All purchases we make can really be distilled down to 2 categories:
1. The stuff we need.
2. The stuff we want.
Where things get a little murky is when our brain tries to convince us that the stuff we want is stuff we need.
Most often, it’s not. The stuff we need, truly need to consume in order to survive is actually quite a small list when you stop to think about it…
- Health insurance and care (includes toothbrush and other basic hygiene)
- Clothing (to keep us warm in some climates and out of jail in others)
- Internet access
Internet access is debatable as a member of this elite list, but I can’t imagine a life without it, so it’s on my list.
Unfortunately, internet access is probably the thing on this list that gets many of us into trouble with spending. The more time you spend browsing it, the more you are presented with stuff that you never knew existed, but could ever so incrementally improve your life (or so the story in your mind goes).
- The TV that has slightly better resolution than the one you bought 3 years ago? Gimme some of that!
- The cookware that really truly honestly swears that nothing will ever stick to it? Oh yeah!
- The fitness tracker that will tip the scales to motivate you to get off your ass? How did I ever exist before?
- The bike that will make you the envy of your biking buddies? Totally deserve it!
So how do you combat this?
Here’s a 4-step method for you to try that has been extremely effective for me on cutting down the purchases I have convinced myself will truly improve my life (all other stuff that won’t improve my life isn’t even considered).
- Don’t buy the item right away. Add the item to your Amazon shopping cart and save it for later (I’ll assume that most here have an Amazon account and since Amazon sells almost everything in the world, it’s a great platform for this, regardless of where you end up making the purchase).
- Check your cart once a month (could be first or last day of the month, for example).
- If you still really think you need that item at least 1 month later (this part is important), it hasn’t lost any luster, and you can afford it, then buy it. Honestly ask yourself if the previous month would have been better had you owned that item. If the answer is not definitively “yes” or the item has lost its luster, delete it from your cart. Still not quite sure either way? Give it another month.
- If you purchase the item and find that it is not all it was cracked up to be within the return period, don’t hesitate to return it.
This method has helped me to virtually eliminate impulse buying altogether by encouraging me to trim 80-90% of the stuff I impulsively think I need. Why? I’m actually not entirely sure, but think it’s probably some combination of the following:
- The endorphins that trigger impulsive purchase subside with time.
- I realize that life without the item really isn’t that bad after all.
- I find other things more worthy of my attention and time.
Whatever the case, it’s worked for me and I hope it works for you too.