Day 8: Learn To Control Impulse Spending

Following on the heels of yesterday’s post, I thought it only fitting that we talk about the root cause of most of the clutter in our lives. To start out our discussion today I want to ask you to reflect on these questions:

  • Do you have a problem with impulse spending?
  • Is it a struggle for you to limit your buying habits?
  • Would you consider yourself a slave to materialism and consumerism?

A couple of years ago, my honest answer to each one of those questions would have been a resounding YES! I was totally there — right in the middle of it actually — and although I haven’t escaped it entirely, I can say that I feel much freer of it all.

Today, on day 8 of our challenge, I want to encourage you and say that there are ways to escape it!

If you can get into the habit of stopping the impulse buys and buying less in general, you can escape materialism. And that translates into less stuff, less spending, and freedom.

Stopping the Impulse Buys and Escaping Materialism

Every single day, all around us, there are messages telling us to buy more stuff.

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The Internet, the radio, newpapers, magazines, and the television all provide a continuous stream of advertising trying desperately to get us to purchase a product or service. Now go shopping at the mall or Target, and the urge to buy comes from every direction.

This message to continually spend — and that it will somehow make us happpier — is drilled into our heads from the days of Happy Meals and cartoons until the day we die. There seems no way to get away from it. Well, that’s not true, we could go and live in the middle of 100  acres of land somewhere in Northern Wisconsin (that actually sounds like a really nice plan). But I propose, we can live in our modern society, and still find ways to escape materialism by learning to control impulse spending.

Here are some tips and suggestions:

  1. Refuse, refuse, refuse.
    The best way to avoid clutter is to never purchase it to begin with. It’s only been during the last 6 months that I have literally been okay with simply not spending. I almost cringe when I think about buying something that we don’t absolutely need…Luxury is refusal…what beautiful words!
  2. Avoid the mall, big box stores, and other shopping centers like you would the plague
    Going shopping practically guarantees you’ll end up buying something on impulse. The sole purpose of these establishments is for you to spend money, period. Now, if you need to buy a few weekly/monthly staples (like I did today), go to a single store, get exact what’s on your list, and get the heck out. Don’t browse around looking at stuff. That’s a recipe for disaster…you’ll get sucked in. You have to treat this just like any other addiction. For example, you’d never suggest for someone who struggles with an over-consumption of alcohol to go into a bar. So, if you’re just wanting to get out of the house, find a place to go that does require you to spend money to have fun; i.e. the park, a walk around the neighborhood, or take the family on a hike for example. 
  3. The List.
    Like I just mentioned, if you have to go shopping, go with a list. And for the tricky part…stick to the list. Challenge yourself by saying, anything not on the list is strictly forbidden.
  4. Reduce your time in front of the television.
    Not only your time, but if you have children this is the #1 way marketing companies reach their hearts. Here’s something to consider…what are the shows that you really enjoy? Turn the TV on only during that time. Or, like many others have found beneficial, use Hulu and/or Netflix to watch TV. I highly recommend that you give up the satellite or cable entirely — we did, and it’s one of the best things we’ve ever done.
  5. Be aware of Internet marketing.
    I am in NO way suggesting that you cancel your Internet. Obviously, I love what the Internet has allowed by the way of idea-sharing and the like-minded communities that have formed. I just love reading blogs — always have, always will. But it seems like these days, advertising companies are beginning to target high traffic sites and the exposure to their marketing schemes is increasing. Just something to be aware of and watch out for.
  6. Limit magazine reading.
    Likewise, magazines are designed with a primary focus in advertising. They rarely give you much of substance. I suggest reading a good book instead. That could be a much better use of your time and a much better way to attain knowledge.
  7. Monitor your urges
    It is super important to monitor our urges, simple because in most cases our urges are subconscious. And how can you control impulse spending when you may not even be aware of it? The best way to do this is to keep a record either on your phone or on a little notebook. You can do this by writing down every time you feel the impulse to buy. Once there is a greater awareness of your urges to buy things, you’ll be well on your way to controlling them.
  8. Use a 30-day list.
    For the majority of us, there’s no real way to avoid spending all together. It’s about balance! So for those items that you really want to buy, put them on a 30-day list. This list is for the non-essentials (i.e. groceries and the like). This is such an effective way to curb impulse spending that we are dedicating an entire day of the challenge to discussing it’s benefits. So be sure to read tomorrow’s post to learn more about the 30-day list.

Now It’s Your Turn

Daily Goal:
Determine your strategy for controlling impulse spending.

Download: The 23 Day Frugal Living Challenge Daily Goal Sheet

Connect With The Community: Take a few minutes and head over to the forum. Share your “Frugal Living Daily Goal“, encourage, and support one another.

Subscribe: Be sure not to miss a day of the Challenge! Click this link to receive the 23 Day Frugal Living Challenge by email.

This post is shared here: Frugal Fridays


  1. I love the 30 day list idea, thank you for sharing that. I wished I had known about that a month ago. I would have saved myself $150 alone if I had. ((sigh)) But I really learned my lesson and plan to apply this rule.


  2. Melissa S says:

    I really like this. We are doing a series over at MyOldKyHomestead on decluttering your home. Do you mind if I link up your post for today there?

  3. I like the idea of living in the middle of 100 acres of land somewhere in Northern Wisconsin. 😉

  4. Spend Spend spend, I work in retail; part time, hopefully soon to be not at all and I see this all the time. We’re I work, they push cashiers to ask for credit and you would be surprised at the amount of people that sign up on a daily basis. Especailly when they tell the customers they’ll save $15…yeah you’ll save $15 but the interest is 26% if you don’t pay it off right then and there. Luckily I just work in the HR office. I could never push that on to people.

  5. Thank you for your admission to impulse spending. Just last night I was feeling so guilty as my husband talked about job/money. Living in a very rural area, I shop the internet all the time. It is so easy and I love books! We homeschool and there are always more books that I NEED. Of course, there are those sales on clothes, fabric, vitamins, exercise videos……. while I don’t struggle with going to stores (we don’t have them) and buying the online shopping is so much fun and I confess that I overbuy! Next time I feel the urge to order this great deal right now, I will write it down and promise to come back to it later. It’ll probably get lost on my desk and when it’s uncovered, I’ll realize I don’t really need it. 🙂

    • You make an excellent point Judith! Online shopping is almost more of a temptation isn’t it. I appreicate you honesty and know that because of it you will overcome! Using the 30-day list is a great way to curb spending urges. We’re definitely all in this together:)

  6. Thank you for this idea. I went just the other day to purchase something that was on sale, but I had to get a rain check for it. The store called the other day to say that it was in. It has been a week and I have not gone to pick it up. I have realized that I don’t really need it. Buying more shelves/storage space to help declutter really only creates more clutter. Thanks!

  7. Andrea, Thank you for reminding all of us to be thankful for what we have. One little trick that I’ve been doing for a while has worked well for me. When I open my e-mail in the morning, I immediately delete those sites that encourage me to “spend” – impulse spending is curtailed.

  8. Andrea, I won’t go to a store unless it’s absolutely necessary and when I go it isonly when a list is complete. Secondly, I totally agree about getting ride of cable. Why pay for watching programs through cable when you can get it free through the internet or pay a very low monthly fee of a view bucks compared to $100.00 +

  9. I am sensing that you’re most likely a fellow Wal-Mart avoider. 😉

  10. I have been cutting down on spending for 4-5 years and getting rid of things. One thing I do like Michael I delete enticments to buy right frome the git go. I only shop 3 to 4 times a month and I even make lists of what to look for even for garage sales in the spring and summer… I hate spending money that isn’t needed to be spent.

  11. I got a gift card for Christams and I went into the store looking for something in particular for our new house. While I didn’t find what I was looking for, I did see a lot of other cute stuff. I kept reminding myself that we are trying to get rid of things, not bring more things in. I didn’t buy anything there and am considering selling or exchanging the gift card online instead to keep me from buying things we don’t need.

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