More times than not, it’s easy to get swept up and purchase things that are pretty useless for us. Figuring out how to stop buying stuff you don’t need, however, is a little trickier than making the impulse purchases themselves. We can all relate to that moment where you dig through your closet trying to find something to wear, only to come out holding a dress you completely forgot you owned. Or eyeing those one pair of shoes you bought thinking were so fashion forward, but then never scrounged up the courage or the right event to wear them to. Moments where you realize you just own so much stuff can be a little daunting and a little disappointing — especially when you start cleaning out your closet space and you realize how much money you’ve thrown out over the past year.
So how do you stop? How can you curb your spending and convince yourself — during the heat of the moment — that you really don’t need to bring home that printed backpack or yet another decorative rug. It can be tough stuff, that’s for sure. But if you arm yourself with a few easy to follow tips and some sneaky but totally doable mind games, it can be done. Below are five tips and strategies on how to stop buying stuff you don’t need — you can do it. Your bank account will thank you.
1. Have A Bigger Goal In Mind
This one's going to take some dedication, so get ready. The easiest way to keep yourself from buying more stuff that you don't need is to think of one giant splurge you want and then work towards it. Sounds counterintuitive, right? How is thinking of something even lustier than that $40 dress you've been considering going to make you want to stop shopping? It's mind game and that's why it works.
According to behavioral finance expert Dr. Hersh Shefrin, "This allows you to indulge your urge to splurge — while still being financially savvy. By shifting your focus to what little indulgences you can afford, you’re transforming your budget from stifling to liberating."
Take it a step further and make it something really good. Promise yourself a treat if you stick to your goals to make it tempting to stay on track. For example, promise yourself a long weekend at a city you've never been to, but always have wanted to visit, like New Orleans or San Francisco. Make it a big, splurge-inducing goal that will take some muscle to work up to. Every time you dodge temptation to buy something else, take the money that it would have cost and move it over to your fund. This way you practice saying no to spending, and work up a savings account.
2. Wait Four Days
This one might hurt a little, but if you're reading this because you truly want to stop buying stuff you really don't need then this might have the potential to change your life. You've heard about curbing your impulse buys by 24 or 48 hours, but I say put a solid four days between you and the pretty little thing in question. Why? Because it's about the same amount of time it takes for someone to get over a crush. That first day is brutal, the second makes you fall into withdrawal-like tendencies, the third makes you stare forlorn out of windows like you're a Brontë heroine, and by the fourth you've forgotten about it and are back to your old self. The same applies to your impulse buy.
The purchase in question is more than likely still going to be on your mind after a day just because of the sheer force of will you'll have to continue to want it. But four days? Unless it's something you felt a kinship with, you'll forget about it. For example, I can't tell you how many dresses and skirts I thought I couldn't live without have gone and slipped my mind by day three, only to be reminded again after I've seen someone on Instagram wear it. So wait the four days and see what happens. Your wallet will thank you.
3. Make It Past The 45 Minute Rule
According to finance blogger Bridget Casey from Money After Graduation, "If you will not use an item for at least 45 minutes per day, you do not need to own it." Sounds kind of nuts, right? How can you possibly use every item in your closet for 45 minutes every day? But when you break it down, that's only 5.25 hours a week, or 11 days a year. Not so bad, and kind of completely doable. But when you think of it on a day-to-day basis it puts it all into perspective. Can you see yourself wearing those ankle-snapping heels five hours a week, every week? Or how about your fifth pair of sunglasses this summer?
Casey elaborated, "Once I started looking at things, I couldn’t believe how much I owned, or rather how much I wanted, that wouldn’t serve any real purpose in my home." If you can't see yourself wearing or using it weekly, then it's a good indicator it's a lust buy and not necessary.
4. Avoid Temptation & Don't Go To The Mall
Are you on a spending ban? Then why are you window shopping at the mall, or veering towards the makeup aisle while grocery shopping at Target? The easiest way to stop yourself from buying stuff you don't need is to avoid temptation altogether. For example, on my way to work every day I have the choice to walk down the busy street with all the window shops and pretty boutique displays, or I can take a different route that has bank offices and drugstores. Every time I walk down the main street, I almost always spot something I would love to get my hands on... and so the internal struggle begins.
Avoid online shopping, take a different route to work, and don't pop into the mall when you're bored on your day off. If you stay clear of temptation, you won't feel it as hard.
5. Do An Inventory Check
Are you feeling antsy to buy a new coat? Maybe you saw a knit sweater that would fulfill all your cozy fall fantasies? Before you run off and buy it, do an inventory check and see how many duplicates of that item you already own. You might be surprised with what you already have and realize you actually don't need it. According to wardrobe stylist Jenna Suhl, "It’s not uncommon for people to buy new things because they have so much they can’t see what they already have." So take an afternoon and sort through your stuff — take stock of what you already own and get a handle on what you have enough of. No one needs 12 pairs of striped shirts — no matter how cute — am I right?
We all have moments where we make a purchase and immediately regret it, but there's no reason why you should have to do make the same mistakes again and again. Clean some things out, make a plan, and go forth and save money. If I can do it, anyone can.