Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a men’s conference where I heard one of the most profound analogies given by the keynote speaker. Dr. Tony Evans, a renowned author and pastor, gave an illustration of how easy it can be to allow something small to control our time. His example centered on the game of football, but the lessons can easily be applied to the world of finance.
Dr. Evans shared that in a one hour game of professional football, there are only 17 minutes of actual physical contact. He then pointed out that the one hour game is a part of a three-hour experience when you factor in pre-game activities, half-time, and time-outs. If you drive to the game, it could be a five to six hour experience with traffic and parking. And of course many sports fans immediately come home after the game and turn on Sportscenter. In other words, a person will let 17 minutes of physical contact control an entire day.
What a great illustration of how something so small can control so much of our time! The same can be said of how most of us handle our finances. The fact is that we have all allowed a few moments of desire or the urge to splurge to control the way we manage and spend our money and consequently, our entire financial well-being. In reality, most people are wearing or driving their savings account or retirement funds as a result of impulsive spending.
The fact is that we have all allowed a few moments of desire to control the way we manage and spend our money and consequently, our entire financial well-being.
The following are tips to put you back in the driver’s seat of your finances and in control your impulsive spending:
Create a list and plan for the purchase. Don’t make a purchase of any impulse item that is not on your list and only allow for one item at a time to be on the list. If not, after a while you will see your list grow and you will always want more than your budget will allow. Even if you can afford the purchases, self-control is the critical issue. No matter how much money a person has, without control of their spending, that money will simply not last. A quick Google search of “millionaires gone bankrupt” should be enough to prove this fact.
Wait before you buy. If it’s not in your budget, wait at least 30 days. That emotion of excitement can drown your rational thinking. Give yourself an opportunity to calm down and think about your budget and your goals that you’re saving for. Most likely, that impulse will pass or you will find something else that you “have to have” and the 30 days will have to start again.
Leave the credit card at home. Research continues to show that people spend more money using credit cards than cash. And most impulse purchases are made on credit cards. Not only do you feed the impulse to spend, but you create unnecessary debt as well. Perhaps because it’s easier to part with money you can’t see leave your wallet. So take cash with you!
Reduce the Temptation. Opt out of the promotional emails from department stores. Stay out of stores and off store websites. Watch the people, places, and things that make you spend.
Get some accountability. Having someone that you respect and have a great relationship with to talk through big or impulsive purchases can help tremendously. You need an objective, non-emotional opinion.
No matter how much money a person has, without control of their spending, that money will simply not last.
We all have weaknesses. But if not controlled, we risk allowing those few minutes of impulsive spending to control several years of our lives, digging out of a financial hole, or playing catch-up to where we should be.
If you have found creative ways in your own finances to curb your impulsive spending, feel free to share in the comments below.