Most people who have spending problems are impulse spenders. An impulse spender will purchase items without really considering one very important question–Do I need this item or do I want this item?
By not considering this basic question, people often disregard the long-term consequences of making poor choices about whether they really need or want an item. The first step to recognizing the long-term consequences of a person’s shopping choices begins every time an item is selected from a shelf and BEFORE it goes in the cart. If you are aware and stay focused you can start saving money while shopping and using it to reduce other debt your household has. Next time you shop put this technique to work and see how much you save at the check-out counter.
You have two hands–two choices. Your right hand is the need hand–the “right” choice. Your left hand is the want hand. Always pick up an item in your left or “want” hand. Then ask yourself, “Do I want this or do I need this?” Here’s where it can get a little tricky for people who have spending issues because they will start to justify their need for a particular item until they convince themselves it is a need.
If you have to justify it in your mind with numerous excuses, then the item is a wanted item and not an item that you truly need. Put it back on the shelf. When you have no other debt to pay down and you save the amount needed to purchase the item with green cash (not credit of any kind) then you can go back and purchase the item. At that point you won’t feel guilty later, you won’t have to hide it from anyone and you will feel a sense of great pride at having purchased an item the right way.
When you put something back on the shelf you save money, which can be used to pay towards credit card debt, to pay off a vehicle loan or to put into a savings account. By doing this you will be able to see the long-term consequences of your actions fairly quickly. Your bills are being paid on time, the balances are decreasing at a more rapid rate and soon you will be able to say you are debt free.
Some shoppers may need to reinforce this new way of thinking for a while to curb their stubborn spending habits. For those who need a reminder, simply write a big letter “N” on the back side of your right hand and a letter “W” on your left hand. Each time you pick up an item it will remind you to ask yourself this one important question of want or need. Remember, you are only cheating yourself if you justify wants into needs–so buckle down and stick to it.
This technique can be used for any type of shopping, in person or online, and even for shopping for large items like vehicles, boats and furniture. A great tip for high dollar purchases is to make a rule with your spouse that you will wait a minimum of three days and discuss large purchases with each other before buying them. Don’t worry, the deal will always be there when you come back. Don’t let salespeople take control of your pocketbook–they are trained to do so and they are good. If you feel pressured into breaking your 3-day rule, then leave immediately. Go for a cup of coffee and reaffirm your goals as a couple before going back to the store or car dealership.
Once you are able to distinguish between needs and wants you are on the path to financial security and the freedom to live a life without the burden and stress of being buried in debt. This is your goal and your reward for taking control of your spending habits.