10 Ways This Shopaholic Cut Out Impulse Buys

I was once the queen of impulse buys. Name the store, and I walk in like Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka singing, “I want it now!” But, I’m a mom on a budget, and the older those kids get, the more I seem to have to stretch that budget. By cutting out impulse buys and overspending, I was able to save enough in one year to pay for a vacation. IMG_0300

  1. KNOW YOUR VALUES – One of my favorite money quotes is, “Don’t tell me what you value; Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” Knowing your values should shows where the bulk of your money goes, and that is a vital step in examining and correcting a budget. First, make a list of what you truly value. Number them 1-whatever. Next, examine where your expendable income goes. Clothing? Make-up? Skincare?  Video games? Travel? Cars? No judgement here, I’m guilty of several. Now examine you list of values, with your list of where your money goes. Do they match? Are you giving too much to something that doesn’t hold much value to you? Or too little to something that matters a lot? The more your spending matches your values, the happier you will be and the more peace you’ll feel with your finances.
  2. GET A HOBBY- A few years ago I read an article about boredom in Psychology Today. Guess what is one of the most common things people do to pass the time when they’re bored? Shop. And online shopping has only made that easier.  Think about where boredom comes from; Lack of change, routine, monotony. If life feels dull and same old, some new clothes, sunglasses, scarf, shoes, jewelry,… can feel like excitement and change. But that excitement will be short lived, and before you know it, that exciting top will just be another you shove aside in your closet, and the monotonous routine will return. Fight boredom shopping with a fun (and healthier) hobby. Join a book club, take a yoga class, knit, write a novel, learn a new language, anything that feels out of your routine. The possibilities are endless, but they will help keep boredom at bay.
  3. BUY FOR QUALITY NOT QUANTITY – This is one that does not have the satisfaction of rapid results, but we are thinking end game. It also comes with a caveat: It only works if you actually buy less. If you buy more at a higher expense, then we’re moving backward. But, it does work if you choose a few high quality pieces that you can keep and reuse long term. I will have future posts in where I recommend saving and splurging, but for right now I can give you a solid example. When I started testing this theory I looked at a wardrobe staple for me: Black leggings. I wear black leggings at least 2 times per week in the fall and winter. So I tested my splurge vs save theory on said leggings. I bought one pair at Ann Taylor for $55, and one pair online for $13. My $13 pair were ruined the second time they went through the washing machine, meaning I owned them for 2 weeks. I replaced them with another online pair of a different brand for $9, and they made it 3 weeks before I sat down one day and felt a breeze on my thigh that turned out to be a giant rip. My $55 pair have made it 2 years and are still going strong. If I had continued to replace the cheap ones, in 2 years at the current spending rate, it would’ve averaged out to $198 spent on leggings. When viewed this way, $55 looks like a good deal.
  4. WRITE DOWN EVERY PENNY YOU SPEND- This is something that many people start out attempting to do, but usually abandon for 1 of 2 reasons: forgetfulness, or guilt. Forgetting can be easily remedied by keeping a small notebook in your purse or wallet so that you can write down every penny spent. Guilt is not so easily remedied. If you feel guilty, or you’re trying to hide your spending, there’s a much bigger issue at play here. Hiding your spending won’t change it, and simple guilt will go away over time if ignored – until it comes crashing down on you in some other way when it can no longer be ignored. You will have to examine this if you want to see a change. The biggest mistake people make with this technique leads us to number 5…
  5. DON’T ROUND YOUR SPENDING WHEN YOU CALCULATE- Remembering specific amounts is not easy to do. If you have an eidetic memory, then this won’t apply to you, but for the general population, our memory tends to round numbers to make them easier to remember. I tested this by only writing down what I spent at the end of the day, or the next day, and later compared them to my bank records. My coffee, which I used to treat myself to 5 days a week is $2. It’s a clean easy to remember number. What I forgot to include was the $0.50 or $1 I threw into the jar with it. Over the course of the month, the rounding missed $48.59 of my spending. At the time, that was the difference between my card being declined or accepted. Rounding is not enough, you need to know how much money to the penny you are spending every day/week/month/year.
  6. KNOW THAT PRICE DOES NOT ALWAYS REFLECT QUALITY-  Haven’t we all splurged on something we were POSITIVE we would own forever and give us life changing results, but ultimately failed to do a fraction of what it claimed? I have a drawer full of wrinkle serums, eye creams, body lotions, and facial peels, and don’t even get me started on my closet. I once spent $55 on a face wash that gave me the worst acne of my entire life. The very sweet and perky salesgirl assured me this was temporary and my skin was simply detoxing my pores which led me to *hangs head in shame* buy it a second time. Spoiler: the acne got worse and the gorgeous glowing skin I was promised only appeared when I returned to my $10 face wash. Oh yeah, I was going to make a point – don’t assume a high price means high quality. A splurge is only okay if it offers you the results you want. Most companies will offer samples at low or no cost; try it and ensure you’re fully satisfied before you splurge.
  7. NEVER SPLURGE ON A FAD- Whether we’re talking fashion or home, styles are ever evolving. What is elegant now, may look outdated in a few months. If you have the money to swap out your wardrobe and furniture every season, then by all means do it! (But, then why are you reading this?) Sure, all styles come back eventually, but usually with a minor change to them (think of jean and shoe fashion in the last 10 years). This is a brilliant technique designed to keep us with our wallets open. But, some things are classic and will never leave: Black pumps, killer mascara, tote purses, cashmere sweaters, diamond earrings. For the classics that you will own for years and/or with plenty of use, you have something splurge worthy (see my black leggings example!) But, if it is a trend that will be gone next year/month/season, check your inexpensive options. Better yet, forget fads, and focus on what makes you feel happy, confident, and strong.
  8. ADOPT A 20 MINUTE RULE- This one should probably be higher on the list since it’s one of the most important, so don’t mistake lower on the list for less important. This one rule has prevented hundreds of my potential impulse buys. Let me set the scene: You’re out shopping for jeans, and as you walk into the store, you spot a dress cut exactly in your favorite style, in your size, and in the prettiest color/pattern ever (bonus points if it’s on sale) but you did not come here for a dress. Walk away. As in, out of the store. Not forever, for 20 minutes. If at the end of 20 minutes the dress still feels like life or death, then head back to the store and try it on, but you will be surprised how many items feel unimportant by the end of 20 minutes. And, if you can lose interest in it in less than half an hour, you will lose interest with it quickly when it’s in your closet thus, it wasn’t worth spending your money on.
  9. AVOID PAYMENT PLANS & UNNECESSARY CREDIT CARDS LIKE THE PLAGUE- If you forget everything else in this article, remember this: PAYMENT PLANS ARE FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY! While appropriate if we’re talking college, medical, or dental, it is far less appropriate for clothing, furniture, and sometimes even leased cars. Payment plan usually implies that you cannot afford it, and should wait a little while until you have the means to pay it all up front. How many stores have offered you 20% off your total if you open a card? It seems great, but you have to know yourself well enough to determine if you have the self control to pay that card off every time there’s a balance. Because they offer you that discount knowing they’ll most likely get that 20% discount back from you in a month of interest charges. Again, the key to helping your finances is to be real about your values and yourself. If you can afford and remember to pay a card off every month, or if you  have one card you use for a specific purpose (airline miles) then #9 does not apply to you. But most people can not be this responsible with credit and end up in easily avoidable debt.
  10. TAKE CARE OF YOUR THINGS AND YOUR SPACE- I am by no means a domestic diva, and the simple act of picking up is something I can procrastinate all day. But, keeping your space and items clean, and your clothing laundered, allows you to see them in their best light. This is key in determining what you want and need. It’s very easy to sit in a cluttered home looking at magazine worthy homes on Pinterest and believe that buying a few of those accessories will give you the same space. And keeping your clothes well laundered (as directed) will extend their life as well. A splurge is only worth it if you keep it in good condition, and replacing items that were misplaced or not cared for classifies as needless spending. Best of all, a few trips to the laundry room and a half hour of cleaning will also bust boredom and make that feeling of kicking your feet up feel that much more deserved!