The Urge To Splurge: Learning When, And How, To Say No!

admin // November 22 // 0 Comments

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” Epictetus

There are numerous reasons you may feel the occasional urge to splurge. In and of itself, treating yourself every now and then is not a fundamental flaw. The issue is when your spending leans towards compulsion and means that you’re unconsciously accumulating things on a semi-regular basis. If your goal is to set yourself up for a successful minimalist lifestyle, you clearly need to examine your spending habits, set some clear limits and put strategies in place to allow you to curb your acquisition of material goods. Luckily, there are a lot of effective techniques out there that can help you do just that.

7.1 Disarming Your Spending Triggers

“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.” Ayn Rand

First things first. In order to be the boss of your spending habits you need to figure out what exactly triggers your buying reflexes. Think about it. Are there specific emotional or psychological states that make you more vulnerable to impulsive purchases? Some people deal with stress by compulsive shopping while others may have a habit of trying to cheer themselves up by buying something that makes them temporarily “happy” when they’ve got the blues. Only you can diagnose the circumstances that send you sprinting to your favorite store. Once you identify the states of being when you’re likely to give in to internal shopping pressure, simply don’t put yourself in environments where you have the option of buying more stuff when in those types of moods.

Speaking of environments, you may also just be triggered by specific types of places. Maybe you’re susceptible to a specific type of object, like shoes, or maybe you can’t say no to craft fairs where local artisans are peddling their unique, oh-so-charming wares. If you know your weakness you can avoid places where your theoretical resistance is futile, or only go when you have a very specific goal in mind (e.g. your mom’s birthday is coming up and you saw this great card last week…then again, if you want to take minimalism to its fullest, you might choose to not buy it and make something instead!).

There are also certain times of day when you may be more easily triggered to buy things. This is usually related to how much energy you have and how well your rational mind is working as a result. Basically, don’t put yourself in shopping environments when you’re too tired to make decisions you’ll be happy with later. Also, pay attention to peer pressure. This can be one of the biggest triggers for a lot of people. When you’re tired you will definitely have less resistance to peer pressure, so avoid being with people or in groups with whom you will feel obliged to spend.

This is a good general rule, but if you must hang out with people who enjoy shopping, at least do it when you have the energy to say “no” when you know you don’t want to participate. There are some people who feel guilty or judged for their own habits when someone with them makes different choices. Maybe you have a friend who loves thrift stores but feels embarrassed to be buying tonnes of stuff when you never get anything. It’s now your responsibility to make them feel at ease with their consumption habits however. If they are truly uncomfortable with your choice to not buy unnecessary stuff then it’s likely time for them to find a new shopping buddy. Try and come up with alternative activities you can do together!

7.2 Self-Defense Basics For Recovering Shopaholics

“Frugality includes all the other virtues.” Cicero

Since it’s likely you won’t be able to 100% avoid all your spending triggers all the time, here’s list of very useful tricks for keeping yourself on the minimalist path.

  1. Track your spending: Pretty basic, right? A lot of neglect to make any concrete record of our daily spending…we think “oh I’ll just get this one little thing,” and discount how much the “little things” add up. So do what you’ve got to do! Carry around a tiny notebook or keep all your receipts and put them into an excel spreadsheet on the regular. But calculate how much you’re spending on what and adjust accordingly!
  2. Use cash & leave your cards at home: It’s way easier to buy things unconsciously when it’s just a number in the abstract world of credit. If you really want to set yourself up to not spend, try carrying cash and leaving your cards at home whenever you don’t have a specific, necessary purchase planned in advance.
  3. Remove temptations: If you have any shopping apps, remove them from your phone. You should also take the time to unsubscribe from any product-oriented listservs and get ad blockers for whatever browsers you use.
  4. Set short term financial goals: By setting specific financial goals you’ll help yourself allocate your money as soon as it comes in instead of seeing every paycheck as disposable income. It could be as simple as having X amount as a fallback in case of emergencies. If you don’t already have a little emergency next egg, it’s also a great way to reduce overall stress
  5. Pay first, spend later: As finance coach Debra Pangestu puts it “immediately start telling your money where to go once you deposit your paycheck: pay all of your bills first, then move the remainder to other accounts, such as a savings account or your retirement fund. By ensuring that every dollar has a home, you’ll be less likely to spend away your entire paycheck. To make things easier, you can set up an automatic transfer on payday to divvy up your paycheck into separate accounts, so you won’t be tempted to spend it.” [1]

7.3 Gratitude, Presence and Sharing As Effective Consumption Antidotes

If you live for having it all, what you have is never enough.” Vicki Robin

Consumer psychologist and author Kit Yarrow, PhD, has several additional profound yet practical tips to keeping unnecessary stuff at bay. She talks about the importance of gratitude saying that “an attitude of gratitude is also a proven antidote to impulse purchasing because it creates a sense of abundance within the individual. When you’re feeling full of gratitude, you’re less likely to subconsciously try to fill emotional holes by treating yourself with gifts and accumulating more stuff.”

Yarrow also speaks to how focusing on the present moment can help curb our shopping habits as when we stick to our immediate needs we stop buying things we “might need” at such and such future date. As with many other experts on the subject he suggests waiting 20 to 30 minutes before buying something when you feel like doing so. This gives your rational mind time to kick in and think through whether you actually need whatever it is. Finally, Yarrow talks about how sharing can act as yet another antidote to accumulation. [2]The idea is that if you need or want something that you’ll only really use sometimes you should start by trying to find someone else who also needs or wants the same thing. Makes sense, right? Yet so many of us have completely cut sharing out of our lives! Sure you may not be ready to share your home or your car, but you might want to try sharing certain tools, appliances or luxury items that can benefit you and your friends without causing any kind of inconvenience. Start there and work your way up to more substantial sharing if it seems like a model that makes sense for you.

7.4 Focus On Experiences, Not Objects!

“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” Henry David Thoreau

The idea of focusing on experiences instead of objects is a central pillar of any successful approach to minimalist living. And it’s pretty simple to apply. Basically, whenever you’re feeling tempted to buy something that you don’t really, reeeeallly need (and make sure you’ve taken the time to clarify the difference between your true needs and your “wants”!) think of an experience you can put the funds towards that you would have spent on whatever object you were going to buy. This may mean saving up over a few times, or you could just decide to call up an old friend and have coffee or take a long walk instead of spending your time and money on unnecessary junk.

Either way, you’ll come out better off than if you keep falling for the short-lived excitement of acquisition. There are sloughs of research showing that people are happier and more satisfied with their lives in the long term when they focus on experiences over objects. Not only because they accumulate less useless stuff to clutter their living environments and minds, but also because experiences usually involve strengthening social bonds and/or learning and personal growth of some sort. At the very least new experiences create worthwhile memories for ourselves as we get older.

7.5 Recognizing and Reaching Out When You Need Support

For some of us it’s not enough to be accountable to ourselves. We need to feel like someone cares what choices we make. While ideally you’ll get to a place where you can just count on your own self-discipline, if you have some very deeply entrenched impulsive shopping habits you may well want to reach out to someone close to you to be of support. One simple strategy can be to ask a close friend or family member if you can call them whenever you’re having “the urge to splurge,” so that either they can talk you out of it, or you can simply have a replacement activity you enjoy to take your mind off shopping.

You may also want to look into seeing a financial counsellor. There are plenty of organizations that offer certain services for free if you don’t have any extra budget available at the moment. Many people find it incredibly helpful to have professional support in making a clear plan for concrete changes in their spending habits. Make sure to find someone who has good ratings or ask around your network and get a recommendation you can rely on.

In an article published in 2006 by the American Journal of Psychiatry it’s stated that about 5.8% of Americans suffer from “compulsive buying behaviour.”[3] While it’s likely given global consumption trends that the numbers have risen since then, in either case there are still a significant number of people (approximately 190,1322 given 5.8 % of the current population) who have extreme difficult not buying stuff whenever they hit an emotional low. If this is your case you may also want to consider consulting a personal therapist or joining a support group in your area such as Debtors Anonymous which helps people dealing with these types of issues.

7.6 Here’s How You Can Get Started Today!

  1. Identify your spending triggers: Figure out what moods or environments lead you to spend unconsciously and make a point of not putting yourself in those vulnerable situations.
  2. Cover the basics: Create conditions where you can’t or won’t want to buy stuff. Track your spending, switch to using cash and leave your cards at home sometimes, get off any product-oriented mailing lists and delete shopping apps, set short term financial goals and always allocate your paychecks to any upcoming costs before classifying anything as disposable income.
  3. Integrate gratitude, presence and sharing into your life: Cultivate a feeling of abundance so you have less emotional draw to consume, only buy things you need in the present moment and consider how you can share certain things so as to avoid owning things you only use occasionally.
  4. Choose experiences over objects: Learn to value experiences over objects and replace buying habits with equally enticing outings.
  5. Get the support you need: If you feel you have a hard time being accountable to yourself, establish a buddy system with a friend. Find financial counselling if necessary and consult with a therapist if you’re worried you might qualify as a compulsive buyer. Recognition is the first step to liberation!
  1. “How To Stop Spending Money: 7 Tips and Tricks To Curb Your Overspending,” Debra Pangestu, mymoneycoach.ca
  2. 12 Ways to Stop Wasting Money and Take Control of Your Stuff,” Kit Yarrow P.h.D., time.com, 2014
  3. Estimated Prevalence of Compulsive Buying Behavior in the United States,” Doctors Koran, Ronald, Faber, Aboujaoude, Large & Serpe, The American Journal of Psychiatry, 2006

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