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How To Stop Spending 'Unconsciously'

Saving Money By Thinking About Your Purchases

One of the most important parts of budgeting is keeping track of what you buy. When you do this, you are always aware of where your money is going. This not only makes it easy to see what you’re spending your money on, but it also allows you to make adjustments to your budget more easily.

However, a lot of people – even those who are quite good at tracking what they buy – tend to make at least some purchases unconsciously. What does this mean? It doesn’t actually mean that you buy something while you’re unconscious, but it does mean that you make purchases without thinking about them.

For example, assume you’re in a grocery store checkout line. You already have everything you planned to buy, but then you pickup a couple of packages of gum while you’re waiting. This is an example of an unconscious purchase. Of course, spending a few extra dollars on gum won’t really hurt most budgets, but the general principle holds true. Unconscious spending is unexpected spending without really thinking of what you’re buying.

It’s important to remember that small purchases add up. It’s not just the big items that matter. If you spend an extra $5 at the grocery store without thinking, then $10 extra at the hardware store, $3 more at a coffee shop, and $15 on “impulse buy” accessories at a clothing store, that’s $33 dollars in spending that you didn’t plan for and that you likely won’t remember when it comes time to track your spending. If you do that every week for a month, you’re out $132 thanks to purchases you didn’t really need or plan for.

Therefore, it’s important to avoid unconscious spending whenever possible. Here are some tips.

Have a List

Not only will shopping with a list remind you to purchase what you actually need, but it also helps you avoid the items you don’t. Many stores are purposely designed so that you need to walk past several “impulse buy” items on your way into the store and several more while you wait to pay for your purchases. If you shop with a list, you’re a lot more likely to avoid these items. If it isn’t on your list, don’t even look at it.

Just Because It’s On Sale, It Doesn’t Mean It’s Worth Buying

Something is only truly “on sale” when it’s something you need. A lot of time, we jump to buy something because it’s listed as “50% off” or “on sale for a limited time only.” However, these tendencies can cause financial trouble. If you see an item available at a discounted price, really take the time to think about whether or not you need the item. Would you buy it at full price? Would you buy it if the sale price was the regular price? What will you use it for? If you’re buying it only because “it’s a good deal” and you think that “you’ll use it one day,” then you might be better off putting it down and moving on.

Avoid Shopping When You’re Not At You’re Best

If you’re tired, hungry, sad, or stressed, you’re more likely to buy things that you don’t actually need. This kind of emotional spending happens more often when you’re feeling down because a lot of people get a “high” from shopping. This means you temporarily feel better after you buy something. However, these good feelings don’t last, especially when you get your credit card bill.

Think About It

If you see a new shirt, pair of shoes, or fun tech toy in the store, your first instinct might be to buy it right away. However, you’re likely better off leaving the store and taking some time to think about it. A store is designed to make you want to spend money. Everything from the lighting to the layout to the music is there to encourage you to make purchases. That’s why it’s a good idea to go home and take some time before you make an unexpected purchase.

Read reviews online. Ask friends for advice. Wait a little while. If, after taking a break to really think about it, you still want to make the purchase, then you might want to go out and do it. However, you’ll often find that giving yourself a few days or a few weeks to “cool down” can stop you from buying things you don’t really need.