When I see an item that I want but is something that was unplanned for, I can sometimes convince myself of buying it by saying "I deserve to treat myself!" While it is true, the excuse quickly turns old after a couple of those "well-deserved" expenses leave me broke.
Asking questions prior to making a purchase can feel like an exhausting task so to ease ourselves in, we can start with the purchases that we already know are non-essentials.
By distinguishing which purchases are non-essentials and which are for our entertainment, you've answered the first question already:
"Do I need or want the item?"
Be completely honest with yourself when you ask whether you need or want the item. Be wary of an inclination to reason your way into believing an item is a need. A want isn't in and of itself bad. A want doesn't have to be an automatic "NO." You earned your money fair and square and you, therefore, have the right to buy something for fun. This is where you follow up with the next question:
“Am I able to afford the item now?”
Sometimes a purchase is worth buying at a later time. That could mean a few weeks, or a few months. Think about what you may have to spend in the next couple of weeks. If what you want is going to cut a huge chunk out of your wallet, then it will leave you stressing out about how you'll be paying other important expenses. You'll be cornering yourself without room to breathe. With seasonal items, if you wait longer, you could likely get a cheaper price later. Buying swim trunks and bathing suits, for example, are cheaper in the winter.
Waiting it out might either dissipate the urge to buy it and you might end up forgetting about it altogether, or you might find that after a week, you're more confident about buying it.
Set your intentions.
“Why do I want to be careful with my money? What is my end goal?”
Focus on what is motivating you to save money. You might want to save because you want to go on an international trip, you want a new computer or cell phone, or you're saving for an apartment.
If you catch a sale, these questions are especially important because I know that I might sometimes be impulsive about buying something just because it was on sale but I wouldn't actually buy it if it were full price.
A while back, I noticed that there was a blouse that was on sale for $5. The blouse was nowhere near the usual style that I wear but I purchased it anyway. After two wears, I realized I didn't like it at all but only wanted it for the $5 steal. Now, I ended up with a blouse that would live an unhappy life stored away in a wardrobe until the day it finds a new home somewhere where it can be appreciated. Let this story be a cautionary tale for your bank account.
"Shopping therapy" is a real thing. Sometimes people shop because they feel anxious, sad, or they feel inadequate. Be honest with yourself and where you are at in your current financial circumstances. You might end up feeling less guilty and ashamed about what you purchase when you make yourself confident about what you buy. You end up developing self-discipline and becoming a mindful consumer. Each purchase that you don't buy gives you more money at the end of the day.
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