Partly due to my mental illnesses, I’m a very impulsive person. This usually manifests in one of two ways: Either I will tell horrible puns, or I will spend all my money. Obviously, one of these is way worse than the other one! (Although my friends might tell you differently…) Overspending is a big problem, and I know I’m not the only one out there who does it. In this post, I’m going to show you how I trick myself out of impulse spending.
Stay at home (like a nerd)
Have you ever been out somewhere, only to wander into a shop or a cafe and drop money you didn’t need to be spending? That’s pretty much my life if I go out, unfortunately. So I try to stay home as much as possible. It also prevents those moments when I’m already out and get hungry, then stop into the nearest restaurant, spending more money. At home, I can just grab something from the fridge or cupboard.
Does this make me a hermit? Yeah, kinda. It helps that I don’t have my own car and rely on my partner for transportation. He can be a voice of reason when I’m out. Usually to remind me that no, I don’t need sixteen new books on top of the dozen I still haven’t read yet.
Having homebody hobbies like writing and playing video games helps a lot with this one.
Cash allowance quells impulse spending
If I do go out, I prepare. I determine a set amount of money it’s okay to spend (sometimes this is only $5, sometimes none at all) and get it in cash. This can involve a trip to the bank, pre-budgeting, or in my case I usually take it out of whatever my tips were this week.
This trick was first introduced to me by a friend before I went to a concert back when I lived in Houston. So, props to that guy. He knew what he was doing.
Take it off… your card information, that is
Does Amazon.com have your credit/debit card info saved in their database? Do you use that ease of payment to make impulse spending mistakes like sending your friend a new book because he hasn’t been talking to you as often as he usually does and you’re too unstable to handle that? If so, are you me? Because I do that constantly. It’s awful. And it’s a drag on my budget.
So I make it harder for myself to perform these impulse purchases. If I have to go find my card and enter in the details every time I want to make a purchase? That’s a definite deterrent to impulse spending. That’s extra time that I have to consider if I really want to be spending this money right now on this item.
When Old Navy forced me to reenter my credit card information to buy from their website, I stopped buying from their website. (Because I had physically lost the card – which is another good way to not buy things with it).
You might be sitting there going, “But it’s not that hard to just grab the card from my wallet and reenter the numbers…” And for you that might be true, and this trick might not be as helpful. But for someone with massive energy and motivation issues, like me, it can definitely be enough to stop impulse spending in its tracks.
Sometimes you lose, so compromise with yourself
When that impulse gets too strong for my other tricks and I need to buy something now, I still have a method to minimize the damage done to my wallet/bank account/credit card: I just go for cheap stuff.
Dollar stores of whatever brand are pretty good for this, thrift stores are usually better. But my main go-to when this hits is a website: ShopMissA.com. This site is full of somewhat useless items that fulfill my inner need to buy now, and nearly everything is a dollar. I say “nearly” because they’ve started running a few “collection” type deals, like a set of fifteen makeup brushes for $10. But all individual items (and some 2-3 item sets) are $1.
Shipping is pretty good, too. I usually pay $2.95 flat for standard which beats E.L.F.’s $4.25 for sure. They have a bunch of E.L.F. products anyway. (Of course, both offer free shipping for orders over a certain amount but we’re trying to save money here. $7.95 including shipping is still less than $25 with free shipping). Plus there’s like a million different eyeshadow colors and I don’t have all of them yet. So it’s a pretty good compromise with my impulse spending.
(There’s no affiliation there, by the way. I’m not getting anything from plugging either of those companies. I just really like their stuff.)
Pay bills as soon as humanly possible
The longer money sits in my bank account, the more likely I am to spend it on something I have no genuine need for. So, I take that money out of my account as soon as I can. Mostly this means paying bills, usually on pay day.
This is a trick I’ve been using for a long time. Any bills that I don’t have on autopay get paid as soon as I get paid, or as soon as the bill becomes available. (And that’s most of them, because I don’t trust myself to wait until autopay comes out of my account. Plus I like ticking off the to-do list box for paying them.)
Can you find a free version?
Free stuff is obviously pretty great. When I get the impulse to buy something that’s less immediately physical than, say, a new lipstick, I try to find out if there’s a (legit) way for me to find that thing for free.
- There are a lot of free books available from Project Gutenberg.
- On that note, if you’re a bookworm and you don’t already have a library card with your local library what are you doing? Go get one. (If you’re not a bookworm, still go get one. Lots of libraries loan out everything from magazines to DVDs and sometimes even video games.)
- When I got the urge to buy a new set of Tarot cards, I instead downloaded the Golden Thread Tarot app on my phone.
- I mentioned in last week’s post about digital productivity tools that I use the free version of Wunderlist, because it offers so many great features that other apps tend to put behind paywalls.
- If you’re enrolled in college, contact your school’s IT department and see what, if any, free or discounted computer programs they have for you. My school gave me access to the entire Microsoft Office suite, which was pretty sweet. (I told you about those puns…)
- I use Spotify pretty much all of the time, and its free version is pretty decent.
Is it crappy for Chris Jericho that I only listen to his music on Spotify instead of buying the albums? Technically, yes, but he makes more money in one year than I’ll ever see in my life, so I don’t actually feel very bad about it.
Those are some of the ways I help myself to not spend money.