshelf.
Still the most powerful tool I’ve found when trying to rationalise my impulse spending, is thinking of the things I could do with the money if I don’t spend it on the extra pair of pants. Would I rather spend $50 on clothes, or put $50 towards my emergency fund? Or my savings, that might one day become a house deposit? Sometimes, saving isn’t sexy. Sometimes, the pants look tempting. But most of the time, it’s great to remember what long-term gains can be made from short-term savings.
Do I Need It?
Ah yes, this old chestnut. Needs versus wants when it comes to impulse spending. This works for a lot of people. Personally, I find reflecting on what other uses my money could be put to, as a more effective strategy but everyone is different. Of course, even taking the time to consider the purchase in a wider context is always a potent way of controlling impulse spending. Ask yourself why you want it? Will you use it? Walk away for 24 hours and if you’re still thinking about it later, then maybe it’s more than just an impulse or emotional buy.
Think about it practically; once you’re out of the buzz of the shop, with the soft lighting and nondescript music, are you still going to want the item? And if you’re not 100% positive, then look at the returns policy offered by the store. We’ve all had the experience of the dress that looks wonderful in the change room, only to realise it looks less-than-perfect in our own bedrooms.
Make The Call
Experts suggest always breaking the process. Ask the sales assistant to set it aside for half an hour and have a cup of coffee. Walk around the block to clear your head. If you’re struggling with impulse spending, set up a system where you always call your support person or group, or financial counselling service, before you sign on the dotted line.