Control impulse spending with the 30-day rule

Control impulse spending with the 30-day rule

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I made a trip to Costco to buy business supplies last week. While browsing the software, I spotted the latest version of Quicken. I picked up the box and looked at the list of new features. I felt that urge creep upon me — the urge to spend. “Maybe the Mac version is out, too,” I thought. “I should stop by Fry's to check.”

Then I thought of the $50 it would cost to upgrade. I thought how Quicken 2004 has served me well for three years. I began to have doubts. “I'll use the 30-day rule,” I told myself. “If I still want this next month, I'll buy it.”

Related >> How to Track Your Spending (and why you should)

The 30-day Rule is a Simple Method to Control Impulse Spending.

Here's how it works:

  1. Whenever you feel the urge to splurge — whether it's for new shoes, a new videogame, or a new car — force yourself to stop. If you're already holding the item, put it back. Leave the store.
  2. When you get home, take a piece of paper and write down the name of the item, the store where you found it, and the price. Also write down the date.
  3. Now post this note someplace obvious: a calendar, the fridge, a bulletin board. (I use a text file on my computer.)
  4. For the next thirty days, think whether you really want the item, but do not buy it.
  5. If, at the end of a month, the urge is still there, then consider purchasing it. (But do not use credit to do so.)

That's all there is to it. But it's surprisingly effective. The 30-day rule works especially well because you aren't actually denying yourself — you're simply delaying gratification. This rule has another advantage: it gives you a chance to research the item you want to purchase. This can save you from grief.

Related >> How to Cure a Spending Hangover

For example, after returning from my Costco trip last week, I checked the reviews on Amazon. Quicken 2007 for Mac gets 1-1/2 stars! Yikes! Still, I added it to my wishlist. A month from now, if I still feel I need it, I may allow myself to buy it.

I began using the 30-day rule about two years ago. I don't always remember to follow it, but when I do, it works well. Sometimes my urge to spend is gone by the time I get home. Sometimes the urge grows stronger for a week or two, but then subsides completely. It's rare that I decide I need something after 30 days of waiting.

More about...Psychology

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Emily H.
Emily H.

I usually do this, except that I don’t write it down unless I really feel there’s a chance I’ll forget I want it (for example: I buy Japanese books about once a year, and keep a running list of titles I want for that purpose). I rely on my own faulty memory to discard anything that I don’t really, truly want. If I wanted something three months ago, and now I can’t even remember what it was… so much the better! It probably wouldn’t add that much to my life.

Kevin
Kevin

Good rule, I’ve been trying it for the past few months since I read about it elsewhere on the web. Case in point – I was all set to buy the sleek new Treo 700 a few months ago, but decided to hold off on the urge. In the intervening weeks and months, I have discovered ways to mimic the functionality of the Treo on my current cell phone, the Samsung A-900. Amazing. Saved myself $600 just by giving myself time.

Great blog, by the way. I’m a relatively new reader.

Allie
Allie

I “shop” online this way. Everything I think I want, I put into a folder in my bookmarks named with the date. 30 days later if I actually need it, then I might buy it–or I wait another 30 days.

I also “shop” at the bookstore & library this way… I wander around and see things I want to read. I write down the titles/authors and check them out from the library. My local library sees me walk in and they have to wheel out a cart of all the stuff I put on hold. I love the library.

Loris Ayoub
Loris Ayoub

that way you will find it is sold out and in any event you wont be able to buy it!

Cecil
Cecil

I usually do this also, but it gets very hard when there’s an exceptional discount or sale on a product that you want or have always wanted! In 30 days, the price may go back up by 20-50%!

ALEX RODRIGUEZ
ALEX RODRIGUEZ

you can also return the item.

J.D.
J.D.

Ah yes, this is very true. Then you don’t have thirty days to make the decision. You have until the end of the sale, however long that might be. The principle still applies though: walk away from the situation, and delay the decision until you’re not swept up in the emotion of the situation.

Matt
Matt

Good rule, I typically take a mental step back in the store and ask myself if the item is a want or a need. If it’s a need then there isn’t much of a question but that’s typically limited to food to survive type items. The rest are wants and if I can afford it and it makes sense to get it then I’ll consider it otherwise I use this trick to stop myself from buying about 70% of the items I don’t need. I might have to start using your rule for the additional 30.

Tomas
Tomas

huh, i use this rule in a different way. i just do not carry money with me. so if i really really want to buy something, i still must go home, to get money.

the time going home is worth almost all those 30 days. anyway, if you were able to get home, you will be able to wait till tomorrow and day after that, and day after that, untill all 30 days 🙂

greats tips, anyway, keep on writting 😉

Katherine Almaraz
Katherine Almaraz

Same here I don’t carry money with me so I’m not tempted to buy anything at that moment

blayn
blayn

I use my bank card for all of my purchases and its in my wallet so its kind of hard to not carry cash on me…

Taiwo
Taiwo

But Easier for some individuals…i stop going out with my cards to avoid withdrawing from the atm..!

Lynne Schultz
Lynne Schultz

I carry cash, but I only take out a small fixed amount each month and only spend it on a combination of karaoke and fast food. If I run out of cash, I stay home. This helps me limit “fun money” to a small, fixed amount and to make smaller purchases since some places don’t like you to spend less than $10 if you use plastic. It is also better for my health since I prefer to spend most or all of my fun money on karaoke.

Dona
Dona

Great tip, and very timely. I’ve been ooohing and aaahing over the new line of iPods all day, but now I will make myself wait until Oct 12 to decide whether to buy one.

ryan
ryan

I like and use an altered scheme of this idea. The memory method…. I put stuff back and promptly forget I wanted it.

Check out http://moneydance.com/ I’ve been using it for a while now, It’s a great alternate for Quicken.

MM
MM

I’ve just started reading your blog and while a rule for impluse spending can seem really trivial in the long run it’s a wonderful tool. I like to shop, it’s fun and it can be a stress reliever. So when I get that urge I go ahead and shop on-line, stuffing my carts full of just about anything I could ever want. Then I just click that lovely X in the top corner and walk away. Works great for me! I also do as some others – I don’t write down that nifty ‘thing’ I wanted so badly in the… Read more »

Tyler
Tyler

I do this too. Best part is if you keep talking about it to your friends and family, you’ll probably end up getting it as a birthday or holiday gift.

[goes back to chopping and cooking with his new kitchen knife]

Tam
Tam

One of my roommate’s techniques is to remember that the place you buy stuff is called a “store.” That’s because they will store things there for you in case you need them later.

Frank
Frank

Great idea, and it’s even more effective if you use step 1 only.

mikelite
mikelite

camera phones are great for this. I usually take pics of books I want and find ’em at the library later on.

aussiejo
aussiejo

i use the 30 day rule too – and it has helped me get rich slowly (and get a law degree, an MBA, a house and an investment property as well as a few gadgets)

it is a great tip (i’m currently ‘waiting’ for an Aga cooker, an alfa romeo and a beach house!)

Mrs Michele Kelly
Mrs Michele Kelly

I apply this type of psychology to my clothing. I make a big bundle of clothing that I think I’ll never wear again, then I wait 6 months and if I havnt worn it during that time, I ruthlessly chuck it out!! It works with making decisions as well. When my mind is tied up like a pretzel and I can’t decide yea or nay. I push it to the back of my mind. Usually during that wait period, I’ve learnt some new info that will make me either change my mind or forget it altogether. When I’ve git something… Read more »

Ensign
Ensign

But what happens if what you want may be a little expensive?

Lets say I am feeling pretty stupid and had a compelling impulse to buy a $1,000 watch and the next day had another impulse to get something equally expensive?

Anita O.
Anita O.

I don’t go out that much so I don’t spend.I do have to get prerared food sometimes because my stove does not work.I have a microwave.Which helps alot.
I go to garge sales if I can.I fine some things I can use.And items that may not even be in stores.
You could really find anything at Garage-Sales.And sometimes you meet nice people also.

peter
peter

Try using http://outgoings.eu – it’s simple, free and you can write down and categorize your spendings from every place as it is in the internet.

Heidi
Heidi

Regarding the outgoings.eu thing, in the same sense, you can use flickr. Take a picture of your receipts, tag them with what you bought/where you spent the money and then upload them (you can upload them as private, so only you can see them). You can go back and look at the words in a tag cloud to see where you shop the most. If you impulse buy and genuine buy from one place, you could easily tag the different receipts as “WalMart Necessary” and “WalMart Unnecessary,” as I have currently done in YNAB for food (I tend to impulse… Read more »

Geo
Geo

I do something that is very similar but I don’t keep track of the days. What I do is before buying something I don’t really need, I do research. I research about the product, reviews, prices, and if there is something better out there. Then during the whole day, I’ll fantasize on how I’d use it and stuff. By the end of the day I’ll end up saying to myself, I can get it later I don’t need it right now. And this process will go on and on unless the urge is gone or I saved enough change on… Read more »

Nuria
Nuria

It’s a good rule, though I normally rely on my own scrooginess… “Nice dress, what, 40 bucks? Let’s wait for the sales, if it’s still here and they have my size, I’ll try it.”
As for the impulse buy in the supermarket, I go there with my bike, so I can only bring back what fits in my basket, which is not too big mind you.

Mischa
Mischa

What also helps is if you shop with cash and no credit card. Another tip is to not even write the item down. I have been doing this for a while and have noticed that sometimes I forget about what I want. A lot of the spending we do is very emotional — impulse buying especially. The thirty day rule helps you get past the emotions (“the item is on sale! so cheap! that’s a great buy…”) and think rationally…(“I’ll never need that”). By the time thirty days are over, most of the time at least, your emotions have dwindled… Read more »

Mrs. G
Mrs. G

I tried it. The 30-day rule was even extended to a 60-day rule. What happened after? I bought myself a dress as a prize 🙂 But I do shop a lot less now.

BTGNow.net
BTGNow.net

Readers with the urge to splurge might do well to take a gander at this article I wrote, which deals with recognizing and modifying harmful spending behaviour.

http://www.btgnow.net/2008/09/the-i-deserve-mentality-how-to-recognize-and-modify-harmful-spending-behaviour/

I like your idea of a 30 day rule, I myself find that the 24 hour rule works pretty well too, but for varying degrees of spending addiction, more time is going to be needed for the urge to splurge to pass.

Jeremy
Jeremy

I don’t think that this is a very good idea because then the product is always in your face. Why not wait to see if you even remember it in 30 days. If you remember it, then save up to buy it.

John Hobbs
John Hobbs

For those of you who like this idea, I wrote a little web-app for it. http://thirtydaylist.com/

Put your stuff in there and it will e-mail you in 30 days. It’s a nice set-it-and-forget-it solution for me, hope someone else finds it useful too!

Deborah M
Deborah M

How about a 30 week rule instead. I think that might help more, as 30 days is but a blink of an eye.

Ferret
Ferret

Great idea! I fall prey to impulse purchases all the time, maybe I can use something like this to establish a little discipline.

Chad Garrett
Chad Garrett

This is a great way to just plain save money, too! You can use some of those 30 days to look for cheaper prices online. And if you’re already delaying gratification 30 days, then waiting for ground shipping becomes a little easier. I do as many of the others do – I don’t write things down. If I forget it, then great.

Anne Regh
Anne Regh

I think this is a great way to save alot! Even if the item you want is on sale, postpone buying for 30 days, and if you then still want to buy it, you must wait until it is on sale again. You probably won’t get the item, and you didn’t need it anyway!

ChickenMan
ChickenMan

I think material possessions in general are overated as most of the time you don’t need them, i think spending on experiences is a lot wiser like travelling since it stays with you forever but items are forgotten about easily 🙂

SB @ One Cent At A Time
SB @ One Cent At A Time

This is my post on techniques to control impulse buying. See if it helps, I adopt this technique always and living debt free life

http://onecentatatime.com/control-spending-by-learing-to-manage-emotion/

Melinda
Melinda

I fill a plastic cup with water, put my credit cards in the cup, put it in the freezer. I am actually freezing my cards. This has helped me stop my impulse spending. I do not charge anything under $30.00.

Katherine Almaraz
Katherine Almaraz

I’ve been trying to save money for a variety of things I need and want, but mostly need at the moment. I’m working on getting my suspended license back so I need to save for the fee and insurance. And my partner and i want to save up for a house and a car. So it’s all very stressful. On top of that, I want to save up for my daughters first birthday i want to make it a unicorn theme which is in December and my aunt said she would help out get the clubhouse for us and help… Read more »

Katherine Almaraz
Katherine Almaraz

Forgot to mention itll be my daughters first birthday which is why I’m very excited about it and would like to make it special. But I don’t know if I have the financial support !

Lynne
Lynne

She will never remember the dress and it might not be all that comfortable for her. At one, I’m sure she’d prefer a toy or one of those bouncy seats. I forget what they are called.

Benard
Benard

I really like this plan

Mohd Asif
Mohd Asif

I like it too, but humanity has been put into a trap of online shopping these days , they have urge to purchase things.

Rebeca
Rebeca

I do this all the time with everything from a new pair of shoes, to a coffee table, to a new car. And it works. I, however, do not write anything down. If I forget about it, chances are I never needed it, which defeats the entire purpose of the 30-day rule in my opinion. A great technique for those impulses.

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