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How To Stop Spending 'Unconsciously'

Saving Money By Stopping “Unconscious Purchases”

One of the most important rules of budgeting is keeping track of the stuff we purchase. When we do this, we are always aware of where our hard-earned money is going. This not only makes it easier to see what we are spending our money on, it also allows us all to adjust our budgets accordingly.

However, a lot of us – even those of us who are quite good at tracking their purchases – tend to make at least some purchases “unconsciously.” What does this mean? It does not mean that we buy something while we are sound asleep or unconscious, but it does mean that we sometimes make purchases without thinking about the implications.

Here is a great example of unconscious purchasing: I might be in the Shopper’s Drug Mart check-out line. I already have everything I came into the store to buy, but then I notice a display of packages of gum sitting right in front of me before I reach the cashier. I like gum! So, I pick up a couple of packages of it and throw it in my basket while I am waiting to pay for my other items. This is a perfect example of an unconscious purchase. Of course, spending a few extra dollars on gum will not really hurt most of our budgets. At first. But what if I did that sort of thing a few times a week? Not even thinking about the implications of the cost of those items. $5 here, $6 there, and so on, and so on (you get the idea).

When we clue into the whole concept of unconscious purchasing, we quickly realize that it is not just the big items that matter but the small items, too. If I spend an extra $5 at the pharmacy checkout line without thinking, then $10 extra at the hardware store, drop $3 more at my favorite coffee shop, and splurge $15 on “impulse buy” accessories at a clothing store, that’s $33 dollars in spending. Spending I did not budget for and that I will not remember to jot down when it comes time to track my spending history. If I end up spending that sort of money unconsciously every week for a month, I could end up out of pocket more than $130 thanks to purchases I did not budget for (or really need).

That is why it is important to avoid “unconscious spending” whenever we can. Here are some tips that might help:

Tip #1: Have a List

Not only can shopping with a list remind us to purchase what we need, but it also helps all of us avoid the items we do not. Many stores are purposely designed so we need to walk past several “impulse buy” items on our way into the store and several more while we wait to pay for our purchases. If all of us made a conscious decision to shop with a list, we are a lot more likely to avoid these impulse items. If it is not on the list, do not even consider buying it.

Tip #2: Just Because It is On Sale, Does Not Mean It is Worth Buying

Something is only truly “on sale” when it is something we need. A lot of the time, we jump to buy something because it is listed as “50% off” or “on sale for a limited time only.” However, these tendencies can cause financial trouble. If we see an item available at a discounted price, we should really take the time to think about whether we need that item. Would we buy it at full price? Would we buy it if the sale price was the regular price? What will we use it for? If we are buying it only because “it’s a good deal” and we think that “I will use it one day,” then we might be better off putting it down and moving away from it.

Tip #3: Avoid Shopping When Not In A Good State of Mind

If someone is tired, hungry, sad, or stressed, they are more likely to buy things they do not actually need. This kind of emotional spending happens more often when we are feeling down because a lot of people get a superficial “high” from the experience of shopping. This means we temporarily get that euphoric “rush” after we buy something. However, these good feelings do not last, especially when the credit card bill arrives in our mailbox or email inbox.

Tip #4: Think About It Before Buying It

If we see a new shirt, a cool pair of shoes, or a fun tech toy in a store, our first instinct might be to buy it there and then. However, we are better off leaving the store and taking some time to think about it. This “cooling off period” is a great strategy to avoid spending money we do not have on items we do not need. Remember: retail stores are designed to make us want to spend money. Everything from the lighting to the layout to the music is there to encourage all of us to make impulse purchases. That is why it is a clever idea to go home and take some time before making an unexpected purchase.

During my “cooling off period” I try to read reviews online. I also ask friends for advice on the item I saw. Then, I wait a little while. If, after taking a break to really think about it, I am still determined to make that purchase I may go back to the store and get it. However, I have often found that if I give myself a few days (or even a few weeks) to think about whether I need the item I can stop myself from buying it.

If you are finding your spending is out of control, and the tips we have offered here just are not enough to help you to stop, we can help you. Please CLICK ON THE FREE CONSULTATION BUTTON, below, or give us a telephone call. We are here to help you deal with your debt and get back on track financially.