How to Identify and Avoid Personal Triggers that Lead to Overspending

How to Avoid Overspending

I relearned a valuable lesson about myself today.

I ended up with a rare hour of unplanned time this morning. Aaron was running late (trying to get the meat in our Pit Roaster) to drop off our truck for new tires. The tire shop was right next to the mall and since I was waiting anyway, the mall just kept calling my name.

After all, I really need a new pair of shoes and a curling iron.

I got all the way to Ulta when I realized how stupid I was being. Did I have the money yes, could I spent it yes. I even had enough in my fun budget to spend on something.

What I realized though was that I was just filling an empty hour by shopping.

Is there anything wrong with shopping – no. The problem was that I didn’t really need new shoes or a curling iron. They were just excuses to go shopping.

I just wanted to spend money. Sometimes I’m just like that.

I discovered years ago when we began our debt free journey that avoiding Walmart, Target and the mall where my best ways to avoid over-spending.

So instead of shopping, I found a shady spot to park and started working on this blog post.

This whole experience got me to thinking about the psychology behind decisions, particularly as they relate to money.

Maybe I’m just unique, but there is something about spending money that makes me happy. I love searching for good deals. I’m a bargain shopper and will rarely spend money on full price items.

When I shop I head straight for the sales racks and love being able to brag about how cheaply I purchased an item of clothing.

There is nothing more satisfying to me then being complimented on something I’m wearing and then being able to “gloat” about the amazing deal I got. Stupid huh!

My problem is that often I’ll be swayed to purchase something just because it is a good deal. What I need to get through my brain is that just because something is on sale doesn’t mean it is a good deal.

Everyone has their “purchasing triggers”. Some people shop then they are stressed, when they want companionship, for status, to get good deals . . . . . the list goes on and on.

What matters is being able to identify your purchasing triggers and avoid the temptation when those triggers hit.

I believe that by learning to identify your budget busting triggers, you can develop ways of avoiding temptation.

I love chocolate – particularly dark chocolate. Dark chocolate derails my healthy eating plans all the time. I’m weird though, if I completely deny myself dark chocolate, I crave it like no other. However, if I keep a few pieces around for special occasions I’ve found I don’t eat it as frequently.

Just knowing that I have the option of eating it, gives me the will power to avoid it most of the time.

My shopping triggers are having free times and my desire to get a good deal. However, I’m also inherently lazy and hate dealing with large crowds, long lines and parking issues while shopping. I’ve discovered that if I keep myself occupied Saturday morning, I won’t go shopping Saturday afternoon because I hate dealing with crowded malls.

I know – completely random thought process, but it totally works for me. I would have totally avoided the temptation of the mall today if I had been meeting Aaron in the afternoon.

As for avoiding good deals, I’ve learned that just because something is on sale doesn’t mean it is a good deal. I can’t tell you how many amazing deals I’ve gotten on clothing that sits in my closet for months waiting to be used.

I’ve actually got a pair of climbing pants, that I purchase on sale for $29 (which is an amazing price for climbing pants) that have been sitting in my closet for 5 months. The problem, I’m short and the pants are too long. I keep meaning to hem them, but just haven’t gotten around to it.

If I don’t use the pants, they aren’t actually a good deal. You would think I would learn.

I’ve started setting rules for myself when it comes to “good deals”.

It is still a work in process, but I’ve gotten significantly better at assessing a purchasing by asking myself if it is really something I’ll use. If I honestly believe it is something that will get used, then I make myself leave the store, continue my shopping and if I’m still thinking about it by the time I’m done shopping then I will most likely buy it.

By giving myself time to think, most of the time, I’ll walk away from the “amazing deal.” Time really does make a difference with purchasing decisions.

Obviously your triggers are probably different then mine. The trick is to find your triggers and actively work to combat them.

So homework assignment for the day:

  1. Take a long hard look at your spending habits. What patterns do you see?
  2. Identify your patterns and then develop a written game plan for changing your thought process and actions.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice.

You won’t change your spending habits in a day, but if you will continually work towards controlling your spending triggers you will be able to avoid overspending.


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