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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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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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