My most recent spending temptation was an adorable Jack-o-Lantern bowl I saw at Wal-Mart on the Saturday before Halloween. I imagined putting candy in the $2 bowl for our trick-or-treaters, and it would really liven up our Halloween. Theoretically, I was in the store to get a prescription filled, but spending an extra two bucks for the grinning bowl wouldn't make that big a difference in my total. I was at the checkout before I realized that I really didn't need this particular item, since it was only useful one night a year. That realization was enough to have me put the bowl back on the shelf. I haven't always been so disciplined though.
Avoiding spending temptations is not easy, considering the fact that we are constantly surrounded by things to buy. The best way to avoid spending money is to know what triggers your spending impulses. Here are a few ways that might help you to say no the next time temptation strikes:
1. Think about the logistics of buying the item. This is what I did with the Jack-o-Lantern bowl. I couldn't imagine where I'd keep it 11 months of the year—and since I hate clutter, that was enough to sour me on the idea of buying it.
This is also an important strategy when shopping at bulk stores. Do you know where you'll keep that drum of olive oil? If not, then keep walking.
2. Carry cash. Having a credit card in your pocket makes it far too easy to make that impulse purchase. If you are only carrying enough cash to take care of your errands and pre-planned shopping, then you can't let yourself be tempted by other purchases.
3. Don't pay half price for something you wouldn't buy for full price. A friend who is a big advocate for second-hand stores and garage sales uses this as her mantra. Sometimes the price of an item is what makes it a tempting purchase. But if you buy something you don't really want just because it's on sale, you haven't saved money at all. You've just spent good money on something that will collect dust. So unless you'd be willing to pay full price for a discounted item, leave it on the shelf.
4. Make a list. Whether you are grocery shopping or Christmas gift shopping, the biggest mistake you can make is going to the store without a list. When you plan ahead, you know exactly what you need and about how much you'll be paying for it.
5. Remember that shopping is not a competitive sport. Don't hang out with spendaholics. Their habits have a nasty tendency to rub off, particularly when they're urging you to just "try it on." If the mall is a regular hangout, find other ways to have fun—have a movie night in, go for a hike, volunteer together. There are a number of activities more worthwhile than shopping.
6. Institute the 24-hour rule. If you find something that you absolutely must have, decide to put off your purchase by one day. This will give you time to cool off from the thrill of discovering your "must have" and will let you think about whether you really need it. It's better to suffer the minor inconvenience of coming back to the store the next day than to be regretting the purchase in the same amount of time.
7. Imagine having to throw out the item in a few years. As a confirmed frugal recycler, this gives me pause anytime I'm tempted by an unnecessary purchase. How would I feel about spending good money now to throw it out in a relatively short time because I didn't need it in the first place? I'd rather find a way to re-purpose something I already own.
As the holiday season gears up, there will be plenty of shopping temptations at every turn. How will you avoid spending money on things you don't need?