By Marshall Loeb, MarketWatch
RISMEDIA, Oct. 26, 2007-(MarketWatch)-Is impulse buying taking a heavy toll on your budget? Here are six ways to get a handle on your spending:
1. Identify your triggers. Many people use shopping as an emotional outlet. But letting your emotions dictate your spending is nearly always a bad idea. To break yourself of the habit, try to determine what prompts you to spend unwisely and take steps to change your behavior.
2. Avoid temptation. If you’re inclined to overspend, consider a self-imposed ban on window shopping, casual browsing and unnecessary trips to the mall. Hint: If you know you’re going to be in a situation where you’re likely to be tempted, leave your credit card at home and only bring as much cash as you absolutely need.
3. Be a cautious consumer. You may think you’re immune to advertising, but even the savviest shoppers fall prey to marketing tactics now and again. Next time you find yourself eyeing a “new and improved” product, ask yourself why you feel compelled to buy it. Will that new golf club/razor/skin cream substantially improve your life or just deplete your bank account?
4. Take a time-out. If you stumble on a “must have” item, don’t get caught up in the excitement, advises MSN Money columnist Liz Pulliam Weston. Take a deep breath and walk away. Give yourself anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to figure out if this is something that you can afford and really need. After the cool-down period, if you can truthfully answer yes to both questions, go ahead and splurge.
5. Remember long-term goals. Before you buy, ask yourself if you’ll get more long-term satisfaction out of owning this item, paying down your debt or putting money toward that dream vacation. You may get a temporary boost from buying that scarf, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best use of your money.
6. Check your balance. If you find yourself standing in the checkout line, ready to buy something you’re not sure you can afford, hold off, suggests Weston. Go to your local bank or log on to your bank account online. Once you’ve viewed your balance, the purchase may appear far less enticing.
Marshall Loeb, former editor of Fortune, Money, and the Columbia Journalism Review, writes for MarketWatch.