Handling Unexpected Social Spending Situations

I’m currently on the west coast in the midst of a business trip. My hotel sits across the road from a shopping mall far nicer than any in the entire state of Iowa. Unsurprisingly, during a break in meetings, a group of us went over there to wander around. It didn’t take long before most members of our group had purchased something – myself included (I got a simple edible souvenir for my wife and for my son – mine was the most modest purchase of any member of the group).

However, the real trouble came when we entered various stores, particularly (for me) Williams-Sonoma and The Apple Store. At both places, I was incredibly tempted to spend money. I saw item after item that I deeply wanted and lusted after. Yet I managed to not open my wallet at either place.

To me, this is one of the reasons for my financial turnaround. I’ve learned some self-control in these situations, and I applied it in spades today. Here’s how I did it.

I attempt to stay away if I can, even using social mechanisms. I’ll try to stick to the opposite side of a particularly attractive store, not going anywhere close. If someone mentions wanting to go, I’ll make a comment about how that place is basically a giant money pit for me, but I won’t adamantly avoid it and create discomfort.

I never stop and pick something up. I find it works best to keep moving when I’m in a store full of temptation. That way, I never have the opportunity to grab anything and talk myself into buying it. If you’re with a group, particularly one that breaks up inside a store, just go from person to person and chat with each one – it keeps you moving and not buying.

I keep something in my hand. I like to hold a drink cup. If I’ve not purchased a drink, I like to hold something, if even a bag from another store. Usually, a cheap coffee that I just slowly sip as I walk around does the trick. This keeps my hands from grabbing things.

I use the ten second rule diligently. Whenever I’m about to make a purchase, I spend ten seconds adamantly trying to talk myself out of it – and it usually works. This comes in handy if I’ve found my willpower weak and I’ve actually wound up approaching the cashier with an item in my hands.

I leave the store if I start to get sucked in. I just go outside and look around, keeping my back to the store. At any point, if I’ve thought seriously about buying something, I just walk out of the store and wait for other members of the group.

These tools, along with a sense of diligence about avoiding unnecessary spending, really help me through situations like today, where the social pressure to spend is high. Because of that, I’m going home with a few tiny, rather inexpensive gifts for loved ones – and nothing for myself. And that’s just the way I like it.

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