Ok – I probably could have picked a better title. But there it is. And here you are. We will just have to live with the fact that I wrote that title out, and you decided to click it.
The urge to splurge is the inner drive we all have to go out (or log on to Amazon) and splurge on something we know we don’t really need. Some people rarely get the urge, so acting on it occasionally won’t really affect their money situation over the long term. Others (like myself) are bombarded with the urge to frivolously spend money on “junk”. Acting on that impulse with any regularity can greatly impact short and long term financial security.
I’m a Pecker
For most of my life I allowed myself to regularly splurge on stuff I didn’t need, it’s how we spent nearly $18,000 with Amazon over a 5 year period leading up to our financial awakening. In 2016 alone I spent nearly $2,000 on video games. I was addicted to the splurge. What is almost as crazy as the total amounts I was spending, is the fact that most of the things I bought were under $20. I tend to take little pecks out of our money repeatedly, over time it has added up to $10’s of thousands.
I’ve taken a few key steps to limit the amount of splurging I give in to. They’ve helped us (mostly me) reduce our frivolous spending by over 90% in the last several years. Here are the best strategies I have implemented to bring wasteful spending down:
1. Avoiding The Temptation Altogether
I used to bring up Amazon almost any time I opened up a web browser. It might as well have been a home page. In fact, on my old Galaxy Note, my home “widget” was the Amazon widget. Literally every time I looked at my phone, I was looking at recommendations that were tailored to extract money from me.
I also stopped spending my work lunch breaks walking around a local Target and browsing the clearance racks. I always felt “justified” with those purchases because of the great deal I was getting. What I didn’t think about, was most of that money I spent didn’t need to be spent in the first place. I was just splurging for the sake of splurging.
I realized that my urge to splurge was highest when I was visiting Amazon and Target. So I made the conscious decision to avoid those two places altogether for a while. After some time, the urge became less and less and I can now visit Amazon and Target and not feel like I need to buy something. I typically only go there now when there is something specific I need to purchase, and no longer go there to “browse”.
2. Bring it Up – Talk it Out
Just a few weeks ago I brought up to my wife how I was feeling an urge to spend money. Google launched their new Pixel 3a and were offering an insane $260 trade-in value for my iPhone SE (Apple only offers $56). Along with the trade-in, I would get $100 credit to spend at the Google Store!
I think I had the phone in my shopping cart at least 3 times during the week. Each time I did, I would send my wife a text and tell her I was thinking about doing it. She would usually respond with something simple like, “Ok, why?”. And just hearing her not be as gung-ho about it would cause me to step back and think, “I don’t really need this phone, my phone works just fine.” Each time, that was enough to keep me from spending an extra $200 this month that didn’t need to be spent.
Another time, I was looking at buying a new HomePod and AppleTV 4k and letting that be the start of a slow conversion of our home into the Apple ecosystem. I talked it through with my wife who, again, helped me realize that these weren’t things we needed for our home. We had other, better uses for that money.
3. Wait a Week
This strategy requires a bit of self control, but even an avid spender like me was able to incorporate this into my spending strategy. If I was hit by an urge to buy something, I would require a one week waiting period before I allowed myself to buy it. If, after one week, I still felt like the purchase was needed, I could allow myself to buy it. Of course over that week I would talk to my spouse about it which added another layer of control to the urge. Now, I can find myself putting off buying things for a long time.
A perfect example is AirPods. I’ve been wanting to buy these for a few months. I told myself I could wait until the 2nd generation came out and 1st generation got cheaper. But even though the 2nd Gen is now available, I’ve still managed to hold off. I know if I buy them I will get good use out of them. I use the wired ones at work every day and take them with me when I’m out and about. But that’s the main reason I have held off – I use the wired ones. Is the convenience of not having to untangle the cord every time I take them out really worth $150? Not to me. Now, I’m thinking I can probably wait and see if they have some Black Friday or Christmas deals.
4. Commit to No Spend Weeks
Like a fast or a detox, committing to not spending for a week (or more) can be a challenging experience. But accomplishing a no-spend week can drastically improve how you feel about money and your spending habits, you prove that you truly are in control.
Early on, these mini challenges were crucial to change my brain. I realized that I didn’t need to spend my money on something every other day. I wouldn’t die without that specific “something”. We proved that we had the self control to make the spending and saving changes necessary to hit our retirement goals.
4,050 Days To Go
I’m going to have a lot of chats with my spouse over the next 4,050 days about things I suddenly want to buy. Hopefully, by using these strategies, we are able to limit my pecker spending tendencies and keep the splurges to a minimum.