How to Resist Spending Temptations
A version of this article originally appeared on Learnvest.com.
You’re a clever gal. Which probably means that your mind can have a, well, mind of its own.
You can talk yourself into things, out of things, even over things (he always did look kind of lame in his favorite fedora). When your mind is healthy, strong, and on the angelic side of your shoulder, talking you out of overspending is easy. But when it’s a weak and flabby devil’s advocate, telling your better self “But it’s on sale … and you’ll be getting that extra commission check soon,” then it’s time to bring in the big guns: a little combat training to beat those excuses into shape.
Next, your guide to creating a mind of anti-shopping steel: the top 10 spending excuses we use—and how to squash them. Think of these as squats for your spending “buts.” Now get to work, and repeat as necessary!
Excuse #1: But It’s on Sale
(Also known as: It’s really cheap; it’s only $12.99; it's such a great deal.)
Ah, the lure of the deal. Retailers so understand that people want a deal that an entire Groupon-inspired industry has spawned from this, and outlets even create fake markdowns on their price tags. This will require a mind of steel, but you must train yourself to ignore the base price and focus only on the offered price. Your only considerations should be: (1) whether you really need it, and (2) whether the price fits within your budget. Even big discounts can mean big spending.
Excuse #2: But I’ve Been Working so Hard, I Deserve It
We all work hard (unless you’re born wealthy or won the lottery, in which case, um, good for you). Donna Summer put it best when she said, “She works hard for the money.” That’s right. We all work hard. It’s not that you shouldn’t use your hard-earned money to enjoy life—you should. It’s just that “working hard” shouldn’t be an excuse to spend. After all, it’s not like your income automatically expands proportionally to how difficult work has been lately. Your budget trumps how you feel about your work stress. (But if it consistently doesn’t add up, look for a job where you’ll be compensated better—and check out our salary negotiating tips.)
Excuse #3: But I’m Getting That Raise/Bonus Soon
This is a sneakier and much more persuasive version of #2. In this excuse lies the promise of money that awaits you, whether a commission, bonus, raise or even a new job salary. It’s certain, right? At least 90 percent, if not 99 percent. No, it’s definite, or at least probably going to happen ... The worst thing next to spending money you don’t have is spending money you don’t have yet. But in reality, it’s the same thing. Life is unpredictable, and anything can happen. So don’t pull any triggers until the money hits your account. Until it does, you simply don’t have that money.
Excuse #4: But It’s Fall Fashion/Holidays/Springtime
We love the changing seasons to keep life interesting. But seasons are not a built-in excuse to spend, no matter what the retail and advertising industry would have you believe with all its persuasive imagery of lovely women draped in cozy sweaters and boots or fluttery spring dresses. You probably have everything you need in your closet already. Think of enjoying what each season offers that doesn’t involve buying: crisp air and pumpkins, snow on branches, buttery sunshine and buds peeping from the ground.
Excuse #5: But I Might Go Hiking in the Andes/Attend a Gallery Opening in Paris One Day
Buy for the life you have, not the one you want. Sometimes we buy things because of the lifestyle they represent, and how they embellish the person we want to be. Don’t just ignore these urges—examine them. Your desired purchases may be telling you something—that you yearn for more adventure, culture or socializing in your life. So make the life changes happen. Get the stuff later—if you even need it then.
Excuse #6: But Everyone Else Is Getting Something
We teasingly call one of our friends the “suckah shoppah” because when we go out as a group and someone buys an item, she’s easily persuaded to buy it too. Don’t underestimate the power of influence others can wield over your spending habits—and you don’t have to be actually shopping with them; it can simply be the influence of coworkers or friends who are buying fall clothes, traveling or living a certain lifestyle. Tune them out. What matters is you and your budget. No one else will be around to bail you out later if you get in over your head.
Excuse #7: But It’s My Wedding/Birthday/Cousin’s Bat Mitzvah
That’s right, we said wedding. We’re not playing. Special occasions are one of life’s greatest joys, but sometimes the desire for the perfect outfit or decorations or “things” can make us lose sight of what’s more important—the relationships, the people and the celebration. What still trumps all your spending decisions is—you guessed it—your budget. Pre-plan a budget for special occasions for the year, and stick to it. Be creative about how you can repurpose or borrow dresses and accessories. It’s not about deprivation, it’s about shifting focus to what’s more important—the very reason for the celebration.
Excuse #8: But I Can Return It
This is high up on the scale of sneaky excuses. Once you get home with the item, you can grow attached, the reasons to return it fade or you just can’t be bothered. If you’re a returnaholic, it’s not healthy (or time-savvy) to get into a cycle of buying and returning—and it’s not ethical to buy something, wear it and return it. (Find out here if you’re a returnaholic.) So save return policies for exchanging a size or replacing a broken item, not for changing your mind. Chances are, once you buy it, you’ll keep it.
Excuse #9: But I’ve Been So Good Lately
Congrats if you’ve been sticking to your budget and cutting your spending. Just don’t undo all your hard work by blowing it with a giant splurge. The best way to handle this is to give yourself specific goals, and as you reach them, set aside a certain “treat” amount for reaching your milestones (i.e. If I can save $500 each month, I’ll treat myself to a $50 splurge at the end of the month). If in spite of this you find yourself uncontrollably splurging for “being good,” it can be a sign that your goals are too aggressive. Recalibrate them so that you can make real progress, even if it seems slower.
Get customized advice by heading to LV’s Ask an Expert, where a financial professional can help you set reasonable goals for your spending.
Excuse #10: But I’ve Been So Bad Already
This is the equally toxic cousin to #9. Sometimes when we screw up, we say, “What the heck, I’m so over budget already” and let the credit card fly. It’s the “lost cause” kind of thinking, when in fact every day is a chance to start fresh and exercise that non-spending muscle. If you have a bad day, don’t give up or beat yourself up. Just start the following day with an even stronger resolve. Everyone messes up—the key is what we do with our failures. Use your spending mistakes to inspire you to do better—don’t give them more power by wallowing in them.
Check out LV’s Take Control Bootcamp to give you a reality check about your finances and kick your butt into gear.
—Written by Maria Lin
Related links from LearnVest:
- 8 Things You Think Are Good for Your Money…That Aren’t
- 10 Great Things You’re Already Doing With Your Money
- Sign Up for LearnVest’s Debt-Diminishing Financial Bootcamp