Habits are like putting the brain on autopilot. Habits make us drive to work the same way each day, eat the same lunch, even put the same arm in a coat first. Habits can also apply to money. The trick is to develop habits that can help you save and to stop those habits that cost money.
Whether you are looking for small savings or larger ones, developing these habits will help you save money.
Just say no. Before you purchase anything, think about whether you need more stuff in your house. If you have trouble storing everything you have, maybe it is time to just quit buying. Consider whether you need something. Establish a certain amount of time for a waiting period before buying. It might be anywhere between three days and a month. If you think you want it, wait the decided upon amount of time before you buy. You may find that the waiting period will get you out of the mood to purchase some items.
Also, did you know that when you pick something up, you are far more likely to purchase it? Research published in the Journal of Consumer Research states that you are more likely to buy an item when it has been in your hand. When you touch something, you feel a connection to it. You can just imagine what it feels like to own it.
The same research tells us that you value items more that you have touched, and you are willing to pay more for them. Fight the urge to pick items up. If you are window-shopping, then do just that. Look but don’t pick items up.
Always comparison shop. When you know you need something, check out all the places you might purchase the item. Use the waiting period to investigate where you will get the best price. Before you buy, make sure you are getting the best deal.
Practice conscious spending. When you are shopping, ask yourself why you are buying this item. If you can’t name three reasons why you need it, leave it in the store.
Watch for spending triggers. What causes you to buy? Is it browsing in a certain store or even on eBay? Or is it emotion? Are you shopping to make yourself happy, relieve stress, or show off to your friends or family? Recognize what emotions are controlling your shopping and look for other ways to relieve those emotions.
Stay out of the stores or off shopping sites on the Web. These marketing guys are smart. They know that if you walk through a store, whether literally or on the Internet, you will find something that you like. If you are faced with tempting items, you will buy. That’s why you come home from the grocery store with 10 items rather than the three that were on your list.
Develop a contented attitude. Resolve to be happy with what you have. Remember that material things have very little to do with your happiness. Don’t fall into the trap of purchasing for the wrong reasons. If you are trying to keep up with your neighbors, your family or your friends by spending money, stop the cycle. Be content with what you have and you’ll be far less likely to overspend.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org by calling 907-474-7201.