The Budget Couple

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Episode 55: Controlling Impulse Spending

Nate discusses ways that he controls his impulse spending and how it can work for you.

Show Notes

Listener Question

My husband and I are big impulse spenders. How do we change those habits? 

You came to the right person. I would love to be an impulse spender. In fact, I often am. But I’m an impulse spender with a limit. Let me explain.

Our budget is composed of all of the things that we need to spend money on (mortgage, utilities, car, etc) and then we have a portion that is dedicated to things we don’t need (going out, personal budgets, etc).

We give ourselves $200 a month to spend on whatever we want, without question. I usually spend my $200 on tech gear that I don’t need and lunches, while Danielle usually spends it on clothes or video games. 

Danielle is very good at controlling herself and only gets what she truly wants. She is almost always left with a surplus each month. I wish I knew how she did it.

On the other hand, I spend through most of my budget within the first week or so. As of recording this episode it’s the 19th of the month and I have $25 left. 

I’m a really big impulse buyer. If I see something that I thought about wanting and it seems like a good deal, I usually get it. 

The thing is, I can’t spend outside of my $200 a month. So no matter what the impulse, if it brings me out of budget, I can’t do it. I can control myself if I know there is a larger expense coming up, but for the most part, I usually get random things when I want them.

It’s great to recognize that being an impulse spender is a habit. So let’s talk one impulse spender to another on how to break the habit.

  1. Don’t buy right away. Force yourself to wait for a day. Often the thought of purchasing something is enough to let your brain enjoy itself. If you come back to the item a few days later, you will usually find that the desire for it is very different.
  2. Set limits and mean it. If you have a certain amount set aside as “fun money” in your budget, stick to that amount and don’t go over. No matter what.
  3. Carry cash, lose the cards, or limit your ability to purchase
  4. Look for your reason to want to buy it. For me, I like having tech stuff in case. Rarely have I ever actually needed the things I buy, but I like having them. So, for me, when I am about to buy something I think about the chances that I’ll need it. I get a lot out of Amazon’s wish lists. I browse Amazon almost daily and when I see something I really like, I put it on a wish list. It allows my brain to unload the desire to have it right then because I can always go back and look at it later
  5. Set goals. Does the purchase work towards or against those goals.
  6. What does the item actually add to your life?
  7. Reward yourself for staying within budget. Let’s say you have fun money of $100 a month, and you didn’t spend it all within a certain period of time, you get an extra $25. Small rewards, but an incentive to break a habit.
  8. Don’t give yourself the ability to spend money (block websites, drive different ways)
  9. Practice. To break a habit you need to both be fully engaged, no excuses, and work at it every day.

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