Eight Minutes to Financial Success – Minute #4: Minimize Electronic Temptations

This week, The Simple Dollar is running a short series on some of the key moments in my financial turnaround and how you can experience those moments as well. For a full description of this, see the first article in the series.

Even after making the physical credit cards difficult to access, I was still left with another problem: Amazon One-Click ordering.

Although it was now really difficult for me to visit the bookstore and spend with reckless abandon, I could still just browse around Amazon, see a book that I wanted, and within two mouse clicks, find that book on its way to my doorstep. The same was true for a few other online retailers that would fill me with temptation. I also had a PayPal account with the username and password stored as a cookie on my computer so that if I visited a retailer with PayPal accepted as a payment, I’d just click twice and the item would be on its way.

Again, it’s vital that I make some sort of simple move to add to the wait time between the impulse to buy something and actually ordering it, so that I have time to more carefully consider the purchase.

The solution is simple: disrupt that easy transaction.

Minimize Electronic Temptations
This is really a two-step process, but neither one should take you more than a minute at most.

First, go to the website of any online retailers where your credit card information is stored and delete that information. For many of you, this might mean just Amazon.com, so it’ll take you just ten or fifteen seconds to do it.

Why do this? If Amazon (or another retailer) does not have your credit card information, the process of ordering an item from them becomes much more difficult. You have to actually pull out your credit card and enter the information manually before you can make a purchase, and since such retailers are selling almost entirely inessential products, that’s usually more than enough time to talk yourself out of unnecessary expenditures.

Second, use the password management tool on your web browser to delete the passwords of your most tempting online retailers. With Firefox, it’s simple – just go to Tools, then Options, then Security, then Saved Passwords to manage the list. With Internet Explorer, just go to Tools, then Internet Options, then General, then Browsing History: Delete… to remove them. Chrome, Opera, and other browsers have similar tools.

Why do this? It puts up another subtle obstacle against easy online purchasing. It forces another delay between the impulse you have to make a nonessential purchase and the actual purchase, giving you more time to reflect and make the best long-term decision for you and your family.

Simply put, the purpose of this activity and of the previous two activities is to strip yourself of the convenience of impulse buying. The harder it is to buy impulsively, the more aware you’ll become of how often you actually do it – and it’s more often than people think. You’ll also start spending less, of course.

There’s a further effect, though, one that took me a long time to realize but which is very, very important. If you get used to applying forethought to your impulsive purchases, eventually you begin to apply that same forethought to all purchases. You start thinking carefully about your electric bill instead of just paying it without thought, which leads to finding methods to cut energy use. You start thinking carefully about your food bill instead of just wandering through the store and grabbing whatever you see, leading to grocery lists and meal plans.

Every one of those steps is a money saver, and on the whole, they add up to a lot of saved money. Underlying all of it is mindfulness, and these kinds of little steps increase your mindfulness when it comes to spending.

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