Do you ever ask yourself, “Where did all of my paycheck go?” Of course, you know what was spent on the basics. But what about the rest of it? It’s possible that impulse purchases consumed a hefty portion of your hard-earned money, leaving your bank account on empty.
Whether your off-the-cuff purchases happen online, in the grocery store, or at the outlet mall they can really add up — especially when you’re not paying attention. In fact, leaving this habit unchecked could result in overwhelming credit card debt, an inability to pay bills on time or damaged relationships. All for stuff you likely didn’t really need after all.
To build a buffer between you and buying all the things you think you want, employ these 10 tips:
Set short-term goals
Curtail compulsive urges by making a plan. Start by setting realistic financial goals like saving up for a vacation, a professional certification or establishing an emergency fund. Then set aside a specific amount each month. As you watch your savings grow — instead of your collection of things — you’ll be encouraged to keep the momentum going.
Compare an item’s price with its value
Before impulse buying, calculate the number of hours you worked for the amount on the price tag. It’ll be eye-opening when you realize the money you’re about to spend took 24 hours of work to make. That’s an entire day, or three work days, of your life.
Weigh the pros and cons
Identify both the positive and negative consequences of your impulse purchase. Positive outcomes may include, a happier, healthier or simplified life. Versus negative outcomes, like missing your savings goals, an inability to pay important expenses, increasing your debt or adding to your pile of pointless possessions. If the negatives outweigh the positives, then this isn’t the purchase for you.
Identify your danger zones
Do you go to the grocery store to buy five items and walk out with a cartful? Do you mindlessly buy online? Or do you feel powerless against the outlet mall’s influence? Once you’ve identified your weaknesses, determine your defenses. That could include bringing a buddy to help you say no, eating before grocery shopping or restricting online shopping.
When you go to the grocery or department store with a list, you’re less likely to overspend. That’s because you’re not aimlessly wandering the aisles, guessing what you need. Beyond creating lists before you shop, you can add items that caught your eye to a 30-day list. Once 30 days have passed, revisit the list. If you still want the item, then work it into your budget.
Give yourself a budget
Know thyself. This old Greek adage could be your saving grace. If you think shopping and scoring deals should be its own Olympic sport, and you’re bound to make impulse purchases — no matter how many lists you make — then we recommend planning for the unplanned. Stated simply, add a set dollar amount to your monthly budget for shopping splurges. Once you’ve reached your monthly limit, stop.
Find an inexpensive hobby
Practice saying “no” to your children
Not succumbing to your child’s every desire won’t make you a bad parent. In fact, you’re doing them a favor. Instead, involve your kids in the shopping experience differently. Have them help you make the shopping list, so they’re on your team. If they ask for something that’s not on the list, kindly remind them, “We only buy items on the list we created.” Just keep in mind it’s equally important that you hold yourself to the same standard. If done right, this tactic can be both a deterrent and a teaching tool.
Cut the lure of ever-present impulse shopping by unsubscribing from your favorite retailer’s marketing emails and social media pages. Start making a beeline for the items you planned to buy. And check your inner-dialogue at the door. Don’t allow it to sabotage your best efforts with thoughts like, “You deserve it,” “Everyone else has one,” or “It’s on sale.”
Need guidance on setting your financial goals? Stop by one of our branches and let’s make plan.