The Frugal Career Girl: No More Impulse Buys
We’ve all been there.
The candy bar we didn’t realize how badly we needed until we are standing in the checkout line. The purse that we knew we didn’t need, but was 50% off. The trip to Target for laundry detergent that ends up in $100 spent on random things once we get to checkout. The extra food we ordered because we haven’t eaten all day and surely we will be able to finish it all. The snowshoeing and wine adventure that LivingSocial sent us…I mean, we’ve never been snowshoeing, but we’ve always wanted to go, right? Or something. I mean, there’s wine involved. Whatever.
Ah, the impulse buy. That thing we really shouldn’t spend money on, but damn, look-at-this-sale-oh-my-god-it-will-never-be-this-cheap-again-ever-as-long-as-we-live! So we take the cash we know we really can’t spare, justify our decisions mentally to ourselves over and again, until we get to the counter and find ourselves the new owners of this purse-holding-thing that we can set on top of the bar so that we don’t have to put our purses on the ground…that we will probably never use again.
To be fair, marketing and advertising have figured this out about us and have capitalized on it lucratively. Jacque Wilson recaps a telling study:
Advertising encourages spur-of-the-moment emotional purchases that are triggered by seeing the product, according to the editorial. The way food is arranged in a grocery store can have a big impact on what consumers buy. A 2009 study showed products placed at the end of the aisle account for 30% of all supermarket sales.
“People lack the capacity to fully control their eye gaze, and what they look at the longest is the strongest predictor of what they will buy,” the authors write.
So with the long, giant claw of marketing reaching out to our basic mental/emotional responses and beckoning them come hither, how do we maintain frugality and resist that impulse to spend what little cash we have? A few pointers:
- Ask yourself how this buy will affect your financial goals. If you’re going to be a Frugal Career Girl with financial freedom in mind, you’ve got to think about how spending $50 on that two hour cheese-making class is going to help or hurt you on your way to achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself. If you’re behind on bills or are trying to save for something important, the dessert tray after dinner is probably something you can pass on.
- Do you really need that? Every time I go to the drugstore, I walk out with two new bottles of nail polish. Every. Damn. Time. I have a ton of nail polish cluttering up my medicine cabinet, most of which I use on a once-monthly basis, trading out colors weekly. It’s only $2 a bottle, right? What harm is that? Until I remember that it’s $4 (plus tax) a visit, and if I visit the store twice weekly, that’s $8 a week and damnit, now that’s $32 a month. On nail polish. I can spend half of that on a Netflix-style luxury-polish sharing service...and I wouldn’t take up so much cabinet space. Figure out what you truly need and don’t need and start thinking in these terms. It is nice to splurge occasionally on the “want” category, but start asking yourself if you really need what you just picked up off the shelf before you make it to the counter.
- Will this be around in the future for me to purchase? With the way that stores advertise their “one-time-only” sales, it’s easy to justify our purchases when we think that this might be our only opportunity to get this product at such a steal. If you don’t realize that these sales are an ongoing, continuous gimmick that stores use to lure in bargain-focused customers, then you might think that your purchase is a steal. But it’s not. Chances are that even if this is the only time that your “want” will ever be on sale, you still have the great fortune of living in the age of the interwebs, where you can find whatever your “want” is for half of the price that it is on sale in your favorite department store. Internet win! The same goes for restaurants; my friends and I always want to order ALL OF THE SUSHI ON THE MENU. But then one of us reminds the hungry masses that we should order bits at a time–if we are still hungry after, we can always order more. And guess what? We never do get to that “ordering more” time; thank god for reasonable friends.
Remember that your financial goals are within your reach, but they require some laser focus and determination to get there. Impulse buying has become an accepted part of our culture–so much so that stores don’t think twice about tricking you into that candy bar anymore–but it doesn’t have to become an accepted part of your wallet or your lifestyle. Start thinking deliberately about your purchases and find your inner Career Girl strength to walk away from all of your “wants” and head toward your “needs,” until you have the means to do both.