Recently, I was teaching the Financial Learning Experience at my local church when I had a gentleman raise his hand and asked this question.
“How Do I Stop Being Impulsive?”
My answer? I don’t know to stop the impulsive nature, but I DO know how to control my impulse to spend recklessly.
I am a SPENDER. I am the type of person who would go out and accidentally buy a truck. I am a spender to my very core. I like buying things. You could say impulsive spending comes naturally to me. The best way I’ve found to combat my impulse to spend is being intentional about my finances.
Here are some steps I have taken that helped me reign in my impulsive spending nature, and it has allowed us to win financially!
A Written Spending Plan
The first thing that helped me reign in my impulse to spend is putting together a written spending plan EVERY month BEFORE the month begins. Jenn and I continue to do this EVERY month BEFORE the month begins. Did you catch that? EVERY month.
It reinforces the fact that we cannot flippantly spend our money and expect to succeed. When you have personally helped prepare the spending of your money on paper, you are much more aware about whether or not you can afford the “I WANT THAT!” item.
Having a written plan means that each month you have already told your money where to go on paper before the month even starts. Instead of wondering, “Can I afford this?” or thinking “Maybe it will be okay just this once,” you already know the answer. You know what you have allocated for each category, and if you spend impulsively how it will break the budget.
Jenn and I use the budget forms that are available on the TOOLS page of our website. If you want more information about how to start budgeting check out our post “How Do I Budget?” for tips on how to get started. Trust me, the word budget doesn’t have to send chills up your spine. I can, and it will help you win with you money!
Like I said before, I am an impulsive spender, but even I will not impulsively spend money on the electric bill. I won’t impulsively purchase gasoline. I don’t impulsively send extra money to the cable company. There are some things that I am not going to impulsively spend money on.
However, there are some things that I am VERY impulsive about. Items like groceries, dining out, clothes, spending money, and entertainment. I can go through some money really fast with these items! Since I know that I am impulsive for these spending categories, I use cash envelopes.
At the start of the month we add up the amount we have put in the budget for these categories. We then pull that amount out in CASH. The rule is that we can not pull more money out from the bank AND we can not use the ATM or debit card. I can not overspend cash.
To read more about why I LOVE cash envelopes check out this post.
Chop Up Credit Cards
You may pay yours off every month, but the vast majority of Americans do not. I was part of the vast majority, and I had to admit that I was a completely loser with credit cards. I ran those stupid things up three different times. I was stupid with them. They really catered to my impulsive nature. So I did what had to be done and applied the scissor blades to them and shut the accounts down.
After years of not using credit cards I do have them again now. How do I keep myself in check? Well, I still don’t use them on things I am impulsive about. Can I use them to pay utility bills? Yes! Can I use them to book travel for work trips? Yes! Do I use them for my spending money that I have budgeted for each month? Absolutely NOT!
Many of you are like me – you need to kill the bad spending habits, and the only way to do that is to get rid of the card. If you are able to have them later on you have to make sure you have accountability in place – like a budget that you review with your spouse or not using them for things you are tempted to overspend on.
How do I eliminate the credit card debt I already have from impulsive spending?
Maybe you are thinking, “Joe, that sounds great, but I’ve already wracked up credit card debt.” If you have questions about how to pay off credit card debt check out our post “You Can Be Debt-Free.” You can also listen to our Monday Money Tip podcast episode on “0% Balance Transfer Credit Cards” or check out options of 0% balance transfer credit cards on our Next Steps page to see if they can help you eliminate your credit card debt.
If you are a fellow spender, what have you done to control your impulsive spending habits?
Let there be…TIME
Sometimes the best cure for the “I wants” is time. The moment we see it we want it, however if we wait to purchase sometimes the desire fads.
If today you see the shiny new motorcycle your neighbor just bought you may think “I want one.” Don’t run down the street to your local dealership and purchase it right away. If you wait a few weeks it will bring clarity. “That motorcycle is awesome, however I really would rather save up for a boat that my whole family can enjoy.”
The more time between the “I WANT THAT!” moment and the actual “Purchasing Decision” moment, the clearer the decision will be. Impulsivity can lead to buyers remorse, and a slue of unnecessary things filling your home that you really don’t need (or want for that matter).
One of the best ways to stop impulsive spending is to seek guidance from someone you trust and wants to see you prosper. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again (and again and again), find wise financial counsel. If you are married include your spouse.
Having someone else invested in seeing you succeed financially creates accountability and will encourage you along the way. It’s a lot easier to stay the course, and stop the impulsive spending when you know you are going to have to answer for the purchases you’ve made.
Stay The Course
We are ALL impulsive. It seems to be different things for each of us, but we all have a case of impulsiveness every now and then.
If you do get off course – make the rash purchase – don’t let it derail you. Tomorrow is a new day, and a new opportunity to make wise spending choices. Look at what lead to your impulse purchase, and think about ways to prevent something like that in the future.
I wonder if any of you out there would share some “near misses” where you almost made a horrible, snap-judgment financial decision but you did not. What helped you make the decision to back out? How does it feel now as you look back on the situation?