Control Yourself: 11 Ways to Stop a Splurge Purchase

With retailers and advertisers practically begging you to spend your money at every turn, it’s inevitable that most of us will give into a splurge every once in a while. Maybe your favorite splurge is an occasional fancy coffee at Starbucks, or a few new outfits off of the clearance rack at your favorite store. Or perhaps your addiction to splurging runs much deeper into your bottom line, causing you to overspend in ways that actually hurt your finances in the long run.

Either way, your best shot at avoiding a splurge purchase is denying yourself the opportunity in the first place, or talking yourself out of it somehow. That might mean completely eschewing situations where you’ll be tempted – avoiding the mall, your favorite retail store,, or any other tempting spending venues like the plague. Or perhaps you could institute a set of rules that govern the purchases you make. Of course, that strategy only works if you follow those rules to begin with.

11 Ways to Talk Yourself Right Out of a Splurge Purchase

To hear how others convince themselves to stop buying on an impulse, we reached out to popular bloggers to see how they avoid overspending in ways that damage their finances or create budget mayhem. Here’s what they said:

Tie potential splurge purchases back to your retirement.

Do you really want to retire one day? Let me rephrase that: Don’t we all hope to quit working eventually?

Pauline Paquin of Reach Financial Independence says she talks herself out of splurge purchases by keeping her retirement goals at the front of her mind at all times.

“I think about the future value of my money,” she says. Since $100 today could be worth well over $1,000 in retirement if you invest it for 30 years and earn 8% returns, any splurge purchases she makes today could cost her much more down the line.

By thinking in terms of what your money might be worth in the future and using that to squash impulse purchases, you put your “future self” first. When you realize that $100 dress or iPod is a depreciating asset that could siphon $1,000 out of your retirement savings later, it’s easier to say no.

Create a waiting period before you spend.

Impulse purchases are generally made “on the spot” and with little thought — which is what gets us in trouble. But what if you forced yourself to wait 24 hours or more? Teresa Mears of Living On the Cheap believes a 24-hour waiting period is instrumental in saving people from their own vices, including splurge purchases.

“There are many times that, at first glance, buying something seems like a great idea,” says Mears. “But if you think it over for a day or two, you realize that you don’t really need that item, or sometimes even want it.”

By waiting 24 hours – or longer – you can sort through the things you really want and everything else you can live without. And if you decide you do indeed want to pull the trigger after 24 hours or a few days of thinking, at least you won’t regret it.

Tell your level-headed spouse or partner about your plans.

Those of us who are married to frugal spouses or are lucky enough to be with partners who care about money often get the best advice from our better halves.

Certified Financial Planner Daniel Zajac of Finance and Flip Flops says telling his wife about a potential purchase is usually all it takes to make him change his mind.

“Often, just saying it out loud is enough to cool me down,” he says. “If it’s not, the wise opinion of a clearer mind will do the trick.”

And if your spouse somehow thinks the purchase is a good idea even after you talk it out? Well, maybe it is.

Obsess over your financial goals.

If you’re always tempted to splurge, it might be wise to turn your attention to your big life goals, and especially your financial ones. Why? By focusing on your financial goals, you might learn to see splurges as an unnecessary distraction or even something that holds you back from what you really want.

Casey Fleming, author of The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage, says his life goal of buying a sailboat and sailing around the world is enough to deter him from most splurges.

“When faced with an impulse purchase, I ask myself, ‘How does this help me get on a sailboat?'” he says. “Set a very clear big-picture, life goal for yourself, and then ask yourself if it gets you closer to that goal.”

If it isn’t helping your goals, then don’t buy it.

Pay with cash – always.

We all know how easy it is to charge a purchase on your credit card and worry about the bill later, but what happens when you pay with cash? According to financial advisor Joseph Carbone, Jr., founder of Focus Planning Group, paying with cash forces you to get real about how much you’re spending – and might be enough to make you put that wallet away.

“One of the best ways to make smarter purchases is to pay with cash,” says Carbone. “You’d be amazed at how your behavior changes when you actually have to go into your pocket and use cash as opposed to paying with a debit or credit card.”

Sometimes the hassle of hitting up an ATM might deter you from making a splurge purchase. Other times, it could be the simple act of watching your bank account drain before your eyes that makes you rethink things. Either way, paying with cash can be a smart way to curtail unnecessary splurges.

Make it harder to splurge online.

Most online retailers have made one-click purchases seamless, and for good reason. The easier consumers find online shopping, the more they will generally buy over time. And of course they want to email you about those tempting offers relentlessly, which is why they collect your email address to begin with.

If you want to help yourself in that respect, it might be smart to make online shopping harder than your favorite retailers want it to be, says Karen Cordaway of Money Saving Enthusiast.

“I purposely have a separate email for special offers, promos, and updates from my favorite stores,” she says. “I don’t open this email unless I know I can afford to splurge,” she says.

In the meantime, you can also help yourself by never saving your credit card information online, or removing it manually. Forcing yourself to manually re-enter your credit card details every time you buy something might make you less likely to follow through.

Figure out your ‘why.’

If you find yourself tempted to splurge on items you don’t really need or even want, one reason might be that unplanned purchases make you feel better, albeit temporarily. Perhaps that instant gratification is filling an emotional hole or providing “retail therapy” without you even realizing it.

Tracie Richmond Fobes, also known as Penny Pinchin’ Mom, says her key to avoiding splurges is figuring out what type of emotion she’s trying to overcome.

“Many times, my desire for something is filling a void that I may have elsewhere,” she says. For example, she might be sad, stressed, or unhappy about something that happened recently. “The minute I can remove emotion from the purchase, I often find that it’s something I really didn’t need in the first place,” she says.

Most of the time, you can find a better way to cope that doesn’t involve spending money on items that won’t make you any happier in the long run.

Read online product reviews.

Here’s a fun and innovative way to avoid splurge purchases. Before you buy anything that costs more than a couple of bucks, take some time to read the product reviews online at consumer-driven review portals or on sites like

Joseph Hogue of Peer Finance 101 says he does this before he buys almost anything and, most of the time, he is quickly talked out of the purchase as a result.

“Not only does reading reviews help me learn more about it, but a lot of times, there are enough disgruntled reviews that I can talk myself out of buying it,” he says.

Plus, reviews are often funny. Maybe you’ll be so busy laughing that you’ll forget about the purchase altogether.

Peg your splurge to your hourly rate, and ask if it’s worth the extra hours at work.

If you make $20 an hour, it follows that every $20 pair of yoga pants you buy will require you to spend another hour of your life at work (or more, once you count taxes).

Applying this approach to all your purchases can provide a stark reminder of what each item really costs in terms of your time, says blogger and millennial money coach Whitney Hansen. And that’s exactly why she thinks in these terms.

If you want to do the same, she says, start by figuring out exactly how much you make for every hour at work. “Then compare that with the price of the item you want to purchase,” says Hansen. “Usually, $40 for dinner and a movie seems a lot less exciting when you realize it costs a couple hours of your life to pay for it.”

Figure out what you’re giving up.

When you make almost any type of splurge purchase, you’re also forced to give something up, says Jim Wang of Wallet Hacks.

“Understand what your trade-off is,” says Wang. “When you spend money on a splurge purchase, it’s money you can’t spend on something else.”

So what is that “other thing?” Maybe it’s a family vacation or a bigger splurge you’ve been saving up for.

“Make it concrete so you force your brain to make a decision — do I want to splurge, or do I want to wait another week before I can get the other thing?” asks Wang.

Add up the ‘real cost’ of purchasing an item.

Before you buy anything, you should take time to add up the “real cost” of that item, says Kirk Chisholm of Innovative Advisory Group.

A lot of times, your purchase won’t be complete when you walk out of a store. With many large items especially, you may need to pay for upkeep or additional, brand-specific supplies.

Think Keurig coffee makers that make you buy those little K-Cup coffee and tea pods all the time. Or a brand new car that requires you to pay for additional insurance, pricier maintenance, and gas.

“Think about how much these additional costs are, how long it would take you to save the money to pay for it, and it might scare you from splurging,” says Chisholm. Take a boat, for example: The boat itself is just the beginning of the expenses involved. “A new boat usually requires a lot of gas and maintenance and a place to dock and store it in the off season,” he says.

If you think beyond the purchase price of any item, you might find it’s more expensive than you realized.

The Bottom Line

Today’s world makes splurging easier than ever. With cheap and easy credit, a barrage of commercials and advertisements foisted upon our eyes every day, and the pressure to “keep up with the Joneses,” it’s a wonder that any of us can put some money away.

If you want to avoid splurging on purchases that don’t add value to your life, figure out a way to complicate your purchase. According to the bloggers we interviewed, things like a self-mandated waiting period, a rule that requires you to talk to your spouse, or an extreme focus on your other goals might be enough to do the trick.

As for me? I absolutely hate shopping – both in the store and online – so I just don’t go. There are occasionally things I want, but I’m usually too lazy to go out and get them right away — and in most cases, enough time lapses that I forget altogether.

That’s a pretty sad explanation for how I maintain my frugal lifestyle, but it’s absolutely true. And as long as you find something that works for you, that’s all that matters.

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How do you talk yourself out of a splurge purchase? Do you ever use any of these tricks?


Holly Johnson

Contributing Writer

Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.