Stop Justifying Your Spending Yes’s

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re standing in a store. You’re holding an item you want in your hand. As you look at that item, thoughts are running through your head.

Usually, you’ve already decided whether or not to buy the item. Usually, you’re just trying to reinforce the decision you’ve already essentially made.

If you typically decide not to buy something in this situation, then you’re in good shape. You’re not spending money unnecessarily most of the time.

Of course, millions of Americans wouldn’t be in thousands of dollars of consumer debt if they were all adept at saying “no.” Instead, they say “yes” to the purchase and stand there reinforcing and justifying it.

That describes me to a tee in 2004 and 2005 – and even, sometimes, now. I’ll pick up an item and, on some level, decide almost instantly I’m going to buy it. My conscious mind then starts filling in reasons for that purchase, and before I know it, I’m in the parking lot holding a bag in my hand.

It’s that moment where you’re standing there giving yourself reasons to buy it that you really need to focus on, because that’s the moment where you can turn the tables on frivolous purchases.

My tactic? Whenever I pick up an item that I’m seriously thinking about buying, I actively find five reasons not to buy it. I stand there intentionally looking for flaws in the item and flaws in my decision-making process.

If I can come up with five reasons not to buy and still push through them with a straight face, then it’s a reasonable purches.

The essence of this is something I’ve referred to many times – the “ten second rule.” The entire purpose of the “ten second rule” is to just slow you down when you’re about to spend your money, but it doesn’t really address what exactly you need to do to put a leash on your spending.

So, what kinds of things do I look for to convince myself not to buy?

Can I find this exact item at a lower price elsewhere? Is it cheaper at other stores? Is it cheaper online? Can I wind up with this item at a later date while keeping more money in my pocket?

Do I have something similar to this that’s unused or underused at home? Why buy this book when I have unread books on my shelf?

Will I actually enjoy this? How do I know I’ll like this item at all?

What’s wrong with this item? Does it have ingredients I really have no interest in consuming? Do I agree with the ethics of the company that makes it?

The more you analyze your purchases along these lines, the easier it becomes to just default to saying “no” to unnecessary purchases. When you reach that point, you’ll find that it’s a lot easier to retain money in your pocket while feeling quite happy with your purchasing decisions.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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