Chances are you’ve heard the terms “retail therapy,” “spending spree” and “shopaholic”. Shopping can release endorphins, often called “feel-good” chemicals because they can improve your mood. Unfortunately, this rush can also lead to addictive behavior in some people. When done in moderation, shopping can be harmless and fun. However, too many visits to your favorite online store can really put a dent in your wallet. While it can provide a slight relief in the moment, impulse shopping may lead to ﬁnancial stress later on.
If you are struggling with impulse shopping, consider these tips to overcoming budget-busting behaviors:
- Remove temptation: It’s hard not to think of shopping when our devices bombard us with oﬀers and images of things that are supposed to improve our lives. If you want to take advantage of oﬀers occasionally, create a new email address strictly for promo emails. Check your inbox when you have a necessary or planned purchase in mind.
- Go undercover: Ever notice how if you even mention getting new shoes out loud, you are suddenly bombarded by very speciﬁc shoe ads on social media? Behavioral targeting is intended to nudge you towards purchasing, but you can disable cookies to surf the web more anonymously. Additionally, if you use smart speakers keep in mind, while they may be convenient, they can also be fueling marketing engines that serve you enticing ads.
- Cut the credit: Avoid using credit cards if you don’t have the cash to pay them oﬀ in full at the end of the month. Also, consider keeping just one credit card, for emergency use only. Then shred the others so you won’t be tempted to use them; but do not close the accounts as that could negatively impact your credit score.
- Check your balances: Keeping up to date with your ﬁnances can help you resist the urge. Check your bank accounts often for a reality check on how any impulse spending may have impacted you.
- Set limits: You don’t have to deprive yourself completely. Simply practicing moderation can allow you to make progress towards conquering your impulses. Try carrying cash or a reloadable gift card for non-required expenses or “wants” based on your established budget. Spend the money any way you choose; just know that when it’s spent, you have to wait until the next pay period to reload.
- Try the 30-day way: Whenever you feel the urge to splurge, force yourself to stop and jot down the item, the price, and the date. Then consider whether you really want or need the item. If you decide that you do, purchase it, but only after 30 days. With this approach, you’re not denying yourself; you’re just building in a “cool down” period to think purchases through.
- Socialize wisely: Avoid oﬀers to go “window shopping” and instead see a movie, go for a hike, or have a friend over for dinner. This way you can still socialize with no guilt.
- Crave to save: Whenever you feel like you just have to buy something, immediately take your phone out and transfer the item’s price into your savings. If you turn your shopping habit into a savings habit, you might ﬁnd that watching your savings account grow can be just as addicting!
- Keep your eye on the prize: Consider what will truly bring you happiness vs. what you may want in the moment. Is that sweater or shiny object really more valuable than the special trip or home you’ve been saving for?
- Ask for help: There’s no shame in asking for help if you’re having trouble with your spending. Share your goal to reduce compulsive spending with friends and loved ones. If that makes you uncomfortable, just say you’re saving for something special. You might discover they have similar goals of their own.
Remember, progress is more important than perfection. Just like with diets or workout plans, you may not succeed 100% of the time but being aware and trying to overcome bad habits is progress. With patience, dedication and time you’ll get there.