Updated on 05.28.07

Overcoming A Strong, Sudden Bad Spending Impulse

Trent Hamm

Wii!Yesterday morning, I went to a Target just as it opened looking for some baby wipes for my son. As I strolled through the store, I noticed a small, excited crowd in the home electronics section, so I walked over to see what was going on. The store had received a new shipment of Nintendo Wiis and people were clamoring to get their hands on one.

As I’ve mentioned on here a few times, I’ve wanted a Nintendo Wii for a while and seeing lots of people getting one drove the desire to a fever pitch. There were about six left after the people in line got theirs and so I could have easily reached out and gotten one. We were at a family event, so I could easily visualize taking it back, getting it out, and playing Wii Sports with my sisters-in-law and other family members.

What kept me from doing it, you ask? Here’s what I did instead.

I took a walk around the store. Instead of just grabbing one and rushing for the checkouts as my gut told me to do, I decided instead to take a walk around the store, think about the item, and find the other thing I was intending to purchase (namely, the baby wipes). This gave me a “cooling off” period to get my rampant consumerism in check.

I considered the other things I could do with that $250. I could buy my son a very nice toddler bed with that money. It would buy a piece of furniture or two for the new house. That money could also be used to really stock the pantry when we move with all sorts of cooking supplies that would not only feed another hobby of mine but would feed my family as well. It could pay for part of a lawnmower, too. In short, I thought of many better uses for the money than buying a Nintendo Wii.

I seriously evaluated how much I would use the Wii if I did buy it. In truth, not all that much. It would be a complete blast when friends and family were visiting and I could see my wife and I playing bowling and boxing in the evenings, but other than that it would just sit and gather dust. I can think of many other fun things to do with my wife in the evening and also with visiting family and friends than merely playing with a $250 toy.

I decided not to discuss the purchase with my wife until after I left the store. I didn’t pick up my cell phone and call her because I think there’s some chance she would just tell me to get it, especially since The Simple Dollar is doing well. I knew that if I left the store, then discussed it with her, the odds of spending that unnecessary money were much less, but I could still express my desire to own one.

I gave myself a much lighter reward for making the correct but difficult choice. What was that? I ordered a few purely fun books from PaperBackSwap after we returned from the trip. It didn’t cost me anything, but it was fun and it felt like a reward after being “good” and not spending money – this reward didn’t violate the spirit of not buying the Wii, either, because it didn’t cost anything.

Just a year ago, I would have just grabbed the Wii and headed for the exits. I guess this experience is a clear sign of a change in financial direction.

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...
  1. good post. I found your site through Freelance Switch. I will be reading here more often. Some really good writing. I look forward to new posts.

  2. Trent, that’s awesome self control. Had I known yesterday that all the big retailers had them in stock this weekend, I would have picked one up and eBayed it. I only saw the print ads this morning and it was too late.

    My wife and I have been discussing getting one because it seems like a fun console. But we decided to have a cooling period also of 3 months. It turns out we aren’t as excited as we use to be and it saved us 250 bucks!

  3. Deena says:

    Your willpower never ceases to amaze me. You rock.

  4. Brent says:

    You fool. The wii could be your reward for doing good stuff. You’ve wanted a wii forever, now you’ll never get one.

    I can’t believe your self control, I totally would have bought it and sold it a few weeks later.

  5. JMHX says:

    As a man who has recently fallen victim to the frezied mob-rule that is Wii shopping, I have to agree with the vast majority of your points. The mood rush often influences us to make purchases we later regret. However, constantly talking onesself out of “splurge” purchases seems like the wrong path – there must be a little enjoyment on an impulse purchase once in a while. While the $250 price tag on the Wii is excessive, sometimes we just have to treat ourselves.

  6. clkl says:

    Congratulations on winning this difficult battle!

    Think of each person you’ll inspire with this post as “spiritual interest” on the $250 saved!

    Enjoy your well-earned victory…

  7. CB says:

    I am just wondering, why not buy one to resell on eBay? They are still going for ~$300 plus shipping, which would be a nice 20% return on your investment.

  8. Joe says:

    You should have bought one!

    Life isn’t about denial and pain — it’s about fun, playing, and making the most of each day.

  9. Rob in Madrid says:

    To help me stay motivated I’ve started setting aside the money that I save from my shopping budget and my weekly allowance. I can’t get over what a motivating factor it is seeing the money you saved growing. Today I was tempted to stop by Starbucks for lunch (ummmm Starbucks) but I looked over and saw how much I’ve saved already and thought nah. I used to eat out several times a week but now I don’t. I use the male competitive instinct, it’s now a competition with my self to see if I can beat myself each week.

  10. Beth says:

    Thanks for this post! I think that you are clearly having fun, playing, and making the most of each day – and it’s good to remember that a gadget isn’t the only way to do so. That was a tough call, but I suppose the good news is, you’ll have plenty of opportunities in the future to get the Wii if you still want it.

  11. Claire in CA says:

    You totally rock. You inspire me to do better with our finances. I took a similar route with the video games. I bought a PS2 for about $100 at Christmas for my son (who was using a VERY old Nintendo 64 for the past few years). I could have bought the more expensive one, but felt like he would have just as much fun with the PS2…and he has.

    I don’t believe life is about “fun” and “playing,” as Joe stated. It is about making the most of each day, giving to those in need, and taking care of your family. You can’t very well have “fun” with a clear conscience if you have mountains of debt that you continue to deny while having said “fun.” Denial and pain come when we can’t pay the bills, but continue to take expensive vacations and buy expensive game systems on credit.

    God bless you on your journey to financial freedom!

  12. Cari says:

    I love these posts with your personal experiences. One thing that occurred to me when I read your post was all the recent research on how the happiness we gain from a big purchase is almost never as much as we expect. Good for you for thinking ahead to how much fun you’d actually get out of it, and all the other things that you already enjoy doing with your family. I also agree with Rob that making saving a sort of competition with yourself is a good strategy — but it’s not just a male thing!

  13. Jay Wilson says:

    Congrats on the self control! Recently, I’ve had to endure a similar temptation when I amassed a sizable stash in my savings account. I was so tempted to spend it on a long time want, but reason got the better of me and i sat on the cash. Felt good.

  14. Hannah says:

    I definitely know the feeling–I was reading the local paper online & they had an article about infrared gas grills. I’m in the market for a new grill once I finish moving, so I looked up the price of these new ones, which were waaaay out of what I’d budgeted to spend. Part of me wanted it SO BAD, but I took a deep breath & hit Consumer Reports. They didn’t rate those infrared grills all that highly, so whew!

    Also, thanks for the paperback swap website link. Once I get settled in my new house, I’m totally going to be ready to swap!

  15. Ian says:

    I’d have thought about the fact that they’re selling for $300+ on eBay, and that you could buy it, play it for a few days or a week, and then make a small profit on it if you decided to.

  16. Getzly says:

    The Wii – like any toy or gadget – is most desirable when it’s sitting on the store shelf or when you’ve just purchased it. A few weeks later, it’s just another possession. I know; I own one. I say congratulations for resisting.

  17. It’s almost like you fight impulse buying the same way other people manage their anger. Take a deep breath, count to ten, take a walk, etc. Great advice!

  18. HamiHarri says:

    aww…good for you – in a strange way, I am proud of you!

  19. Cheryl says:

    Thank you for this post. I had the same urge Sunday to go and get the $380 laptop, one day only/in stores only/etc. And fought it hard, all day! I had to sit down and think…do I really NEED a laptop? NO, I have a desktop and don’t really travel that often. What else could I do with $380…A LOT…am having master shower re-done in a few weeks. So, you have re-inforced my decision to NOT spend the cash.

  20. Tristan says:

    My husband just went through the same “gotta have it now” impulse with a laptop. Someone at his work bought one. My husband isn’t usually jealous but it just ate at him that he wanted a laptop and this person who didn’t know how to use one bought a top of the line model. Hubby spent days surfing the net lovingly coveting laptops. I had to explain that we are living like no one else now so we can live like no one else later. There is no need to spend $700 so we can move around while using the computer instead of sitting at a desk. It took a while but he recovered from his temporary insanity. :)

    I will show him your entry so he won’t feel so bad.

  21. I bought a Wii sometime pre-Christmas and considered it a great investment. My wife and I have had so much fun with it that it’s paid for itself in fun alone. To each their own, but man… don’t deny yourself the fun stuff ALL the time!

  22. Jenn says:

    It’s always interesting how this internal battle probably wouldn’t have even existed for most of us before credit cards. It used to be that you could either afford stuff or you couldn’t. If you bought that Wii you might not be able to eat the next day. Now it’s all about getting everything we want…

  23. paula says:

    Jenn’s remark is spot on. If you didn’t have the cash, you did without, OR used layaway! (I used layaway once, while in college, for some clothes. I took 3 months to pay it off, and then I got to take them home.)

  24. Killer Bees says:

    I’m not a gadgets person, so things like Nintendo DS, PS2 and the Wii are a complete and utter waste of money. I understand that some people like them and good luck to them. But I’m glad I’m not a slave to every bit of technology that comes out.

    The consoles are expensive and so are the games and for what? A way to entertain yourself and waste time. I can think of better ways to entertain myself and actually learn something instead of withdrawing from reality and spending heaps of meony.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *