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You’re doing everything you can to optimize your finances—you picked up a few side gigs, you made a budget, you learned how to spend your dollars more wisely at the grocery store.
And yet, at the end of the month when you check your bank account, you’re still disappointed. The problem? Impulse spending.
You know the kind of spending we’re talking about. Work is a little slow so you visit Amazon and 15 minutes later, you’ve got a bunch of random stuff you just need in your shopping cart. Or you see an amazing sale on flights and decide, without thinking, that now is a good time for a weekend getaway. While waiting in line at the grocery store, you grab a tube of lip gloss and toss it in your cart.
If you’re tired of feeling bad about spending impulsively (ugh, the guilt), don’t worry. Here are five great tips for curbing those impulse buys once and for all.
1. Wait, Then Wait Some More
This sounds obvious, but it’s not as simple as you may think. One of the most important things you can do to curb impulse spending is to simply wait before you click “Checkout.” With one-click buying, daily emails letting you know about sales and ads all over Facebook and Instagram, retailers are trying to make it as easy as possible for you to buy stuff—fast. By removing as many barriers as possible, they’re hoping you won’t think twice before you enter your credit card info.
Carl Richard, a financial planner and the author of “The One-Page Financial Plan: A Simple Way to Be Smart About Your Money,” loves to buy and read books. But he noticed he was buying them impulsively online, so he instituted a new rule for himself: the 72-hour rule. If he saw a book he wanted, he waited 72 hours to see if he still wanted it before purchasing.
“By adding a little space, I gave myself the opportunity to change my response,” he wrote for the New York Times.
You can customize this rule to fit your life. Maybe you want to wait a week before you buy something. Maybe you want to talk it over with your significant other first. Maybe all you need is 30 seconds—there’s even a Google Chrome extension called Amazon Contemplate that will make you wait 30 seconds before you make a purchase. Whatever you choose, make sure to take a step back and breathe before you buy.
2. Imagine What It Will Cost You In Hours
Another trick to preventing yourself from spending impulsively is to think about how many hours you’d have to work to pay for something.
There’s another handy Google Chrome extension called Time Is Money that can help with this. You tell the extension how much you make per hour, and it automatically converts all prices into hours—it’s that simple.
This way of thinking will totally change your perspective, too. When you realize how many hours you’d have to work to pay for that new gadget, it makes you think twice.
3. Write Impulse Buys Into Your Budget
You have to be honest with yourself when you make your budget. If you know you absolutely cannot resist stopping at Starbucks on your way to work, you can’t just write those purchases out of your budget and hope you stop. You will go to Starbucks, and you will feel bad about it later.
You may even end up spending more because once you’ve blown your budget for the month, you may find yourself thinking, “What’s the point?” and just keep spending.
This is nonsense. Write impulse spending into your budget so that you’re prepared. You don’t have to stop spending entirely to get your finances in order, you just need to be more intentional with your money.
4. Buy What You Love, Not What You Like
Each time you’re tempted to make an impulse buy, consider whether you’re buying something you like or something you love.
Maybe you absolutely love to travel. If you spend $100 on a new pair of jeans three times a year, you’re missing out on a $300 trip to a new city. Reframe your purchases this way and you might be surprised the next time you’re tempted to buy something.
5. If You Spend It, You Must Save It
Every time you spend impulsively, force yourself to stash the same amount away in savings.
One of two things will happen: Since the price of the item literally just doubled, you may decide you don’t want it after all. Or, if you do decide to buy something, you’ve now added some extra funds to your savings account or retirement plan.