Are you buying things you don’t need with money you don’t have? When you look in your closet is it full of items you don’t remember buying — or worse — with tags still on them? Then it’s time to improve your financial habits. If you have fallen into the trap of purchasing items you could do without, you are putting your financial health at risk.
What’s the difference between people who stay within their means and those who don’t? A study conducted at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that those who lean toward overspending have a different belief system when it comes to products. Overspenders tend to believe additional items will somehow make their lives better. In their world, the more purchases they make, the happier they will be. They believe these purchases will improve their quality of life and even their relationships, changing their lives for the better. However, the reality is that chronic overspending often leads to trouble down the road — namely financial ruin.
If you don’t want this to happen to you, you’ll need to put a halt to your spending sprees. Here are five important steps to stop buying things you really don’t need.
1. Question the purchase
Most of us are guilty of making a purchase without really thinking about it. However, the first question you should ask yourself is if you really need the purchase. Is this a want or a need? Taking a step back and putting the purchase in its proper category can help take some of the emotion out of the purchase. The majority of our purchases are based on emotions, so asking this question may prevent an impulse buy you’ll end up regretting later.
Also ask yourself if this purchase will bring you closer or further away from your financial goals. If you come to the conclusion that the purchase will set you back financially, that’s a sign you should hold off and put your wallet away.
If the purchase is not an immediate necessity, try waiting it out. Give yourself a few days and see if you still want to make the purchase after this waiting period. The wait just might pay off. During that time, the item could go on sale. Rather than feeding on your fear that the item you want to buy will be sold out, think of the possibility that you just might be rewarded with a deal. Framing the situation positively will make it just a little bit easier to be patient.
3. Think about why you keep buying things you don’t really need
Another way to curb your tendency to purchase things you don’t need is to figure out why you’re making these purchases. Are you trying to keep up with your friends? Do you feel like shopping fills a void in your life? Taking time to understand patterns leading to not only what you purchase but also why you purchase can potentially identify the root of your buying habits. Money envy and compulsive buying can eat away at your hard-earned cash.
4. Avoid your triggers
Our purchases are often triggered by something. For example, you might be triggered by an email newsletter listing all of the latest sales or you might be tempted by an unplanned trip to the mall. If you know you just can’t resist opening that email newsletter and buying a new outfit every time a sales announcement hits your inbox, then unsubscribe. You’ll have one less temptation to deal with. Or if you know that every time you go to the mall just to “browse” that you end up making a ton of purchases you hadn’t budgeted for, don’t go to the mall unless you absolutely need to buy something. If online shopping is a big problem for you, block the retail sites you spend the most money with by using a productivity tool like Freedom.
5. Get support
It’s easier to stick to your financial goals if you have a support team in your corner. Tell a friend or family member that one of your goals is to be more responsible with your money. You can ask one of them (or even a group) to join you in this challenge by becoming your “money buddy.” He or she can support you and check up on you to make sure you’re sticking to your money goals.
More from Money & Career Cheat Sheet:
- The Real Difference Between Needs and Wants Most People Ignore
- 3 Money Rules You Can Break if You Really Have To
- Need Help Managing Your Financial Goals? Find a Money Buddy