Why do I constantly want stuff that I don’t need? It seems that there are certain items that I am continually attracted to buy even though I probably wouldn’t use them if I bought them. Why does this happen? What makes certain items so alluring?
It seems to be the same things that keep popping into my head over and over. I convince myself that it would be a waste of money and then a few weeks later, I’m looking at the same thing again!
Do you ever struggle with this sort of impulse to purchase things you don’t need? If so, how do you deal with it?
I struggle to keep from buying an iPod or MacBook.
I don’t know what it is about Apple products right now, but they seem almost impossible to avoid buying. I constantly keep coming back to the idea of purchasing an iPod or MacBook. They are both cool, but I certainly don’t need either one. I guess it is the popularity of these products that keeps pulling me back.
Marketers do a fantastic job these days of selling us an image. It is just cool to own Apple products. After all, who would you rather be? The geeky Windows guy in the commercials or the cool, laid back Mac guy?
Most recently, I’ve been looking at the iPod Touch. It is a sweet device. I’ll admit that I am especially susceptible to buying gadgets. However, when I stop and really think about it, I know I would get a Touch, play with it until the newness wore off, and then it would sit idle on a shelf most of the time. I don’t listen to that much music and why watch a video on such a small screen when I can just watch it at home? If I traveled a lot, then I could see where something like the Touch would be valuable.
Why worry about buying things?
Isn’t buying things we want a privilege we earn from working? Many people use this reasoning or something similar to justify buying whatever they want. They usually charge these items on credit cards. This is how they sell themselves to their pleasures as Ben Franklin states in his quote above. They get in debt and then instead of being able to enjoy what they bought, they become slaves to the lenders. They have to work harder and longer to support their artificial lifestyle.
Purchases of a few hundred dollars add up quickly to thousands of dollars. On top of that, if you carry a balance on your credit card, you will pay on average 12-14% interest. These rates can skyrocket quickly if you are late on even one payment. In addition, you may become subject to late fees and penalties. All this to get something that isn’t even used or enjoyed. No thank you!
How to avoid buying things you don’t need.
I had a recent flare-up of the wants lately so, in order to help myself deal with this, I’ve researched some ways to overcome buying things I don’t need. Here’s the very best suggestions that I found:
1. Make yourself accountable to someone that’s frugal.
If you often buy things you don’t need, then get an accountability partner that is naturally more frugal than you are. Tell someone in your life like a spouse, sibling, or close friend that you are trying to curtail your spending and you need their help. Ask them to talk you out of items you don’t need. Just knowing that you are going to have to answer to someone for buying the latest gadget will help you to stop and think twice about it. My wife often helps me in this area.
2. Don’t go shopping.
This one may seem obvious, but boredom often gets the better of us. Here’s how it goes. We have some free time with nothing to do and before you know it we are out at the mall or surfing the online stores. Either way this is dangerous! I often disguise this as research. I’m just checking into the features of the latest gadget. I most recently got sucked into wanting the iPod Touch by participating in a survey that promised to give three of them away. I started looking at the Touch to see if it was worth the time it would take to complete the survey. Of course, this was just fuel for the fire.
3. Cut up your credit cards and use cash.
I know this is radical, but it works. For some reason, it is just mentally easier to charge things on a credit card. When you have to count out cold, hard cash to make a purchase it makes you stop and think. At least, this is my experience. It is a lot harder for me to let go of my money when I’m holding it in my hand. I think that credit card balances are abstract, but cash in hand is very real. If you can’t go as far as cutting up your credit card, then give it to your accountability partner or at least stow it away at home. This will help you avoid those impulse buys.
4. Feed your mind vitamins of frugality.
Our minds operate a lot like a computer. Garbage in, garbage out. Therefore, if you are trying to avoid buying things you don’t need, you should find as many good inputs as possible that feed your mind the right ways of thinking. I do this by following good personal finance blogs, listening to Dave Ramsey, and reading great books that stress simple and frugal living. I think of these things as vitamins for my mind. They strengthen my resolve to hold on to my money.
5. Decide in advance how you are going to use your money.
A budget, done correctly, helps you decide in advance every month exactly how you want to spend and invest your money. You give every dollar a name and tell it precisely what you want it to do for you at the beginning of the month. Once you have a spending plan or budget in place, then it is easier to avoid buying things you don’t need. It is often because we don’t have a plan for our money that we spend it on impulse.
6. Be careful about who you hang out with.
We are strongly influenced by the people around us. Who are you usually with when you make frivolous purchases? You may want to avoid this person for awhile until you get your financial footing. If you do have to be around people that you feel are a bad influence, then try to arrange it so that you are doing something other than going to the mall or shopping. Go to the park or plan an outdoor adventure instead of going somewhere where you’ll feel tempted.
7. Always sleep on it before making a purchase.
Give yourself a financial timeout. You can always wait until tomorrow before making a purchase. In the meantime, talk to your accountability partner about the purchase, feed your mind some frugality vitamins, and review your budget. If you still feel the purchase is a good one and you have the cash to buy what you want, then go for it!
Get control of yourself and start winning with money!
Take it from a recovering over-spender, it is possible to stop buying things you don’t need. It just takes some forethought and planning. The suggestions above are what work best for me. By implementing these things in my life, I have been able to pay off all my debt except for my mortgage and I’ve started saving to pay cash for a newer car. I am living-proof that it is possible for someone to turn their life around and start winning with money.
What works for you? Please leave a comment below and let me know.
Photo by TheAlieness