Resistance is Frugal! – 5 Ways to Get Your Impulse Buying Under Control

If you want to embrace the financial freedom lifestyle, getting your impulses in check is an important first step.  Stores (both brick and mortar and online) are specifically designed to get you to spend as much money as possible.  Getting your impulses into line can save you a small fortune.  Here’s my top tips for resisting the temptation to buy.

1) Be patient.
Not everyone has this virtue, but it truly is a blessing to have.  I’m lucky enough to just be patient by nature, it doesn’t take any effort on my part to have patience because I know that good things really do come to those who wait.  Patience is important in many aspects of our lives, but when it comes to shopping, the main thing to remember is that when you want something, you don’t need to buy it right then and there.  Once you’ve identified something you want, the best thing you can do is step back, determine if you really do want it, shop around for it, find the best deal, wait to see if its price drops, and then after a while buy it.

2) Make *Not* Buying the Default Action.
The checkout line is an easy place to lose a buck or two each time you visit.  The allure of that Snicker’s Bar, that pack of M&Ms, that bag of beef jerky is almost too much to bear.  The first and most common advice given is to shop on a full stomach so you don’t give into your hunger pangs and buy the junk, but I have another suggestion.  Make not buying things the default.  The easiest way to do this is to shop from a list and make a commitment to stick to your list.  If you see something along the way that you didn’t have on the list, you can add it while you shop, but you must justify adding it to the list.  If you can’t justify it, don’t buy it.  For instance can you really justify putting that $.75 cent candy bar on the list when you could buy a pack of 6 of them for $2.50?  If you really want it, don’t buy it on impulse, plan for it.  Furthermore, you really don’t need to be eating that junk anyway!

3) Resist the Siren Call of Sales.
The plain and simple, not all sales are equal.  Different stores have different base-line prices and even with huge discounts on their normal price, they still might not beat their competitors.  Don’t hastily rush into buy something just because you see it “on sale”.  Without doing the research you don’t know if the store is just trying to instill a sense of urgency to get you to buy the product, or if the prices have been artificially jacked up and then lowered to a normal price like J.C. Penney was found doing.

4) Be Aware of the Tricks Stores Use.
This is enough for an entire article in itself, but I’ll keep it brief.  Everything from the lighting in the produce section, to the location of the bakery, to the background music, to the size of shopping carts and then some!  Study your enemy, know what psychological tricks stores are using against you and you’ll be better equipped to fight them.
Some quick tips I’ve thought of:

  • Wear headphones and listen to high intensity music, or force yourself to listen to music you hate while in stores.
  •  Skip the cart, use a basket instead.  It’s hard to buy things when you can barely carry it all.
  •  Generally ignore the displays at the ends of aisles.  Those are more often than not things the store really wants you to buy, therefore, it’s probably very profitable for them and more expensive for you.
  •  Keep your eyes low or high.  The best deals are almost never on the eye-level shelves.
  •  Keep yourself busy while waiting in line, read a blog on your phone or something, just don’t look at all the candy.

5) Know Yourself.
Everyone reacts differently to different stimuli.  Keep track of when you fail to resist your impulse to buy things you don’t need and try to avoid those situations in the future.  Try new strategies if the old ones aren’t working.  Find something that works for you and train yourself to be good at following it.  Seek support from friends and family, talk to your therapist about it.  Financial independence is not something that comes easily.  It’s only through hard work and perseverance that you can achieve such a goal.

Remember, it’s not easy for everyone to get a handle on spending.  Don’t feel ashamed if you fail and give in to temptation and buy that knife specially designed to get every dab out of the Nutella jar, or the as-seen-on TV veggie pasta maker that you’re never going to use.  Mistakes are a great learning opportunity, it’s not the end of the world!  But always remember resistance is not futile, it’s frugal!

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