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10 Effective Ways To Avoid Impulse Buying

10 Effective Ways To Avoid Impulse Buying

I might not be good at too much, but saving money is something I’m absolutely anal about. My family has taken to calling me “Fishhooks,” implying I line my pockets with sharp objects in order to resist the urge to reach in and pull out some cold hard cash whenever something at the store catches my eye. The truth is, I just use my head when I’m at the mall, and don’t let the sales traps get to me. Whenever faced with the prospect of purchasing something, I usually go through at least a few of these thoughts before making my decision:

1. Calculate how much work it would take to pay for the item

This is a big one, and I always get made fun of for it. My wife even anticipates it, and will launch a preemptive mimicry of myself saying “That’s like, three and a half hours of work!” whenever she’s looking at a new dress or something. But really, I look at the item’s longevity and meaningfulness, and figure out if it’s worth it or not. For example, when looking for a new PS4 game to buy, if I see a game might take 60-80 hours to complete, that equates to less than a dollar per hour. Totally worth it over time. On the other hand, a two hour movie would cost me around $40 (yes, I would treat my wife, I’m not that cheap), or $20 per hour. See the difference?

2. Don’t carry all your credit cards

If you have multiple credit cards, and plan on hitting the mall, just take one for emergencies and planned purchases. And check your limit before you go out. That way, you know how much you can spend while still having some left over in case disaster strikes. There’s not much worse than spending a few hours on a shopping trip, only to get a flat tire on the way home and be out $400 instead of $200. Keeping your other credit cards home saves you from spending way too much, and ending up getting in over your head.

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3. Don’t go therapy shopping

There are so many better ways to ease stress that don’t involve spending any money. Shopping when stressed can lead to a vicious cycle: you’re stressed, so you buy stuff, then you’re stressed because you spent money, so you buy more stuff…and it continues. Not that gambling while stressed is something I would ever advocate, but at least there you have a chance of getting some money back! Just kidding. If you’re stressed out, try going for a walk or listening to music, but avoid spending money at all costs.

4. Block shopping sites when using your computer

I shouldn’t talk, because I have ten other tabs open right now. However, I haven’t clicked on a single one since I sat down to write this (I know, go me). But really, I remember the college days, in which I would rather have been doing almost anything than sitting down to write ten pages on Chaucer. The internet has made it way too easy to buy buy buy, without thinking about the purchase first. If you need to, block all other sites while you’re trying to get work done, and save the shopping spree for another time.

5. Don’t go shopping in groups

I know that’s pretty counter-intuitive to most “shopping trips,” but really: When I go shopping with my wife, we almost always end up picking up something we didn’t plan for. I’m not blaming her, either. Either one of us end up saying “Why not?” when the other one asks “Should I…?” On the other hand, whenever I go out by myself, I make it a point to buy only what I planned to buy. Not only to I make the plan and stick to it, but having the plan helps me stay focused and ignore other sales going on around me. My wife on the other hand…

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6. Don’t drink and shop

Common sense people! Okay, if you’ve had a few, common sense might not be your strong suit right now. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. But just like you should avoid texting your ex at 2AM, you should also avoid Amazon like the plague. Even Fishhooks over here once woke up to see a new computer monitor in his “recent purchases,” even though he doesn’t even use his computer for gaming. Luckily I was able to cancel it, and no harm was done. But I did learn my lesson: Amazon is not a drinking buddy.

7. Put away money you were going to spend

Easier said than done, right? Well, it will pay off in the long run. Add up all the extra “stuff” you’ve bought over the past year, then look up prices of trips to Aruba. I definitely know some people who spend more on the former. And even if you don’t have enough for a trip to the Caribbean, you’ll have enough at the end of the year that you can splurge on a few things and not feel bad about it. And you might be able to pay off some of those credit card bills, to boot.

8. Donate to charity

Nothing will make it more clear to you that you don’t need another new pair of shoes than seeing someone on the sidewalk who actually does. Sometimes it’s best to take the money you were about to spend on yourself and give it to someone who truly needs it. If you were going to spend the money anyway, at least put it towards a good cause. Just think: the new gadget or dress you were about to pick up might improve your life a little, but buying a week’s worth of groceries for someone in need can change their life completely.

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9. Spend money on others

Like me. My address is…

Just kidding. But like I said, if you’re going to spend money anyway, spend it on a friend or family member to give thanks. No matter what you get them, it will surely be much more meaningful than whatever you were going to buy for yourself. I like to think that money has no actual value (it helps to think that way when you’re broke!), but it can have meaning if spent in a way that will make yourself and others around you happy. Share the wealth, even if you don’t have much of it.

10. Spend on experiences, not “stuff”

I’m pretty minimalistic, and I’ve said it before that I’d rather save money than buy some gizmo or something I won’t need in a week. But when it comes to going out with my wife, I spare no expense. I’d rather go without money in my wallet for a week and give her a nice night on the town than save and miss an opportunity we might not get tomorrow. Of course, we set limits, but you can’t put a price tag on a good time. So, even though this entire article has been about saving money, I guess I should wrap it up with: Don’t get married. Just kidding! It was the smartest thing I ever did. Save your money, so you can have a life with someone you love.

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Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com

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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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