How To Stop Spending on Things You Don't Need - Or Maybe Even WANT!

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How to stop spending on things you don't need or maybe even want! Blog header text

In 2012, I sold my house, my business, and two-thirds of my stuff and moved across the country to start a brand-new career.  My daughter called it “The Purge of 2012.”


What I discovered purging two-thirds of my stuff is that after my divorce I bought a LOT of stuff that I didn’t really need.  


Like, A LOT.  


What’s worse, much of it I didn’t even like or really even want.


So, why did I buy it?


Honestly? To make myself feel better.  😕😕😕


A great deal of the stuff I got rid of was stuff I bought in the three to five years after I got divorced.  The breakup of a marriage sucks and part of recovery is figuring out who the non-married you is.  So, I bought new clothes, a new house, new furniture, and other bits and bobs that go into decorating a new house.  All in the name of “finding the new me”.  

But, let’s face it, a lot of it I bought because buying something new gave me a little dopamine hit that made me feel a little better while I was going through the process of getting over my marriage.  

It was only years later, as I was going through the closets and storage boxes in the basement, that I realized what I had done and why I had done it.


What Causes Overspending and Impulse Buying?

Now, let’s be real, who doesn’t occasionally need a little “retail therapy” pick-me-up, amiright?  The problem is when you’re spending your hard-earned money on things you don’t really need - or maybe even WANT - and subsequently blowing your budget!

Spending on things you don’t need is a first cousin to overspending. Totally related, but not exactly the same thing.

Spending money on things you don’t need and maybe don’t even want, i.e. impulse buying is usually tied to an emotion.  For example, you had a good day, so you want to reward yourself.  Or, you had a bad day so you want to console yourself.

Impulse buying isn’t only caused by a bad day or a good day, it can also be caused by simple decision fatigue.  Your brain literally makes thousands of decisions all day, every day.  This means, by the time the end of the day, or even the end of the week rolls around, girlfriend, you are TIRED.  

Tired brains make the easiest decision possible to get to the next decision.  This is why the fresh and perky 8 AM you absolutely intended to make dinner tonight, but the 7 PM exhausted you just wants food as quickly and easily as possible.  (Hello Chipotle for the 4th time this week!)

Here’s the thing, the occasional impulse buy because you need a quick pick-me-up is completely normal and happens to all of us.  


The important part is what you do after it happens…


What to do after an Impulse Buy

So, like I said, I have definitely gone through seasons of my life where I did some major impulse buying.  And, occasionally, I still have those days when I just want to go to the mall and buy something!  Because buying new stuff is fun and, yeah, it still makes me feel better in the moment.


But, I also want to build a financially stable life and do things like save money and go on a vacation without putting it on a credit card.  


So, I came up with what I call my “Money Rules”.  (You can read more about them HERE.)


Money Rules are the rules I live my life by so that I have a JoyFULL life while I simultaneously work towards long-term financial security.  These rules help me stay the course and also help me course-correct when I need to. 🚢 🚢 🚢


Your money rules will be different than my money rules, and that’s ok!  Your rules also might change and evolve as you go through life.  Mine certainly have.  


Here are a few of mine to hopefully inspire you:

  • If it’s still in the bag a week later, I take it back
  • If it doesn’t make it out of the car in a week, I take it back
  • I’m allowed to buy all the books
  • I’m allowed to buy all the tea
  • I’m allowed to eat out once a week (and I plan for it!)


Want to know more about my Money Rules and how you can build your own?  Check out my “What are your Money Rules?” Blog HERE!


How to Stop Spending on Things You Don’t Need

The first and best way to stop spending on things you don’t need is to recognize it when it happens.  Just like taking the cookies out of the shopping cart so they don’t go home is the first step to meeting your weight loss goals (That’s not just me, right?).  Or, when we stop ourselves mid credit card swipe, we stop the expense before it ever happens.  


The second step to stop spending on things you don’t need or want is to create an intentional spending plan.  


Intentional saving and spending are key components to creating a budget that works for you, your lifestyle, and the lifestyle you want to build for yourself in the future.  


Recognize your triggers and then have a plan.  Have some coping mechanisms.


  • Phone a friend
  • Go for a walk
  • Journal out your feelings
  • Put it in the cart and then go do something else (this really works!)
  • Buy a magazine and a cup of your favorite beverage and take a breath and some “me” time


Learn to enjoy watching your savings accounts grow!  Check it each week during your Sunday Money Date and make sure you give yourself a pat on the back for working toward your financial goals.   Revel in how it makes you feel to watch your savings grow.  I know, it sounds crazy, but it really works!  

Take it a step further and journal your feelings about watching your savings grow.  Are you surprised it’s working?  What initial thoughts come to mind?  Are they positive or negative? Why?

Journal how positive you feel watching your savings grow.  Then, mark the page in your journal so you can go back and read it when you’re feeling bad about your financial journey or frustrated with your progress.  You can do this!

Radical Idea: A “Because It Pleases Me” account

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I’m all about making a plan AND making life easy for Future Me.  


One of the many ways I try to make life easier for Future Me is with my “Because it Pleases Me” savings account.  


You might also see this kind of account called an “Emotional Spending Budget”.  Personally, I don’t like that name.  For me, it brings up a lot of feelings of shame and all the “shoudn’ts” I can feel around money.  I much prefer calling it the “Because it Pleases Me” account!

I actually got this idea from my friend Barb.  Barb is a master at finding amazing, interesting, and wonderful things at her local flea market.  If someone questions why she purchased some weird and wonderful thing, she merely smiles and says “Because it pleases me.”



And that, my friend, is all the permission she needs!  The thing pleases her.  It makes her happy.  And that’s all anyone needs to know.

For me, this translates into a savings account I can dip into when I do a little “retail therapy” impulse buying.  I still adhere to my Money Rules, but I also have a little bit of money set aside so I don’t completely blow my budget. 


Impulse Buying vs Compulsive Buying

One last thing.  As I said, the occasional retail therapy occurrence happens to all of us, but, when someone is routinely overspending to the point that they can’t pay their bills and rack up enormous debt there’s clearly a bigger problem. 

If you feel like compulsive buying is causing you to sabotage your life, help is available!  Programs like Shopaholics Anonymous and Debtors Anonymous are available to help you get control back in your life.  You can do this. I believe in you.   :-) 


Want to know MORE about how to manage your budget in your bill calendar?

Check out my class on Skillshare!  Skillshare is a learning platform where you can learn everything from watercolor painting to How to Build Your Budget in Your Bill Calendar!  

Use this link to get a FREE 30 days to check out my class and lots of others:




If You Liked This Blog, You Might Like These:

How to Use the Budget by Paycheck Method

Look Over My Shoulder: My Sunday Money Date Explained!

How to Save an Emergency Fund!

**I am not a licensed financial advisor.  I am a money expert and I offer education, tips, tricks and my opinions around money.  You should consult a professional who understands your needs in order to make the best decisions for you!  Additionally, some links in this blog may be affiliate links, which means if you click the link and buy the product I may earn a small commission - at NO COST to You! It’s one of the ways I keep the lights on around here so TYIA! 😉


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