How can I stop impulse purchases? A question often asked by those who find themselves blowing their budget within days of getting paid.
There are many ways to help you curb your spending, some you may more difficult than others. I found a new approach that has been used by some which utilise a decision tree and which I am going to try out on my next shopping adventure.
What is a decision tree?
A decision tree is commonly used in research and decision analysis which graphs decisions and potential consequences of those decisions. Each decision in this case is managed by a question, and the branch of answers will lead you to buy or not to buy the item.
What kind of questions should you be asking?
These questions come from Andrea Whitmer, who has used the decision tree to curb her impulse shopping. When thinking about purchasing an item your decision tree should include:
Do I need it to live?
Food, clothing and shelter come in here.
Do I already have something that meets the same need?
Do you want to pick up takeaway knowing you have enough food in your fridge for dinner?
Will it solve or prevent a real problem?
Think of this as toilet paper vs DVDs.
Does it provide some kind of value?
I needed a new laptop because my old one was on the brink. I knew this was an important purchase because I would be using it every day for work and university.
Can I afford it without going into debt?
If something is a necessity than ok, but if its not you shouldn’t be using your credit card or overdrafts to purchase it.
Will someone (probably your partner) be angry if you buy it?
Have you ever hidden a purchase or acted like it was something old you already had? If you have it is probably a good indication you shouldn’t have bought it-the guilt speaks for itself.
Could I spend my money better elsewhere?
Do you have other things that are coming up like a car service or a birthday you need to buy a gift for?
Is the elsewhere more important?
Are you buying a new dress when you have a credit card bill lying at home?
Do you still want the item?
If you have gone through the whole list and thus justified your purchase you will probably still buy it. In other scenarios you would have had blinkers going “don’t buy”.
Does it stop impulse shopping?
Most people probably already do a mental tango in their heads when they are considering making a purchase, but some people need stronger reminders. You may look like a bit of a fool, but it might help if you draw up your decision tree and carry it around with you when you shop.
Even just having a list of appropriate questions may be enough incentive to make you think twice. Once you have internalised these you can lose the paper but you will find that every time you shop you can visualise your tree making you think twice.
I am going to see if it works and I hope you might give it a go too!
If you want to read about some other tips to curb your spending check out our article Ways for women to spend less on shopping.