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Home » Budgeting, Credit, Debt Management

Clever Ways to Delay Instant Purchase Gratification

Last updated by on 11 Comments

Consumer Purchases are Driven by Our Emotions

When all it takes to buy something you are interested in is to plug in a number, or swipe with your hand, what’s preventing your emotions from taking over and making rash, irrational decisions? If there was a spectrum for frugality from 1 to 10, with 1 being bankruptcy and 10 being Warren Buffett (richest person in the world, yet still lives in the same house he bought in 1958 for $31,000), I would firmly sit at an 8.

Even at the higher end of the frugality spectrum, at times I have been prone to letting my emotions control my purchasing decisions. One of the areas where I’ve been the most guilty in doing this is in the search for knowledge based information. An example of this would be when I started this blog back in late December. At that time I had a ton of frustration with not knowing how to effectively and efficiently use the WordPress platform. So, I ran over to the local library to see if they had a copy of WordPress for Dummies. They did, however, it was currently out, so I placed a hold on it.
how to fight impulsive buying
I felt like I had to have this book right away, despite the fact that all of its contents could probably be found one way or another on the WordPress site or elsewhere online. But I just couldn’t take it, so I jumped onto Amazon and purchased the book, as well as another I had been interested in at the time. That was back in January. It’s now April and I’ve only gotten halfway through the book (because I had found that my curiosity drove me to already knowing 95% of the material in the book), and I haven’t even touched the other book. Had I been rational, I would have waited for both books to be checked in to the library and not spent a dime. The emergency was all in my head.

It’s all about wants vs. needs. And it’s easy to turn wants into needs.

So, how do you delay that instant emotional purchase gratification and fight shopping addiction?

Credit cards can be a necessary beast for some purchases and automatic bill pays. Hotels, car rentals, some form of deposits come to mind. They can also be beneficial if you know how to use credit cards responsibly. But, for the most part, you really don’t need them, especially if you are quick to use them. One of 20Something’s readers and frequent commentators, Stephanie, recently shared the idea of taking your credit card (and I would venture to say debit card if you have one) and freezing it in water. Here’s the idea laid out:

  1. Take your credit (and debit) card and place it in Tupperware or a plastic bag.
  2. Fill container with water.
  3. Place in freezer.
  4. If you feel the need to make a purchase, pull your frozen card out of the freezer and let thaw. When doing this, ask yourself if this purchase is really worth the hassle of thawing your card and if you are letting emotions control your purchasing decision.

Other ways to delay consumer gratification

I really liked this idea and began to brainstorm other ways you could make your card less accessible. Here are some ideas that came to mind:

  1. Place your card in your safety deposit box at your bank.
  2. Place your card in a locked box in your attic (my attic is terribly inaccessible, so this would work for me).
  3. Place your card in a lock box, and bury in your backyard. Any time you feel the need, you have to dig it up.
  4. Cover your card in peanut butter and place in a Ziploc. We all know how hard peanut butter is to clean off of anything.

Let’s hear your ideas on how to fight impulsive buying

I thought it would be a heck of a lot of fun to turn it over to you to see what kind of ideas you have for delaying instant purchase gratification. Please share!

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


11 Comments »
  • Dan says:

    I put over 5 figures/mo on my credit cards. I have both numbers memorized! Can you recommend any advice?

  • Jacqui Pittenger says:

    To Dan: Call the CCD companies and ask them to send you new cards with new numbers.

    One that I’ve heard of:
    Give you CCDs to your mother. You have to ask her for them back before you make a purchase. (Definitely would not work for everyone)

  • Jacqui Pittenger says:

    I’ve been thinking about it and here’s a better suggestion:
    Place the CCDs inside of a glass jar (spaghetti sauce perhaps?), then superglue the jar shut. You now have to smash the jar to get the card. You could even freeze the jar inside of a coffee can, or bury it, or lock it away somewhere for an extra level of nuisance.

  • Dan (2) says:

    Before I make any type of purchase, including ones with my CC I like to think of things in terms of hours I would need to work to pay for it. It really makes you consider the value of the item that much more. For example, during a summer job in high school I made $6.25 an hour folding clothes. On lunch break one day I spent over $10 on food. Later I realized that to pay for that meal I had to work about 2 hours after taxes. Not worth it. Should’ve gone with fast food.

  • G.E. Miller says:

    @ Dan 1 – over $5K/mo. on credit cards? Never been in that situation, but I would hope you don’t carry a balance! If you don’t carry a balance, at least it sounds like you’re making enough money to stay ahead of the game. If you’re really looking to cut down your CC expenses, I’d recommend checking out the ‘budget’ category of articles: http://20somethingfinance.com/blog/category/budgeting/

    @ Jacqui – take it easy now, we don’t want anyone getting hurt with flying broken glass.

    @ Dan 2 – I think were were all there at one point. Great idea. We were all there at some point, I think it’s good to remember those times to keep us humble.

  • Roman says:

    That is a great way of making sure you dont buy something. Why not just leave it in a deposit box in your bank if you have one. That walk will make you think about what you want to buy and if its worth it.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Great question since most of our purchases do stem from emotions. ” I don’t need that big screen tv, but I’d sure want it”!

    Believe it or not, what works for me is finding a budget that will help me save money. That way I can tell myself that not being able to make a purchase is only temporary, and if I can make my budgeting goals this month I can have this item next month or whenever my finances can handle it.

    Hiding the credit card and locking it up is a great idea but don’t punish yourself by thinking you can never have what you want. Work up to it and keep telling yourself that it’s temporary.

  • Janet says:

    Credit cards are great if know how to use them and do not let your emotions guide your spending. This is almost like emotial eating, just walk away, you will feel better later on.
    I liked this:
    3. Place your card in a lock box, and bury in your backyard. Any time you feel the need, you have to dig it up.
    lol

  • Wizard Prang says:

    1) With apologies to AMEX, don’t leave home _with_ it! Leave your credit cards at home.

    2) Keep enough in the bank for your “normal” expenses… but not enough to splurge! Keep the rest in an online account (I use ING Direct) that takes three days to move the money.

    3) Have your salary paid into a _savings_ account, not your normal checking account.

    4) Have an accountability partner to whom you have to justify your purchases. I’m lucky – I’m married!

  • Lisa says:

    So anyone have any suggestions when it comes to traveling back home? the cost for traveling back home costs me about $500 for 4 days, If I drive which I usually do it takes 13-14 hrs straight driving spend like 2 days, and then drive back home. If i fly then it costs around $350 but that only gets me 3/4 of the way there then either rent a car (expensive) or pay gas for someone in my family to come get me. I come from a low-income family and even though I make decent money somehow I have seemed to become financially not so good due to swiping my card for gas and food and helping family members out because they can afford their meds, food, gas,or need a new vacuum, ect. Now they do not ask me for these things, I just notice things when I am there. When my mom was very sick and before she passed i tried to go 1/month, I do not regret it but since the funeral I do not go as much now. I just feel like I miss out on so much since I’m so far away but do not wish to move closer and neither do they. Now I wanted to go back for Mothers day to visit my moms grave, which we still have not afforded to put up a headstone its been 1.5 yrs now and I am stuck because I cant afford it and I told all of them I would be there and help pay for a stone. I hate to disappoint them, but worse it kills me I can’t be there to do this.
    Any ideas anyone? Sorry this is so long.

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