Flush your system
Go one full day without spending any money. It’s certainly a challenge, especially when you realize you’re low on gasoline or groceries, but it’s an exercise in thoughtful planning. It also requires you to be creative and resourceful - maybe you can walk instead of drive, or perhaps you have more in your pantry than you think you do. It’s a great feeling if you can meet the challenge and worth doing once a month or so.
Put away the plastic
After major expenses such as food, rent, utilities and transportation, a lot of what we spend each month is on relatively small items. A latte here, a sundress there, and we’re wondering at the end of the month where the extra dollars went. Practice cutting back on the incidentals by locking up your credit card. Take out in cash the exact amount you have budgeted for extras in one week and use it, rather than plastic, for that week. You might think twice about those small purchases when you see the cash start to dwindle.
When you’re trying to eat healthfully, you probably don’t hang around the ice cream parlor. So if you need to cut back on spending, stop exposing yourself to the temptations that lie in wait for you in catalogues and shopping malls. In general, I feel secure that I have most everything I need. A single encounter with a fashion spread or a storefront display, though, can suddenly introduce a flood of wants and desires.
Our world is chock full of advertising, some of it rather subversive. To overcome your vulnerability to the marketers, stop catalogue delivery, leave the room during television commercials, and take a break from social media, where we tend to compare ourselves with others. Avoid stores if possible and do your shopping with a list.
Take a beat
So you went in armed with your shopping list and the smallest possible shopping bag, but at some point you grabbed a shopping cart and started loading it with great stuff. Fabulous stuff. Stuff that is on sale! Before you hit the checkout counter, take a moment to think. Then walk away from the cart and out of the store.
Removed from the situation, you might feel more clear-headed and less caught up in the thrill of the hunt. If you’re still unsure, put your items on hold for a day or two. Often, things we think we really want become less attractive once the moment has passed.
Is it too late? Have you already made your purchase? Stash your items – with the receipt – for a few days. You might decide you’d rather have the money back than whatever’s in the bag. You might, possibly, have even forgotten what’s in the bag. If this is the case, don’t look now. Go straight to the return desk.
Un-sell yourself on the sale
Speaking of stuff that is on sale…if you don’t need it, it’s still too expensive. As my grandfather told my mother, who frequently came home with clothing that she bought on sale with his credit card, “You’re saving me so much, you’re breaking me!” Put blinders on to coupons, promotions and clearance stickers, and stick to your list.
Enjoy the show
At some point, you’ll have to re-enter the consumer world. Whether you’re on vacation or enjoying an outing with friends, beautiful things will tantalize you. Try thinking of the world as a living museum. Take in the paintings without taking them home. Smell the flowers without uprooting them. In other words, enjoy the beauty of nature and the creativity of mankind without succumbing to the desire to possess them. It’s impossible to own all the beauty in the world so experience it all but buy only a tiny fraction.