Spending money is a habit that you’ve formed over your lifetime. Maybe over the course of years, as your income has increased perhaps, your spending has also crept up. For most people, relatively small everyday purchases don’t raise alarm bells — they just happen. They’re reflexive and responsive (“I need new work clothes. I’ll just go online and order a few things.” Or, “They’re having a sale at my favorite store, and look! This rug will look perfect in my living room!”).
I’ve found we’ve been able to decrease our spending when we take a step back and think before we do. Instead of buying things immediately as they pop into our heads (which is a lot when you’re bored at work), we’re forcing ourselves to pause. We have instituted the ask-your-spouse-before-spending-over-$10 rule, and we’ve also both started wish lists.
When we think of something we want or “need,” we add it to the wish list. Then, we wait.
In theory, if at the end of the month we have money left over in our budget, we can go buy things off our wish lists. In practice, as you know, we have not been under budget in any month yet since we’ve set a stretch goal for ourselves. But the funny thing is… several positive things have nonetheless started to happen based on these practices:
a. The spouse-asking rule makes us buy less. Almost every time my husband asks me if he can buy something over $10, I immediately say, “of course!” But we’ve both found that simply having to ask often makes us talk ourselves out of a purchase. And every so often, after I say, “of course!,” my husband says, “really?” and then we discuss the purchase… which sometimes also results in us talking ourselves out of it.
b. When I go back and look at the wish list later, I often find that I don’t want or need several of the items on it.
c. By pausing before buying, we ruminate on the purchase. A lot of times, we think of a less expensive and equally good option!
With these measures in place, the number of discretionary purchases we make each month has dropped dramatically and has stayed consistently down:
|Avg. monthly # of discretionary purchases|
So start a wish list, and try out the pause-before-you-buy technique for yourself! I hope it helps you tackle that reflexive spending habit too.