Resisting the Temptation to Buy

by Kelly · 6 comments

in Money & Spending

I’m a shopper. I love to shop. Online I love to visit sites from all over the world, to see how fashion, even as it becomes more and more the same, still stays culturally unique. (There’s an American look, for example, that I’ll never be able to shed.) I love to go into stores and trail my fingers through the blouses, pick up chatchkes, handle knick-knacks, flip through books. I love looking at couches and imagining how they would fit in my house.

But somehow over the past few years I’ve managed to stop myself from actually buying so much.

I used to be the queen of the impulse buy, coming home with bags of clothes that looked like everything else in my closet, buying things just because. Not that I ever bought expensive things- I’ve always been a fan of thrift stores. Just because something is cheap, however, doesn’t make it a good deal, and that is one of the most important lessons in frugality I’ve learned over the past few years.

I’ve also learned that it’s OK to want something. Wanting does not mean buying and buying does not mean buying immediately. So I’ve started putting things on lists, both on paper and on an Ikea or Amazon wishlist, for example, and letting them linger. I think about the object of my affection and let my mind wander over it, sometimes for months. Sometimes I end up buying something, but often I don’t. Other times I’ll put stuff into an online shopping cart- but not actually check out- a marketer’s nightmare, but good on the budget.

Another trick I often use is to ask myself how I would feel if the thing I want went on sale. Before my daughter was born I was coveting a sheepskin rug for her to sleep on- I’d heard such nice things about them. There were even some at Ikea and every time I went by I ended up picking up a rug and almost fondeling it. But the rug never made it into the cart- they cost a lot of money, or so I told myself. One day, I found one on sale, for 60% off. It was only when I saw the sale price and asked myself if I really wanted one that I realized the answer was no. I’ve never regretted not buying one. The opposite happened with a jacket. I found a great coat, but decided not to buy it because it cost too much money (about the same amount as the rug, in fact). I regretted it however, and went back to the store the next day. Turns out it was on sale, which I only found out when I was at the cash register. I bought the coat two years ago and have more than gotten my money’s worth since then.

The third way I resist the temptation to buy is by asking myself which I want more- whatever I want to buy, or the longterm goal I have in mind. Often I will decide that the goal is more important, but sometimes, it isn’t, and that’s OK too.

My ultimate objective is not necessarily to spend less money, which is of course what happens, or to save more money, which is another nice side effect as well, but to become more aware in my spending. What do I want? What do I need? And what am I willing to sacrifice to get there?

How do you resist the temptation to buy?


1 Shannon June 14, 2010

Like you, I once was an impulse shopper, buying whatever I wanted just because. Now, I have become smarter with my money, but that doesn't mean I’m not tempted. What I like to do is keep a tally of every purchase I make. I budget a specific amount of money each month for food, clothes, etc. At the end of the month I write the difference of what I actually spent to my estimated costs. The thought of the number in the difference category being negative makes me think twice before opening my wallet.

Shannon from

2 Bucksome Boomer June 15, 2010

I use a couple of the tricks you use such as the Amazon wish list and putting it in the cart and then leaving the website. It makes me feel like I went shopping without the price tag!

3 SimplyMe June 15, 2010

Interesting post and perspective. Sounds like you've come a long way! Me too. I used to shop for the fun of it, and in the process I'd rationalize that I "needed" to replace this or that, or that I really didn't shop "that much" so it was okay if I did it every now and then. At some point I realized I had more clothes than I could wear in a season (not an insane amount, but more than a person needs), plus I got tired of the return-and-buy shuffle. I was wasting more time shopping and returning than I was enjoying life. Now I have very little interest in shopping, have adopted a minimalist wardrobe with only my favorite items that look great and make me feel wonderful, and I no longer even desire something different or another color. When I think about how long it takes me to earn the money to pay for "another" Ann Taylor blouse, that's when it's easy to say no thanks!

4 Kelly June 15, 2010

Ah, another good tip: how long will I have to work to buy this. When I calculate that something costs 1/15 of my monthly salary… well, I put it back pretty quick!

5 Donna Freedman June 19, 2010

I recommended a number of different tactics in an article called “How not to buy too much” over at Wise Bread. But here are the basic questions that I use on myself:
* Do I really need this?
* If I get it, will my life be significantly improved?
* If I don’t get it, will my life be substantially diminished?
* Do I already have something that will suffice?
That’s usually enough to make me think rationally about spending. Note, however, that sometimes I *do* make the purchase. I just want it to be a deliberate, informed decision.
If it’s kosher to post URLs, here’s the link:

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