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Save Money by Avoiding the Shiny Object Syndrome

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November 13, 2012

Shiny objects … impulse buys … they’re everywhere.  For some it’s clothing or electronics.  For others it may be training courses or business products.  You thrill at purchasing the shiniest, only to discover an even shinier one somewhere else.  You move from object to object, leaving a trail of receipts as you go.

They’re all needed, you reason.  Each one will help you do something better, faster, neater, prettier.  After all, you have to keep up with the times.

But if your purchases are leaving you a little low on funds at the end of the month, it’s time to break the habit.  You can keep shiny objects from stealing your income by implementing these five tips aimed at stopping the urge to buy impulsively:

1.    Make a priority list of your financial needs.

You can write it down as a numbered list or put it in budget form.  Include every financial need and family expense you can think of – mortgage, utilities, clothing, and dry cleaning.  Look back at past receipts, bank statements or your checkbook registers to identify your common expenses.  You will also want to include a category for shiny objects (aka your allowance).

Next, as financial planning guru, Dave Ramsey, says, “spend every penny on paper first.”  Write down the estimated amount for each type of expense and be realistic and thorough.  Quarterly and annual expenses, as well as occasional expenditures, should be included as a monthly amount.   Compare that amount against your monthly income and make adjustments (cutbacks) as needed.

If there’s not enough left over to support your purchasing habits, then consider cutting back on your shopping outings or find an at-home business that will allow you to earn more.

2.    Shop on paper.

Make a wishlist of your top 5 – 10 “wants” along with their prices.  Carry this list with you on shopping outings or post it near your computer for online shopping excursions.  When you see a new “shiny object,” compare it to your wishlist.  If there’s a match, and there’s room for it in your budget, then make a note of what it is and where you can buy it.  Wait at least 24 hours before you purchase (48 – 72 hours is better), and if you still want it after that time period, then move forward.

This waiting period will give you time for the excitement to die down and for you to rationally decide if it’s a good purchase or not.

3.     Create “Shopping Days.”

To curb your shopping appetite, try assigning a limited number of days each month for shopping trips or online shopping.  You might consider scheduling them after pay days (and after your budget is created).

4.     Become accountable.

If your shopping habits are causing you some angst, try enlisting the support of others who can help hold you accountable.  You may ask for your spouse’s help by committing to first agree on making purchases over a certain amount.  Or shop with a buddy who can help you realistically decide how much to purchase.  There are also support groups, online and off, that can help extreme shoppers curb the habit.

5.     Get interested in saving.

Give yourself an incentive for saving.  Perhaps decide on a reward for saving “X” number of dollars.  If you are visually stimulated, buy a Mason jar or fancy glass container and see how many dollars you can stuff in it until it’s full.  Once you reach your goal, reward yourself with a portion of the savings, bank the rest, and start over.

With determination and effort, you can curb your spending and save more money.

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