After I wrote this post, a certain Jane Doe asked me to write exactly how one is supposed to eliminate impulsive spending habits. It’s an excellent question, I thought, but am I really qualified to tell other people how to be less impulsive? My life strategy up until about a year ago centered on being impulsive. If it doesn’t make sense, do it! was my main philosophy. But I’ve changed, I promise. I want (no, need) an iPhone and a new DLSR camera, but I haven’t bought them because I want to pay for them in cash. And I’m fine with waiting. My attitude towards things has finally changed. It is just stuff, after all. And I don’t need any more stuff to be happy. So I can’t give you guys a neat little list on how to radically change patterns of impulsive spending, it just has to come from within. Consider this quote from Mahatma Gandhi:
As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, you should keep it. If you were to give it up in a mood of self-sacrifice or out of a stern sense of duty, you would continue to want it back, and that unsatisfied want would make trouble for you. Only give up a thing when you want some other condition so much that the thing no longer has any attraction for you.
Gandhi himself lived an extremely modest life and had few material needs, but he did not demand or expect that from the general population. And so it’s the same for us. We all still want material things in our life, whether we need them or not, and talking about our finances doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of every material thing you enjoyed previously. If you don’t want to cut it out, don’t! Find the things that don’t matter as much or don’t provide you any happiness, and cut back on those. Clean out your closets, get rid of the stuff you don’t use. When you see the things you aren’t using, it will show you what you don’t need to buy next time.
Changing behavior is something that takes time. It took me years to figure out that you can’t get out of debt while “stopping off” at TJ Maxx and Nordstrom Rack is still a regular hobby. I finally found out that “It’s only $20, I have to get it” would be a terrible phrase to repeat for the rest of my life. Now I think: those $20 purchases I didn’t make are finally adding up, in my bank account, yo! (OK, not quite there yet).
One thing that helps me is reading a TON on the topic, and the bloggers, as usual have written some excellent posts on this topic. Continued reading on quitting those bad spending habits:
What was your lightbulb moment? from So Over Debt (one of my favorite bloggers)
Freedom from Mindless Spending A guest post on Get Rich Slowly that had me rapt-I love the “flow” concept. I love when I have flow!
How and Why We Rationalize Spending from Free from Broke, another of my favorite bloggers.