A very frustrating problem that I sometimes have is buying something only to find out that I don't really need it. For example, I recently bought a couple of non-fiction title from Amazon, then a day later I realized that I probably wouldn't have time to read them. Likewise I recently bought the Nexus 7, then returned it almost immediately after realizing it was excessive. Also, just today I bought a coffee for lunch, which again was unnecessary.
Just wondering if you guys have any tips for avoiding making impulsive buying decisions? I keep on telling myself that I won't make the mistake again, but then I do!
One think that's been helping is tracking my expenses on mint.com. For some reason, tracking my expenses seems to help me spend less. But even with that, I still feel that I don't have as much discipline over my spending as I'd like to.
I appreciate your thoughts!
I like to think I'm good at avoiding impulsive purchases as I'm one of those 'minimalist won't buy it until I really need to/paranoid about money types' but every so often I do make purchases that are not really 'necessary' per se. I guess it's all part of human nature. For starters don't aimlessly browse around woot/slickdeals/fatwallet in your spare time. Even though you'll occasionally find the killer deal on something you'll more often more than not see a 'good deal' on something you'd like and try to justify the purchase to yourself as an opportunity that may pass by. Sites like those should be used more like dictionaries - to search up one specific thing you really need and be done with it - not to be read front to back. Human nature has a natural fear of passing by supposedly good opportunities and this nature is exploited with these 'deal a day' sites and TV ads (call now and get 1 free etc). Don't let their marketing get the best of you!
Even more importantly - a lot of it I think has to do with taking conscious control of your desires. In an unrelated but similar type of issue I'm starting to learn that the body may be flawed if you're not in perfect health - specifically the signaling of appetite and fullness. In short - eating to fullness for me may be overeating since the leptin signaling to stop the appetite isn't working correctly. I've kind of declared a 'corporate takeover' of my body lately where I DON'T listen to what my body is telling me (in regards to fullness) but scientifically try to derive how many calories I really need and eat only that regardless of the appetite signal. I've been having fair results on day 3 so far - I've eaten half of what I usually do and a hour later I actually feel 'full' surprisingly.
Anyway I recommend you do something similar with your desires and do a 'corporate takeover' of your mental state when you want an impulsive purchase. Don't listen to your body's cravings and justifications for getting the item - take a step back and tell yourself no and walk away. Give yourself a cooling off period of 24 hours to 3 days before making a purchase. If you REALLY need it you'll know by then - if not the 'desire' should fade away in that cooling off period. As you practice with this you'll start developing a sense of desires that are merely cravings and learn to recognize them. At one point of my life I let my body rule me and I gave in to all of it's demands thinking it was made perfect by millions of years of evolution. Food, items, luxuries, etc... The body isn't perfect hence the need for that rough concept of 'discipline'. I always shyed away from that concept until I realized that without conscious control of my thoughts and actions the path to suffering is opened.
Purchasing or avoiding a purchase is a habit, just like anything else. Like any other habit, you can't simply get rid of it, you must replace the habit with a new one. Two new habits that I have had success with are:
1. The envelope method: When you get paid (every 2 weeks or month), withdraw the cash needed for that period of time (every 2 weeks or month) and put it in envelopes, separated by category (one envelope for food, one for gas, one for entertainment, etc.). Leave your credit/debit card at home and just bring the cash with you. If there is money left over in any of the envelopes by your next paycheck, you can move the money around (extra money in the food envelope? move it to the entertainment envelope). This way, you are able to control your spending, avoiding impulse purchases.
2. Start a "want" list. Every time you want something new, put it on a list. When something goes on the list, you must wait a specified period of time before you purchase it (Ex. 1 week or 1 month, you can choose). If you still really want it after that period of time has passed, you can go out and get it, but you must first wait and really think about whether or not it's worth the money to you. More often than not, you'll forget about whatever it was that you wanted and you'll avoid the trap of buying it in the moment.
Hope this helps!