Impulse purchases are products—food, clothing, entertainment-related items, and the like—that you don’t plan to buy ahead of time but that you go home with anyway. While these small buys might seem harmless, if they’re a regular habit, they can eat up big parts of your budget that otherwise could go toward paying down debts or building up emergency savings. One solution is to declare a 30-day delay on all impulse purchases.
Here are some of the benefits of using a 30-day delay, how you can make it stick, and ways to repurpose the money you save with it.
Understanding the 30-day delay
Picture yourself in a department store looking for new pants to replace a pair you’ve worn out. You find the perfect pair, but then you see a jacket you like and decide, on a whim, to treat yourself to it as well. You may feel great about this until you get home and realize that your purchase was entirely unnecessary. This is where the 30-day delay comes into play.
The key is to recognize the jacket as an impulse, not a need, and to decide right then not to buy it. Instead, leave the store with only your original, intended purchase, and then wait 30 days to revisit the extra item. If, after a month, you still want it, then go ahead and buy it. But the odds are that you will have gotten over your initial desire and no longer see the point in buying it.
How to use a delay
Impulse purchases depend on catching you off guard, often with prominent displays or “can’t miss” sale prices. By walking away and waiting a month to consider buying something, you take the element of surprise out of the equation and give yourself a chance to make the best decision for yourself and your finances.
Often, an impulse purchase may be a product you like but don’t actually need, such as a new pair of headphones or a bottle of soda. Some, like snacks, are easy to forget, but others may linger in your mind even a month later. You may want to use the 30 days while you’re thinking about whether to make that purchase to read customer reviews or find a discount code to save more money.
To give yourself the best chance of success, limit the 30-day delay technique to impulse purchases only. Waiting to pay your mortgage or loan payments, or even putting off a necessary winter coat purchase in December, is not wise. Just remember, impulses are damaging because they are not planned. If you want to treat yourself to a nice dinner or small gift, then do so—but prep your finances for it first. If you can make this delay a habit, you may find yourself having more money in your bank account on a regular basis.
Make the most of your savings
To truly benefit from the 30-day delay technique, you’ll need to make use of the extra money you’ll accrue from avoiding impulse purchases. That money may not do much good if it just sits in your account. Consider that if you have student loans, a car loan, a mortgage, or other debts, you may want to put the money you’ve saved toward that instead. If you are debt-free, you can put the money into an emergency fund or retirement savings.
Once you’ve been able to stick with this technique for several months, check your credit report to see what effect your new habit might be having on your credit. If, as a result of following this delay, you owe less in loans and carry a lower balance on your credit cards, you might have a lower credit utilization ratio (the amount of credit you use compared to the total amount available to you), which can impact your overall credit score.
Keep this strategy in mind the next time you go to the store and see whether employing a 30-day delay can help you cut down on unnecessary impulse purchases.
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