7 strategies for curing the urge to shop

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CC BY 2.0 Sigfrid Lundberg

Constantly fulfilling your desires leads to financial problems. Learn how to get that under control.

The urge to shop is a powerful one. As humans, we crave the pleasure that comes from acquiring beautiful new things, and this urge is fuelled by aggressive advertising everywhere we look. It's no wonder, then, that so many of us fall for buying things we don't need, just because we think we want them.

Acting like this, however, is hard on one's personal finances. As Trent Hamm writes for The Simple Dollar, every time we cave to desire, we pull out our wallets and eat into our savings or, worse, the money we need for everyday expenses.

This is why it's worth learning how to dampen the urge when it hits. (Crush those desires before they destroy you!) Hamm lists 10 strategies he uses to dissipate the urge to shop. I've shared the ones that resonated most with me below.

1. Schedule time to use the things you have. How often have you purchased a book with the intention of reading it, only to let it languish on a shelf? Make time for your hobbies and interests, whether it's playing board games, practicing a sport, doing crafts, or making music. Then your desire will be more oriented toward doing, rather than buying.

2. Practice rotating your collections. When you feel an urge to buy new clothes, shoes, board games, yarn, etc., take some time to organize the collections you already own. Seeing and handling them could re-ignite your interest in them and make you realize you don't need anything new.

3. Create a waiting rule for yourself. Vow to wait 30 days till you're allowed to buy the item. If you still want it (and can justify it) at that point, then go for it. Hamm writes down his desired items in a notebook, so he feels like he's taken action of some sort, but inevitably when he looks back the urge is gone.

4. Unfollow promotional material. Unsubscribe from emails, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds that come from manufacturers whose goods you're tempted to buy. If you don't know about that mega sale, you're less likely to embark on a mega shopping spree.

5. Collect achievements, not things. Hamm is a fan of lists and I can relate to that. I track every book I read, which gives me a far greater sense of accomplishment than if I bought books and didn't read them. He writes:

"Do things. Read books. Watch films. Play games. Go on hikes (and keep track of the trails and parks you’ve done). Do whatever it is that you’re passionate about, but rather than focusing on possessing the stuff involved, focus on making a big list of the things you’ve achieved within that hobby."

6. Use negative visualization to gain perspective. Think about the three things you care about most in the world and why you're lucky to have them. Think about global issues that are overwhelming and depressing; your craving for silk long underwear may shrivel in the face of the Syrian war, for example. I tend to think about purchases in terms of aspirational travel, since that's what I crave most. I ask myself, "What percentage of a plane ticket would this represent?" Of course it's not entirely rational, but it works!

7. Have a budget. Blunt and basic. Put a weekly or monthly limit on superfluous spending and stick to it.

Do you have any tried-and-true strategies for quelling the desire to buy things you don't need?

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