Hold That Impulse!

I recently found myself on a website of a store that I hadn't visited in some time. In fact, it had been several years since I had been a regular customer of theirs. But after a conversation with someone triggered an idea for a future gift, I typed their URL in my browser and was immediately sucked into the "Additional Discount Sales Vortex." You know the one? When something that had originally been $50 is marked down, with an additional discount "added in cart," to just $15. I not only purchased the originally intended gift, but I threw in four more items for good measure. The whole thing, including shipping and tax, still fell under $100, but these days, that's more than I have in disposable income. I know I'm not alone in this.

Photo by Xiaolong Wong on Unsplash

With the cost of groceries ever skyrocketing and getting excited when Kroger has their 18-count eggs on sale, 2/$7, I really don't have money to throw around on items I don't need...and didn't know I wanted until I saw the sale price. When it costs over $100 to fill up the Hub's work vehicle, and self-employment taxes are looming over our heads, it really doesn't matter how cute the item is or what kind of deal it appears to be...bills before thrills

January is always the hardest month for me. My ancestral Scotch-Irish frugality comes out of hiding as soon as I see perfectly good items - things that I would want to buy anyway as future gifts - now flaunting themselves before me with clearance stickers and preening around under giant "Semi-Annual Sale" banners. If I stick to my list of people and gifts, then I can definitely stretch a dollar and get more for them than if I was paying full price, but the problem is...I see those discounts and suddenly things that I never needed before (like cute winter-themed car air fresheners) end up in my cart as well. If you're curious how I know this...I'm staring at one on my desk as I type this. 

So how can we avoid those impulse purchases? Is there anything besides good, old-fashioned self-control? I've got a few little ideas to toss out there...do with them what you will.

  • Sleep on it. I'm sure you've heard this one before, but if you're tempted to click, "Buy Now" - stop. If it's a sale item, it's possible that your desired size and color may not be there tomorrow. But then again, by tomorrow you may have forgotten all about it.
  • Carry cash. If you know it's sale season (as it is every January with certain body-care and lingerie stores), give yourself a budget. In cash. And then go to the store, guilt-free. If you find things, you have the cash. If you don't find things, you get to take the cash home. And if you find more than you have cash for...you have to make some hard in-store choices and walk away from the rest. 
  • Regret fixes nothing. You're going to flub up every once in a while. We're all human, we all do it. You're going to click "buy now" on Amazon without following rule #1. You're going to come home with something not on your list from the Aldi Finds aisle. You will be swayed by the "additional 40% off" pop-up on the website. So when those things happen, don't beat yourself up about it. If you regret the purchase, pull out the receipt and head back to the store or pack it up to go back to Amazon. Regret fixes nothing, but returns do. 

Remember those items I purchased on impulse? The ones that started with a gift idea and ended up being mostly for me? I knew I didn't need them, but I sure could use a couple of cartons of eggs and a gallon of milk. So after thinking about it for a few days, I returned two of them to a local branch of the store. I walked out with $42 back in my bank account, and a smile on my face. Don't let a momentary impulse throw off your financial groove. Pick yourself back up, return your mistakes, and move on. Tomorrow is a new day. 

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