Have you ever purchased something you really didn’t intend on buying and then later on, couldn’t figure out why you did it? Maybe you were shopping with friends and decided on a whim to make an expensive purchase, or maybe you were out for dinner with some friends and instead of sticking to your budget, went with the flow and ordered more expensively than you could really afford. If any of these situations sound familiar, you’ve experienced what’s called impulse or mindless spending.
You’re not alone! Luckily, there’s a simple fix and it’s called being mindful with your spending.
Mindfulness has become a popular buzzword these days, one you might normally hear associated with yoga or mental health, but mindfulness is actually much more than a passing fad, as anyone who practices it can tell you. It is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
Mindfulness is incredibly powerful and something you can use to improve your spending habits.
If you think back to a time when you spent impulsively, you probably weren’t really present in the moment, you weren’t fully aware, and you may have been overwhelmed by social pressure. This situation most likely led to spending you didn’t plan for, and most likely, not something you could afford.
This is a problem because it upsets your financial goals, but there’s a bigger issue because this type of spending can easily form into a habit. You do it once and it’s easier to do again.
Let’s take a minute and define a habit. A habit is a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that’s hard to give up. The key phrase here is hard to give up…not impossible! A simple rewiring of your thinking can break bad habits, and according to various scientific studies, it can be done in 21-66 days. All you need is a plan, which is exactly what I’m going to share with you.
Mindfulness is really about being present. And being present is being aware of what is happening around you and what you are doing. To achieve this awareness while you are in a vulnerable situation, like going out to dinner or shopping with friends, ask yourself these 3 simple questions:
- Will the money I spend bring lasting joy or serve a purpose in my life?
- Can I afford to spend this money without negatively impacting my budget?
- What would be an alternative to making this purchase?
Just the act of pausing to ask these questions will bring your awareness to the present and enable you to more objectively decide whether or not to make the purchase. These questions also serve the purpose of removing the emotional aspect of spending by asking you to look at the purchase from an objective perspective.
If after asking (and honestly answering) these questions, you decide yes, this purchase is worthwhile and affordable, then embrace it. You’re about to make a mindful purchase—enjoy it! No need to feel guilty about it later.
If you do happen to make an impulse or mindless purchase, remember you are human, forgive yourself, and realize all is not lost. If you can, return the purchase, but if not, enjoy it! Use it and make the most of it, or donate it to a charitable organization. If you spent on an unplanned dinner out, recall the best moments of the night and warmly remember good times with friends and family.
The point here is this is a process and it takes time to change habits. Get back up on your mindfulness horse and carry on.
It may take only a few weeks to learn to be more present in spending situations or it may take a few months. Stay focused and committed to this process and you’ll soon find your bad habits are gone and you thoughtfully and mindfully consider your purchases.