Using the 30 Day Rule to Control Spending

By Janet Siroto · June 22, 2023 · 10 minute read

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Using the 30 Day Rule to Control Spending

Shopping can be necessary (how else are you going to get what you need?), and a lot of the time, it can be fun. But it also leads to impulse purchases, which can mean overspending and winding up with high-interest credit card debt.

That’s where the 30 day rule can help. It’s a technique that can help you slow down shopping and save money. It gives you a way to pump the brakes on a purchase and wait before buying.

This, in turn, can help you determine if you really need or want an item vs. getting caught up in the moment. If you’re able to take time and decide not to make a purchase, it can help your overall financial outlook (that credit card bill, for instance, may be more manageable).

Here, you’ll learn more about the 30 day rule and how it can help you save money.

What Is the 30 Day Rule?

The 30 day rule is a simple strategy that has the power to help you control your spending and make solid financial choices. Here’s how it works:

•   If you feel the urge to make a significant purchase of something that’s non-essential, whether it’s in a store or online, the rule says: Stop. Leave the store, or click away from the site.

•   Write down what you wanted to buy, along with where it can be found, and its price. Date the document and then mark on your calendar when 30 days will have passed.

•   Some people find this additional step helpful: Rather than just write down the amount of the discretionary purchase, you could put that amount of money into your savings account. Seeing your pumped-up savings account balance can potentially help you decide not to purchase something that’s an impulse buy.

•   During the 30 days, you can think about whether you really need the item or, if it’s a “want” rather than a “need,” whether you want to spend discretionary funds on it.

•   After 30 days have passed, if you still wish to purchase the item, then you can potentially do so, knowing that it’s no longer an impulse buy. Rather, it’s likely to be a well thought-out and planned financial choice. It can also help your budget to compare prices with different vendors after you’ve made your decision to buy.

Pros and Cons of the 30 Day Savings Rule

Now that you understand the principle behind the 30 days savings rule, consider the upside:

•   It helps you avoid impulse buys.

•   It gives you time to assess a major purchase, comparison-shop, and budget.

•   It helps you avoid shopping due to boredom.

However, the 30 day savings rule can also have downsides:

•   It can lead to feelings of frustration or deprivation not to be able to buy in the moment.

•   If you wait 30 days and then decide to buy, the item you want could be more expensive or sold out.

Needs vs Wants

The 30 day rule can be an excellent way to manage the causes of overspending and help you differentiate needs from wants.

Examples of Needs

Needs are your basic living expenses; the items that are vital for daily life. For example, if you’re out of toilet paper, that clearly goes into the needs category, and doesn’t fit the rule. You could shop for a better price, sure, but it’s a pretty necessary purchase.

If your car is almost out of gas and you’ve got to drive to work in the morning, the same concept applies. Yes, if you need to eat dinner and the cupboards are bare and the fridge is empty, you’ll need food (but not necessarily steak and lobster).

Examples of Wants

On the other hand, wants are things that are not part of daily survival. Groceries to cook dinner are an example of needs, but a pricey sushi dinner or even that vanilla latte to go in the morning are clearly wants.

When it comes to shopping, you may find yourself giving into wants when you pick up some new shoes just because they’re on sale or decide to upgrade your phone even though your current one works fine.

There’s a middle ground, of course, where it may be tougher to decide if something is a need or want, and whether the rule applies. For example, you may have a big work conference coming up, and there’s a really sweet suit on sale.

On the one hand, you may have an outfit that will work just fine, but on the other, this one may be more appropriate, giving you the confidence to shine at the conference. In that case, it may make sense to think about the purchase for a day or two, rather than for a full 30.

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The Role of FOMO Spending

FOMO (which stands for Fear of Missing Out) spending is the kind in which you feel that if you don’t buy a particular item, you might miss out on something important. This could happen if you see social media posts where friends (and perhaps even people you don’t know!) are buying something you don’t have.

This anxiety can significantly influence how people spend their money, serving as motivation to spend funds that they can’t really afford. Some points to consider:

•   The reality is that not everyone’s financial situation is the same. Your friends may earn a higher income, have a different debt situation, and manage lesser expenses than you do.

•   If you find yourself feeling peer pressure to spend in ways that aren’t healthy for your budget, it may make sense to come up with alternative, less expensive activities to do together.

   For instance, instead of going out to an expensive new restaurant with a friend, you could cook together. And just because everyone else may seem to be spending their summer vacation at a far-flung destination doesn’t mean you can’t have a great getaway at a nearby cabin on a lake or travel somewhere exotic during the off-season.

•   If you’re more tempted to buy when you use your credit or debit card, it may be wise to bring a set amount of cash instead when going to spending-trigger locations. If you love to shop, shop, “window-shop” online to your heart’s content, and then maybe consider visiting a brick-and-mortar store when it’s time to make a purchase. This can help ensure that the item lives up to your expectations.

Each of these strategies is a way of practicing delayed gratification — and there are plenty of benefits to engaging in this healthy behavior (besides from possibly fattening your wallet).

Recommended: Why Do We Feel Guilty Spending Money?

Benefits of Delayed Gratification

Delayed gratification, according to studies, is often a trait found in successful people. When someone can delay satisfaction until the appropriate time, they are more likely to thrive financially, as well as in their relationships, careers, and health than those who haven’t yet mastered the skill.

It isn’t always easy to wait when doing something might make you feel good right now, but waiting can lead to bigger rewards in the future. As this becomes a practice, it can help to boost your overall self-control and achieve long-term goals.

One of the more well-known studies on delayed gratification involves, of all things, marshmallows. This study was conducted at Stanford University in the 1960s, and went like this:

•   Participating children were taken into a room where they each found one marshmallow on their plates.

•   The children could choose to eat their marshmallow now, or wait 15 minutes and then get a second one.

The children who chose to wait, the researchers discovered, had higher standardized test scores. They also were found to have fewer behavioral issues and health problems.

You might use this study to think about your own ability to wait for greater rewards. Focusing on finances, you might consider times when a quick impulse purchase didn’t turn out to be the best move, as well as times when saving for something better was ultimately more rewarding. These moves can help you cut back on spending.

Recommended: How to Achieve Financial Discipline

Tracking Your Spending and Saving

The above strategies all have one thing in common. They involve tracking your spending and saving so that you can make choices that fit your budget, lifestyle, goals, and dreams.

As part of that process, it may make sense to identify where you’re overspending. The reality is that it’s gotten super easy to spend — and, therefore, overspend — in today’s frictionless financial world.

You may find that you’re spending literally hundreds of dollars a month in ways you didn’t realize, whether that’s by picking up a quick coffee at the drive-thru window, a subscription you rarely use, or something else entirely.

When you know where your money is going, down to the last penny, it can help you adjust your budget in a way that prioritizes your financial needs and money goals. That could involve paying down debt, saving up for a vacation next summer, or banking some cash for the down payment on a house in the future.

4 Other Tips and Strategies to Save Money

Here are some additional savings strategies to consider:

Pay Yourself First

Want to pay yourself first? You can do this by having money automatically deducted from your paycheck and transferred into your savings account. By automating your savings, you can make sure that you don’t spend money that can be helping to fund your future dreams.

Try Out Different Budget Methods

It can take a little trial and error to find a budget that works for you and your unique situation. Some people like the 50/30/20 rule, others use the envelope system, and there are many other options. Do a little online searching and experimenting to find one that works for you.

Use an App

Technology can help you track your spending and save more. Your financial institution may have tools that make this a snap. Or you might decide to take advantage of a roundup app that puts a little money into savings with every purchase you make. Again, an online search can reveal alternatives, or see what your bank offers.

Start a Side Hustle

Another way to save more is to earn more. Starting a low-cost side hustle can be one way to do just that. Whether that means walking dogs, selling your nature photos, or providing social media services for local businesses, there could be a simple and satisfying way to tap your talents and bring in more cash.

Opening a Savings Account with SoFi

With a SoFi Checking and Savings Account, you can spend and save in one convenient place while earning a competitive annual percentage yield (APY) and paying no account fees. You can track your weekly spending within the dashboard in the SoFi app. Tracking your spending can help you stay on target with your financial goals. If you’ve got multiple goals, then you can use our Vaults feature to save towards each of them.

Check out SoFi Checking and Savings to track your spending and saving.


What is the 30 day rule for saving money?

With the 30 day rule, you wait 30 days before making a major purchase to be sure you really want or need it. This technique of waiting can help you delay gratification, feel more in control of your finances, and potentially avoid overspending on impulse buys.

Does the 30 days rule work?

The 30 day rule can work if you stick with it. By waiting 30 days before making a major purchase, you have time to consider whether you really need it, shop around for the best price, or decide that it was an impulse buy and you don’t really want it anymore.

What is the golden rule of saving money?

The golden rule of saving money is to save money before you spend. Some people refer to this as “paying yourself first.” By prioritizing saving, you can potentially minimize debt and reach your financial goals.

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