You Don’t Need It! How To Stop Buying So Many “Wants”

how to stop buying wants

There are often things I see that I really, really want, and even though I know I don’t need whatever it is that’s catching my eye sometimes my judgment lapses, and I just cave to the temptation.

The impulse to buy these things can be really powerful sometimes, and making small purchases can add up to several hundred dollars or thousands of dollars a year if you’re not careful– and if you’re anything like me you probably won’t even use the impulse buy a few weeks after you make the purchase.

Avoiding “wants” is essential if you want to save money, especially if you’re following the Spending Fast or the somewhat more lenient Spending Diet plan.

Here are a few ways to avoid buying everything you (think) want…

Stay Away from Temptation

If you find yourself browsing online shopping sites, aimlessly walking through the mall, or your favorite department store when you’re bored there is a good chance you’re going to buy something you don’t really need. Only go to a store or visit online retailers when you are armed with a list of items you actually need to purchase, and never just for research or to pass the time.

Use Cash Only

There are benefits to using credit cards but if you find yourself buying things you don’t need on impulse, you may find switching to a cash-only is a good way to keep your spending in check. If you don’t have the cash available – you can’t buy it.  Buying things with cash has an immediate impact on your personal finances where buying on credit lets you delay concern until the statement comes. Plus, nothing feels more real than handing over that real-live money. It’s so easy to separate yourself from (what can feel like) abstract money on the card.

Delay Purchases

If there is something you absolutely feel you must have, delay the purchase for at least 24 to 48 hours. I like to call this “Putting a pause between you and the purchase”. While you are waiting, take a close look at your finances and current debts, read quality personal finance blogs and articles that support your values. There’s a good chance that after your waiting period has passed you will no longer feel the strong impulse to buy the item. The Should I Buy It Take-A-Long Card is also a super helpful tool to use.

What techniques are you using to avoid overspending? If you’ve found something that works I’d love to hear what it is!

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18 comments


18 thoughts on “You Don’t Need It! How To Stop Buying So Many “Wants”

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  1. Budget and the Beach

    Hey I saw you in Self magazine! Pretty cool! The thing that helps me best is avoiding trigger stores (like Target) and keeping busy with non-spending activities. Sometimes when I get the urge to shop I organize my closet and it gives me ideas of old things to wear differently so I can avoid shopping.

    Reply
  2. Vicki B

    This post hits right to the heart of me. I was just at Target this morning and found all sorts of “want” items in my basket! I painstakingly placed the Iron Man 2 DVD back on the shelf. :( But I know tomorrow I’ll be glad I resisted the urge. Don’t they have DVD’s at the library? (YEs! YEs they do!) -xoxo

    Reply
  3. Megan Boehler

    I love buying things I don’t need. I find doing activities such as going for a walk or to the gym makes me forget about the impulse of wanting to go to the store and shop on impulse. Going through all my clothes and seeing what I already have helps also.

    Reply
  4. Christa the BabbyMam

    I’m the anomaly when it comes to cash only… it burns that hole in my pocket. Whereas I want to see that bank balance stay big so I’m less inclined to use my debit card (and never credit cards…). Otherwise, I’m SO on board with this advice!

    Reply
  5. Kelly

    As strange as it might sound, I’ve found being really *snobby* when shopping keeps me from buying a lot of stuff. I won’t buy clothing, shoes, or accessories unless they are really well made, classic/timeless fashion, and will last through a lot of wears. That eliminates most of what Target sells, thank goodness, because that store used to be my ultimate weakness.

    Reply
  6. Nancy

    I started recording everything I spend in a spreadsheet expense tracker. Then I can look at what I spend in every category. I’m doing this so that I can make an accurate budget and identify areas where I can save. Knowing that I will have to enter the purchase in my spreadsheet has quite a chilling effect on what I spend. It makes me stop and ask “do I need this” and “do I need this today.” I follow the other tips in this post, too: I stay away from temptation and delay purchases. When there’s something I want, I put it on my 30-day list. At the end of 30 days, if I still want it or need it, I may buy it. But usually I forget all about it.

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Best Money Tips: How to Stop Buying so Many “Wants” | PFS

  8. Sally

    Right now I’m dying to buy something, anything on Etsy! The urge is, like you said, powerful (glad you can relate!) so I sought support online and there was a link to your article. It’s my lunch hour and I feel the urge to go check out (yet again) the vintage boutique across the street! A shirt for $8, I think to myself, what a find! The truth is I have yet to wear the two dresses I bought from there two months ago. Sigh. I’m going to take at walk, away from anything tempting. Great article!

    Reply
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  10. Nicole Longstreath

    I’ve found when you’re trying to save money, going on a total spending fast doesn’t last long and really demoralizes you. These are some great tips – especially paying in cash. Handing over those dollars (instead of swiping a debit card) really make a difference.

    Reply
    1. Anna Newell Jones Post author

      Hi Nicole, I could see that. The Spending Fast is a super intense but extremely effective method to getting rid of debt. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’ve tried everything and you’re truly ready to be completely committed to getting out of debt and doing whatever it takes to get it done.

      Reply
  11. Karen

    HI Anna!

    This one is particularly relevant for me! I travel for work over 200 nights for year so a straight spending fast didn’t work. I have found that giving myself a daily cash allowance is much more helpful than *trying* to limit my spending while using a card. I don’t “forget” to write anything down and when the cash is gone, it’s gone. I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while now and thanks for the continued motivation!!

    Reply
  12. Carol

    One thing that clicked for me, and I think I learned about it on this website, is to say, “would I rather have x dollars, or this item?”

    It immediately lets me know what’s really important to me, and how much I can afford to spend. For example, “would I rather have this fabulous bottle of wine, or $10?” Probably the wine, if it’s really fabulous. But, “would I rather have this bottle of wine, or $20?” Probably the money.

    Reply
  13. Suzi

    When I shop, I always make sure I save my receipt. I sometimes leave them in the bag for a week. When I no longer feel the impulse, I look at them again. Sometimes they make me realize I don’t really need them. So I return them. I have brought back a lot of purchases this way. Because I have come to realize I impulsive buy when I am feeling a certain way shopping I am in control, it is a instant gratification high. I literally have the excitement when I am purchasing, I get home and feel guilty. I ask myself why did I buy this. Not sure if this will help, it works for me??????????????

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