There are all sorts of gimmicks to help you save cash, but it would be so much easier to put money in the bank if you had more money in your wallet. And you would have more money in your wallet if you spent less in the stores and online.
Whether you have a serious compulsive buying problem – said to afflict about 2 to 8 percent of the adult U.S. population – or simply need to rein in your spending, here are seven ways to help kick the shopping habit.
1. Go on a spending fast
For those who like extremes, try quitting cold turkey. Go on a spending fast.
A spending fast challenges you to stop all discretionary spending for a period of time, whether that is a day, a week or more. It could be that you promise to never go shopping on the weekends or maybe you overspent in December for the holidays so you decide not to shop all of January.
Some people have even made a point of going an entire year without shopping.
Of course, you certainly need to pay your bills, your car needs gas and you need to eat. A spending fast doesn’t stop you from paying for your basic needs. Instead, it means you don’t buy anything that isn’t an absolute necessity – and I’m telling you, that gourmet chocolate bar is no more a necessity than a Coach bag.
2. Wait it out a week
Maybe you don’t need to completely stop shopping. Maybe your problem is, you tend to buy on impulse. Tame the problem by instituting a waiting period before making a purchase.
Virtually everything you could ever want to buy will still be available a week later. So promise yourself you’ll wait that week before heading back to the store for the purchase. You aren’t telling yourself “no.” You’re telling yourself “later.”
What you’ll find is that by the time “later” rolls around, you’ll probably have forgotten what made you want the item so desperately in the first place.
There is no magic behind a week either. You could make it a day, three days or even a 30-day rule. The important part is giving yourself a chance to re-evaluate whether the purchase is a whim or something you really want.
3. Cancel the catalogs
A 2012 report from FGI Research found that shoppers receive an average of three catalogs per week, and nearly everyone who gets them in the mail will buy something at some point. On average, we spend $357 each year on catalog purchases.
You may be able to keep that money in your pocket if you could stop the catalogs from coming in the front door. While you could contact companies individually and ask them to end the mailings, it may be easier to use CatalogChoice.org. Run by a nonprofit, the website lets you enter in the company information and then it sends your request to the right place.
4. Put one thing back during each shopping trip
It’s normal to make impulse purchases in the store. In fact, many marketing teams work tirelessly to lure you into those extra buys.
Fight back by vowing to always return one unplanned item to the shelf before checking out. If you’re clothes shopping and grab some socks and an extra pair of jeans, put one of those back. At the grocery store, hand off either the bag of chips or the cookies to the cashier and tell them you changed your mind.
5. Make “one in, two out” a rule
Similarly, make it a rule that every time you bring a new, nonfood item into the house, you need to send two other items packing. Unless you’re already living a minimalist lifestyle, chances are your house is stuffed with stuff you rarely use and don’t need.
The “one in, two out” rule helps in two ways: It can help cut the clutter while also discouraging new purchases. You either get to keep your money if you decide the new item isn’t worth two of your existing items or, if you decide you want that purchase badly enough, you free up some space in your house by eliminating two other possessions.
6. Keep your credit card off shopping sites
Amazon has 1 Click Ordering for a reason. It makes it so darn easy for you to spend your cash! That’s also why so many stores want you to create accounts and save your payment information. Sure, they want to track your purchases and shopping habits, but what they really want is for you to buy, buy, buy.
Make it a little harder for yourself by refusing to store your card information on any shopping site. Force yourself to get up, get the card and punch in all those numbers every time you want to make a purchase. It’ll make buying online feel inconvenient and may be enough to have you think twice.
7. Change how you socialize
Finally, you may find you spend a lot of money not because you love shopping but because you tend to socialize in situations that lead to shopping. Maybe shopping is just what you and your friends do on the weekend. Or perhaps you take your kids to the play area at the mall because it’s convenient, but you inevitably end up browsing a few stores and leaving with a few bags.
Rather than hit the stores during your free time, look for other ways to socialize with your friends and family. Find a nature center with trails to walk, see if the local library has any interesting upcoming workshops, or invite your friends for a night in with pizza and a movie you’ve rented.
These seven strategies can help you stay out of the stores and keep more money in your pocket. However, if your shopping seems more like an uncontrollable compulsion than a simple lack of self-discipline, you may want to seek help.
Society may seem inclined to laugh off shopping addictions, but if you’re one of the 2 to 8 percent with a compulsive shopping disorder – it’s called oniomania – it’s not funny for you or your family. Please don’t be embarrassed to get the professional help you may need.
For everyone else, how do you stop yourself from making impulse buys? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.