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.”
The 30-day rule is a simple method to control impulse spending. Here's how it works:
- 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.
- 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.
- Now post this note someplace obvious: a calendar, the fridge, a bulletin board. (I use a text file on my computer.)
- For the next thirty days, think whether you really want the item, but do not buy it.
- 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.
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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.