Keep a Leash on Spending Impulses

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Small purchases can add up over time.

I am an absolute sucker for limited-edition snacks. I would go as far as to call them one of my critical weaknesses. All you have to do is come up with some random new flavor of chips or something, slap a “limited edition” on there, and I’m sold. I gotta buy them while they’re still there, even if they’re not in my grocery budget. This is a minor example of poor impulse control. I’m lucky that I’m only vulnerable to something so mostly-innocuous, but some folks don’t have it so lucky. When you feel that impulse knocking on your brain, you gotta train yourself to cram it back down, or that once-in-a-while splurge could become once-a-week.

It is important to treat yourself, certainly. Everyone likes having nice things, and if you can get one thing without completely decimating your bank account, then it’s okay once in a while. But when I say “once in a while,” I mean maybe once every few months, or possibly less frequently than that. Even if you make bucketloads of money on a regular basis, you shouldn’t be spending it all just because it’s there. If you don’t really need something, there’s no reason to pay money for it.

So how can you quash impulses? Whether it’s in the micro sense like buying snacks at the grocery store or in the macro sense like buying a new car, it’s about keeping yourself grounded in reality. You might need to guilt yourself a little bit in order to keep your feet on the ground. One idea for such an approach is to make a simple budget, write it down on a piece of paper, and stick that paper somewhere you’ll see it every day. When you have a constant reminder of the state of your finances staring you in the face, you tend to be a little more careful about where you dump your money. If there’s no room in the budget and this purchase isn’t providing you a tangible long-term benefit, you don’t need it.

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