Shopping is part of daily life and often a fun experience (glossy stores, cool new items to try, and a way to fill a rainy afternoon), but it can impact your budget in some not so wonderful ways. That’s where smart purchasing habits come into play.
If you know some clever ways to rein in overspending and snag good deals, you can help ensure that shopping doesn’t blow your budget. In fact, if you learn how to shop smarter, you may be able to avoid excessive credit card debt, save regularly, and reach your financial goals.
Habits like comparison shopping, using coupons and discount codes, and knowing how to hit the pause button can all contribute to improving your buying style. Here, you’ll learn nine effective strategies to try that won’t leave you feeling deprived.
9 Tips for Building Better Buying Habits
Here are nine tips for building better, more mindful purchase habits.
1. Having a Financial Goal in Mind
Motivation is a wonderful tool. To kick off better consumer habits, you may want to think about what your financial aim is and what you want to save money for in the first place.
This could be as small as wanting to save money for the perfect new handbag or to go to a hot new restaurant for an omakase dinner.
Or, it could be something much larger like saving for a vacation, a wedding, a home, or even for retirement somewhere down the line.
Having a financial goal might make it easier for you to sidestep an impulse purchase or spend money on something you don’t actually need.
To double-down on this habit, try writing down any and all financial goals in a notes app, diary, or even on a piece of paper. Then, stick it in your wallet or mobile phone case so it’s with you wherever you go. Tempted to tap or swipe your way to an impulse purchase? Check that note, and think twice.
2. Giving Every Purchase — Big or Small — a Little Time
Sometimes all it takes to reverse a buying decision is to just sit and think about it for a second. Is this new dress really all that great, and will it be worn more than once? Do you truly need a new mobile phone just because a flashy new model was released? Here are some tactics to try to decide whether or not to buy:
• Try the “take a walk” method, which is to literally leave a store, go for a walk, and think about the item a bit more. This way, the initial adrenaline rush and excitement can wear off just a bit so you can clearly consider the purchase with fewer emotions attached.
Then, come back, look at the item again. If it still elicits butterflies, then it could be worth the purchase. If not, that’s great. Confidently walk away.
• Want to take this habit to the next level? Try the 30-day rule. Just as the name implies, those looking to purchase anything nonessential must put the product back on the shelf and step away for a full 30 days. Put a note in your calendar, and if you still want the item after a month, you can then buy it (finances permitting), knowing it will bring them a little more joy.
Here’s one more trick to try when using the 30-day rule. Over the 30 days, try saving little by little to purchase the item. At the end of the month, if you decide that product is no longer needed, that cash could be put right into savings.
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3. Coming Up With a Personal Spending Mantra
If taking a walk isn’t an option, try a different method for forging better consumer habits. It may be time to come up with a personal spending mantra. This could be a saying like “Keep the memory, get rid of the object,” or Marie Kondo’s question, “Does this spark joy?”
You can briefly focus on your mantra before making any purchase. This can help determine if that object really deserves to take up space in your life and in your monthly budget.
4. Learning to be a Comparative Shopper
Shopping around can be another way to improve your purchase habits. You never have to settle for the first price tag you see. Spending wisely can mean finding a better deal, often with just a quick online search.
To become a great comparative shopper, you can start small by investigating prices on everyday purchases like groceries. Try looking up a price comparison for milk between high-end grocery stores versus the neighborhood grocer vs. a discount store. Then, think about monthly expenses like the internet, cable, telephone bills, and even things like gym memberships or subscriptions.
Can you find a better price for any of these items or negotiate the price down? Could you wait for a sale to kick in? Go for it, and save along the way.
5. Falling in Love With Coupons and Discount Codes Again
Another better buying habit to adopt: Take a minute when shopping to find a few coupons to use in physical stores and discount codes to use online.
Here’s how to coupon for beginners: Look online. There are a number of coupon websites such as RetailMeNot, Coupons.com, and The Krazy Coupon Lady that can help shoppers hunt down a few discounts when they need them.
There are also services like Honey, which is an extension you can add to your dashboard that will automatically scour the web for discount codes and plug them right in at checkout.
Long story short, don’t settle for the first price.
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6. Maintaining the Things You Already Have
A hole in a sweater, a scratched coffee table, and a tiny crack in a dish can be enough to send some people hunting for an entirely new item to replace the old.
However, rather than tossing something just because it’s a little worn, it’s can be wise to learn how to give things a new life. Or, find an expert who can.
For example, rather than buying all new shoes just because the tread is a little worn down, try bringing them to the local cobbler (aka shoe repair). They may be able to replace the thread for a fraction of the price of new shoes. This same idea goes for big-ticket items too.
Consider keeping a maintenance calendar for things like a car’s oil changes, a home’s roof inspections, and more. That way, things will always stay in tip-top shape for longer, and you may, say, save money on your car or home repair costs.
7. Understanding Shopping Triggers
To create better spending habits, it can be worthwhile to take a bit of time to self-reflect and discover why you like to spend money in the first place.
• Do you suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), spending and buying things because friends, family, or a favorite influencer is sporting it on social media?
• Do you shop when bored, as a way to add excitement to an otherwise dull day?
• Do you tend to shop when you are feeling sad or stressed? Retail therapy is a common way to lift a mood, but it can have an impact on your financial standing.
It can be important to delve into why you shop. That insight can then help you so you avoid triggers that could lead to overspending.
Doing so could also help you rein in habits that make you a compulsive or impulsive shopper.
8. Getting in on the Financial Buddy System
Here’s another tip for improving purchasing behavior. Everything’s better with friends — and that includes developing better spending habits. Here’s an example of the power of pairing up:
• According to one landmark study by researchers at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, people who work out with a friend are more likely to hit the gym more often than those who choose to work out alone.
That lesson can easily be applied to finances too. Find a trusted friend or family member who can offer advice or simply understanding and support as you cultivate better shopping habits.
Make a pact to call one another every time either of you needs a second opinion about making big purchases or when you need someone to talk you out of an impulse buy.
9. Knowing Where Money Is and Where It’s Going
A major part of creating better buying habits is understanding where your money stands and where it’s going. Don’t shy away from making a personal budget. Tracking apps (perhaps provided by your financial institution) can help in this effort too.
Monitoring your checking account will also help you get in touch with your spending habits. Some people find checking in every couple of days a good move.
These moves can reveal patterns that you might be unaware of and also help you see where you might cut back on expenses. That, in turn, can free up some funds so you feel better about splurging when the opportunity arises.
Smart Buying Habits Last a Lifetime
Establishing smart purchasing habits like these can set you up for a lifetime of living frugally but without deprivation. If you learn how to get the best possible deals on a daily basis and rein in overspending, you will likely be in a better position to reach your goals.
That might mean watching your retirement fund grow steadily, avoiding high-interest credit card debt, or knowing you’ll be able to afford the down payment on a house in a few years time.
Once you get in the groove of improving your habitual buying behavior, you may also feel less money stress and a greater sense of financial control.
Watch Out for Lifestyle Creep
Another way to embrace better purchasing habits is to be on the lookout for what is known as lifestyle creep. This happens when, as you earn more, your expenses rise, so building wealth is a challenge.
For example, if you change jobs and get a nice salary bump, you might decide to swap your current car lease for a pricier luxury car. After all, you deserve it, right? And you might book a trip to celebrate your new position as well. Moves like these can quickly eat up your raise and then some.
Celebrating within reason is of course part of life (and a good one, at that). However, doing so extravagantly and on an ongoing basis can wind up preventing you from reaching your financial goals.
Smart Buying Habits Can Help You Save
By focusing on improving your purchasing patterns, you can likely save more money. It can be wise to bank with a financial institution that not only helps your cash grow but also offers tools to help you track your spending and save smarter.
Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.
What are smart buying habits?
Smart shopping habits can include budgeting, comparison shopping, avoiding impulse buys, couponing, and putting a pause on spending.
How do you change your buying habits?
Changing your buying habits can involve recognizing your shopping patterns and triggers (such as impulse buying when bored or trying to keep up with friends) and then adopting new behaviors. This might mean comparison shopping, buddying up with a friend who is also trying to save, and unsubscribing from retailer emails that can lead to overspending.
What are buying habits?
Buying habits refers to the way a person purchases, such as whether they have a budget or usually shop online or in-store. It might also include whether they make a list or tend to make impulse purchases and if they use discounts and coupon codes or not.
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