7 Ways to Stop Overspending When You Shop

If you're on a first-name basis with the clerk at your favorite store, you may have a problem. Here are seven ways to stop spending so much.

7 Ways to Stop Overspending When You Shop Photo by Elnur / Shutterstock.com

It would be so much easier to put money in the bank if cash wasn’t leaking out of your wallet. To plug the hole, you’ll need to spend less in stores and online.

Whether you have a serious compulsive buying problem 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 pledge never to go shopping on the weekends. Or, maybe you get ambitious and decide not to spend at all for a month.

Some people have even made a point of going an entire year without shopping.

A spending fast doesn’t stop you from paying for 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 temptation 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

You may be able to keep that money in your pocket if you can 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 stop catalogs and other unsolicited mail.

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 him or her you changed your mind.

5. Make a rule of ‘one in, two out’

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 items you rarely use and don’t need.

The “one in, two out” rule helps in two ways: It helps cut the clutter while also discouraging new purchases. Perhaps you 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’ll free up some space in your house by eliminating two other possessions.

6. Keep your credit card off shopping sites

Amazon has single-click ordering for a reason: It makes it so darn easy 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 might 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.

How do you stop yourself from making impulse buys? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Maryalene LaPonsie
Maryalene LaPonsie
After 13 years as a staffer for a Michigan legislator, I decided it was time to quit the commute and work from home instead. For the past three years, I’ve been penning ... More

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