Day 9: The 30-Day List

Day 9: The 30-Day List

If your bank account frequently falls victim to your impulse spending habit, I want to encourage you to avoid that instant gratification by instituting the 30-day list.

A couple days ago we talked about de-cluttering and yesterday I gave you some tips for curbing impulse spending. But here’s the problem with de-cluttering…we can declutter to our hearts content, but if we can’t find a way to curb impulse spending, it’ll just come right back. Think about it, all that stuff clogging up your garage was once something you “had to have;” and now, you’re wondering how to get rid of it.

So we must learn to fight our tendency to collect clutter by not buying the stuff in the first place. One of the most effective ways to do this is by creating a 30-day list. 

The idea is that every time you want to buy something that’s not absolutely necessary — and no, that new thing that promises to make your life easier isn’t absolutely necessary — it goes on the list. Write down the name of the item, the date it was added, and there it will stay for 30 days. It may seem a bit hard-core, but I suggest that you and your family make a rule never to buy items — with the except of necessities — unless they’ve done their time on the 30-day list. And here’s the craziest thing, most of the time we end up losing the urge to buy the item…saving ourselves from useless spending and clutter.

Control Impulse Spending with The 30-Day List

Here’s how it can work:

  1. Anytime you feel the urge to spend on anything other than necessities (i.e. excess clothing, another pair of shoes, the newest techno gadget, or a new car) force yourself to stop. I mean…even if you’re in the middle of the store, already holding the item in your hand, put it back on the shelf and leave the store immediately.
  2. On the other hand, if you are shopping online and you feel the urge to spend, close the laptop, take a deep breath, drink some water, and then go take a walk outside.
  3. When you return home from the store or your walk, use My 30-Day List and write down the name of the item you want to purchase, the price of the item, and the date you placed the item on the list.
  4. Print your 30-day list and post it somewhere in plain view… beside the family calendar, on the door of the refridgerator, or on a bulletin board in your office.
  5. Now, for the next 30 days, you will need to consider whole-heartedly whether or not you really want to spend the money on purchasing the item. But no matter what, don’t buy it until after the 30 day time period. It’s also important that you use this time to also research free alternatives for the item on the list.
  6. If, at the end of the 30 days, the desire to purchase the item is still there, then by all means purchase it. But here’s another rule, when you go to buy the item, you must use cash.

That’s it!

After a few times of using My 30 Day List, you will be amazed at it’s effectiveness. I find that it works so well because in all actuality we’re not having to deny ourselves…we’re only delaying the indulgence. The implementation of the list has another advantage in that it does give you the chance to research and compare the item you want. This alone has saved my family and I a lot of trouble.

We don’t always remember to follow the 30-day list, but I can say this…when we do, it works! It’s crazy because most of the time the urge to buy the item is long gone before we even get home (and when shopping on the Internet, sometimes the urge leaves just by going through the online check out process). Then there’ s the occasion when the urge is really strong for a few days, then suddenly it goes away altogether.

It’s unusual that we decide to purchase the item after 30 days.

Now It’s Your Turn

Daily Goal:
Begin today using the 30-day list for non-essential purchases.


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  1. I have heard of this idea before (probably on your blog!) but I will definitely implement it today. The only problem I have is the rule with buying the item with cash only. Is this to help curb spending? In order for me to buy most things cash, I have to drive for almost an hour to the nearest town, then pay for parking and normally ending up buying more things to justify such a journey given the cost of petrol here in the UK. So I have to be honest, I tend to do most of my shopping (groceries included) online, as it normally works out considerably cheaper. I always keep a note of what I have spent online, or otherwise it can get out of control. Any tips for people like me who don’t seem to have much choice but to shop online? Thanks for a great series, I look forward to logging on every day and your articles have really made me analyse certain parts of my life.

    • I think by using cash she really means “don’t use credit.” Use a debit card or check or even a credit card but not for more than the money you have in your account to pay it off.

      Using physical cash is a nice option if you’re going to the store because it helps you see exactly how much you have to spend, versus a debit card which sort of feels like “play money.” But if you already have a system for tracking how much you spend online and making sure that you don’t overspend, than that would be just fine!

  2. I’ve never used a 30-day lists, but literally walking away works wonders. On rare mall trips if something a little more than what I’ve set out spend peaks my interests I’ll tell myself I can have it if I still remember it by the end of the trip – half the time I’m on my way home before I remember the item and it doesn’t matter!

  3. GREAT idea! I don’t struggle with impulse buys too much because I try really hard to stay out of the stores. However, this is something I could still implement. My biggest weakness is at thrift stores… I can’t wait 30 days because it won’t still be there. CASH is king! when it is gone, it is gone!!!

  4. I would add that if you are bringing something new into the house, getting rid of something too will help with the clutter accumulation. Recently my MIL bought my daughter tons of new clothes. (She is very generous, but doesn’t exactly subscribe to our less is more philosophy). When the new clothes came in, a lot of old ones were donated.

  5. Our son works for Honda Manufacturing and those in the car business know that most new car purchases are impuls buys. That just shocked me when he said that! We buy cars for cash out of the savings and can not imagine just stopping by the car dealership on a whim and leaving with a brand new car and the payments to go with it!

  6. We did this when we stopped shopping at Walmart 2 years ago. We live in a rural area where the only place there is to shop is Walmart and Kroger. So if we needed something that we couldn’t get at Kroger, TSC, or Lowes it went on a list and if it was still there in a month or two when we were headed to town we would get it. We started spending so much less on misc crap that we didn’t need. Most of the time there was hardly anything on the list by the time we were ready to go to the big city!

  7. My 30-Day List is more like Wait Until I Have Enough Swagbucks List…and it’s pretty short. LOL

  8. I disagree with step 4. Keeping the list out in plain sight just feeds the craving. I stuff mine in a drawer and forget about it. I don’t see it again until the next time I put something in the “shopping drawer,” by which time I’ve forgotten all about it. In fact, I often chuckle at myself for having wanted it in the first place.

    When I see something I want in a catalog, I dog-ear the page and put it into the shopping drawer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled an old catalog or flyer out, turned to a dog-eared page, and couldn’t even figure out which item on the page I’d wanted!

  9. WOW – this is an awesome idea! So glad I ran across your site through Emily at Living Lightly In A Wavering World.

    Being out of work for 3 months and flat-busted-broke (like me right now!) really helps with the cutting back on spending, hahaha, but once I’m employed again I can guarantee you I’m going to follow this guideline. It would have helped me save some money last year – yikes!

  10. I don’t have a list but I try not to buy things if I don’t have a place to put it or if I don’t have 2 or 3 things to get rid of. This includes Yard Sales and Auctions. If I can’t decide what I am getting rid of before the bidding closes or someone else picks it up then I didn’t need it in the first place. I hardly ever buy things that are not pre-owned. The only thing we buy new are jeans/pants for my son. Only because every 2-3 month we are buying a long pair, we bought him some in Aug (size 10 slim) in Oct we had to buy 12 slim and Jan we had to buy 14 slim. Slim pants are not easy to find in this town especially when he needs a size 8 waist! I always say on the other stuff that I will wait until my pay day and then by what I want after I get what I need. I generally don’t remember what I wanted so bad so the money gets saved!

  11. I implement the walk away method too. One thing I did as well was chose to fast non need shopping for a long season. This ment if it wasn’t something that my family needed to eat, a car that needed to be fixed, or true needs then I didnt purchase it. This was super hard at first because I am bargain shopper, but after 4-5 months I really got a grip on the difference between a need and a want. So many times we think we need something and we really don’t. Good luck to all those starting this journey. Its hard, but the rewards are amazingly freeing!

  12. Haha….the quality of a lot of goods now
    days is so bad that if you bought the goods
    on impulse they would be broken before 30
    days were up…so there’s no harm in
    waiting 30 days to not purchase an item that
    you wouldn’t have after 30 days anyway!
    Hmmm…if ya know what I mean 😉

  13. My weakness is late night online shopping. Now that I recognise what I’m doing I chant to myself “Do you really need it? Wait!” then I put a link to it on my desktop. Nearly every time I return to the link next day I find I don’t buy it.

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