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We get our paychecks and then we just spend the money getting to the end of the month wondering where all the money went. For most of us the whole purchasing process in on auto pilot. We see something we need or want, something that catches our attention, we open our wallets and plunk down a card and pay.
 
Rarely do we check first to see if we have the money and even less often do we check to see what other expenses are coming up in the future that we will need to have money for. Even when we make good money we can still wind up in debt with little understanding of how we got there and no memory of what we spent the money on.
 
That leaves us feeling guilty, embarrassed and filled with shame.
 
For a lot of us shopping is kind of a high. Literally.
 
When we are shopping the pleasure center in our brains starts to light up our prefrontal cortex and the part of our brain that helps us make logical decisions shuts off completely. So, we are soothing ourselves when we shop just as much as if we were taking a drug. We go into a state where our good feelings get turned on and our ability to make wise decisions turns off. No wonder we have such a difficult time fighting off the urge to spend. We begin to feel like we just have to have it. Whatever it is.
 
There are obvious consequences to this behavior. Credit card debt, fees for over drawing your accounts, little to no savings and most important not having the money available to fund your dreams. Things like buying your dream home, going back to school or starting your own business get put on hold indefinitely because you are living paycheck to paycheck.
 
I want to be clear though I am not promoting the idea that you should never go shopping just for the fun of it. I just want you to be providing yourself financial security and safety first.
 
So where do we begin.
 
Our mindset and self-concept are at the center of this issue.
 
The first thing to ask yourself is “How do I see myself in regards to money and what do I say to myself?”
 
I can’t tell you the number of times clients have said to me:
 
  • I’m bad with money,
  • I can’t be trusted with money,
  • I am not disciplined enough,
  • I’m a spender,
  • I’m always in debt even though I’ve tried over and over again to get out of it.
  • I will probably be in debt for the rest of my life.
 
We say these things as if they are facts, intrinsic truths that can’t be changed. Then we find evidence that supports these “truths”.
 
If you see that your current beliefs are giving you negative messages it’s time to change them. Ask yourself if you feel comfortable with your current spending and purchasing habits. To change we need to debunk these views of ourselves and create new beliefs about how we relate to money and then create evidence that proves our new self-concept.
 
You want to feel that you are spending your money wisely and with intention on things that give you pleasure over time and that do not keep you from having money for your dreams as well as the necessities.
 
As a wise shopper you want to pre-plan your shopping trips by making a list of what you want before you go to the store. Ask yourself if you will still be glad you bought this item next week or next month. Slow down the purchasing process. Often if we wait a day before we buy the urge will subside.
 
Recently I heard a speaker, Paige Pritchard on the Moneynerds Podcast that my colleague Whitney Hansen hosts. Paige has a great method to help you break the habit of impulse shopping. 
 
She suggests keeping a list of the things you want to buy. 
 
It works like this:
 
When you see something online or in a store that you want take out your phone and put it on a list using a reminder, list, or notes app on your phone. You can describe the item or take a picture and make sure to include the price. 
 
Wait a while and see if you want to purchase it later. If you still want it and it has value and you have the money for it go ahead and buy it. If you don’t get it after a month or two add up all the money you saved by not buying those things. Also look to see how much you saved over a year.
 
You can even use this method for tracking when you have an impulse to pick up food on the way home from work. Each time you fight the urge and choose to eat something from home instead reward yourself by adding it to your list and counting the money you saved.
 
She suggests making it like a game to see how much you can save. I think this is a fantastic method to help you overcome the desire to make unplanned purchases. You can give yourself a target of how much you want to not spend and then a prize (nothing too expensive) when you reach your goal. This is a great way to show yourself that you can control your spending and that you are good at managing your money. 
 
Changing your behavior will take time so be patient with yourself.
 
An accountability partner will really help with this.
 
If you would like some help getting your spending under control and if you have any debt getting it paid off let’s talk and see if I can help.