5 Ways to Avoid Stupid Spending Decisions

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While most people like to blame their financial troubles on a lack of money, more often than not the real issue is spending.

The vast majority of the things you own are wants, not needs. Beyond shelter, food and some items such as transportation to work so that you can earn money, almost everything is a want.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wants, and you might be able to afford many small luxuries. If, however, you find that you are currently carrying credit card debt, the cause is likely that you are spending too much on unnecessary items and need to come up with an easy-to-follow plan to help reduce the amount you purchase.

Most people don't want to hear that they need to curb their spending. They like spending money and don't want to be restricted. They will choose more credit card debt rather than the feeling that they can't spend money on what they want.

The solution is to learn to purchase only the things that you truly want and to cut out the spur-of-the-moment "impulse" buys. Many times, by simply eliminating impulse spending, you will find your budget on much sturdier ground -- and you can likely still get everything that you truly want.

Here are five simple steps you can take to address your impulse spending problem:

1. Make a list: Before you do any shopping, always make a list of the things that you are going to purchase on that trip. By making out your list before you go, you will greatly reduce the number of impulse purchases that you make.

2. If it isn't on the list, don't buy it: If you are in a store and find something that you think you need that isn't on your list, don't buy it. No exceptions. If it's really something you want, make a note of it and place it on your list for the next time you go to the store. If you rationalize that you need to buy it now because it's on sale, that's a good indication that you're making an impulse buy.

3. Create a "waiting" price: Set a price threshold for more-expensive purchases. If something costs more than the price you set, wait a designated time before buying it. The waiting price can be any amount you designate that fits within your particular budget.

For example, if your waiting price is $50, then for any item that costs more than that, you agree to wait a certain amount of time before buying it. Not being able to make impulse purchases on any item above your waiting price gives you time to reflect and determine if it truly is important to you. You'll be surprised at the number of times that you think you need something at a particular moment and later realize it really wasn't all that essential.

4. Designate a waiting period: Once you have a waiting price, you need to designate the time frame you must wait before you can buy an item above that price. This period should be long enough for you to reflect on whether or not you truly want the item. It should also give you enough time to look around for a better price or a more appropriate product.

This period should be for at least a couple of days. A week will work out well for most items, as a default. If you keep the item in your mind the entire week, you'll be inclined to look online and at ads in newspapers and on television, which will give you a chance to compare prices. There is a good chance that if you do decide that you really want it, you will be able to get it at a better price that you initially found it for.

5. Purchase under retail value: In this day and age, you really should not be purchasing anything at its retail price. Set a goal to not purchase anything that is not at least 10% off its retail price, and shoot for 20% or more.

Think of it this way: Imagine the time and effort you would place into researching an investment that would give you a guaranteed, immediate tax-free return of 10% or more. It's a no-brainer, right? Since almost anything that you purchase can be found at 10% below its retail value (and sometimes much more), having the patience to wait until you find the item you want at that price will help guarantee that you don't overpay.


If you are able to adopt these spending strategies into your normal routine, you will find that you still buy everything you really want but spend a lot less. You'll likely be surprised at how often you made impulse purchases in the past.

Following these tips also will give you a better perspective on the way that you spend money -- which can be valuable in your effort to get your finances in top shape.

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