When times are tough, wants can wait. Needs have to be prioritized. However, the desire to make impulse purchases never goes away even if you strive to be more disciplined.
My overriding rule for anything I buy: if I don’t love it, I don’t buy it. I don’t care if I need new jeans and that pair is marked down 50 percent … if there’s no love, there’s no sale.
This rule can only go so far, though. Even if you love it you can’t always afford to buy it. What about those “shiny red ball” moments (as my husband calls them)? Instead of staying focused on something, in this case your budget, your attention is diverted to the shiny red ball. It’s whatever item you absolutely love and want. New purse. New TV. Everyone is different.
Maybe the truest tests – and the more effective weapon against impulse buys – are the 30-day and 10-second rules.
Whenever you pick up an item in a store, stop for ten seconds. Ask yourself two questions: Why am I buying it and do I reallyneed
it? If you don’t have good answers, put it back.
For big purchases, practice the 30-day rule. Wait thirty days. Are you still thinking about the item? Is it a good purchase? Can you afford it?
With those bigger-ticket items (http://lifehacker.com/the-best-things-to-buy-in-may-5907155), I am a fan of preparation. Unless it’s an absolute emergency – like my fridge going out recently – you can wait 30 days on purchases and do the proper research to make the best decision and find the best deal.
This is even possible in some emergencies. Case in point our refrigerator. Time was short, we had food in coolers, but we still went to the scratch-and-dent outlet store (http://www.scratchanddentappliancesx.com/), negotiated our price and came home with a near-new fridge for a nice discount – all within 24 hours of the old one dying.
Another great ‘can I afford this?’ test for those larger purchases (i.e. furniture, cars) that have to be bought on credit is to start saving the amount of your projected monthly payment a few months ahead of time. This will show you if your budget can actually handle this additional payment. If you are struggling to make ends meet, then it might not be the best time to buy that big-ticket item. ( http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/stop-the-panic-sinking-fund )
Be it a want or a need, don’t fall for the next shiny red ball. Give it 10 seconds or 30 days, depending on the size of the purchase. No matter what it is, you’ll love it that much more if it passes the test. If it doesn’t, give yourself some love for having the discipline to resist the impulse buy.
Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens.