How to curb impulsive spending

Use the 24-hour rule. One family we know told us about their "24-hour rule." If they see something at the store that they want to buy, they don't buy it. They go home and think about it for 24 hours. After they have thought about it and weighed the pros and cons, if they still feel that they want to buy the item, they return and make the purchase. I have also adopted this rule. I have been surprised at how many times I have changed my mind after thinking about it.

Learn to distinguish between wants and needs. Often the things we want to buy on impulse at the store are things that we "want" and not things that we "need."- Have a budget and stick to it. Elder Marvin J. Ashton said, "Learn to manage money before it manages you." If we already have a plan then we will be less tempted to buy something that is not in the budget.

Use credit cards wisely. Impulse spending is often done by credit cards because we don't have the money to buy the item at the time. Credit cards should be used with great care.

If we use wisdom in our spending, our Heavenly Father will bless us and help us to use our resources wisely. - Mary S. Alder, West Jordan, Utah

What we did:

Financial quicksand

Mass mailing advertising flatters our credit worthiness and sells us on our ability to defer payments. Often there is no cash reserve to afford current expenditures, but it is commonplace to rationalize, as part of the "American dream," that over time we can afford something with installment payments even though at a much greater cost.

Once interest charges appear on credit card billing statements and start to compound, a red flag is raised that one form of self-mastery and control has been lost. One finds his or herself sinking in financial quicksand where the ability to recover worsens and despair only grows. Avoid the lures of falling into this cycle and manage the use of credit. - Mark B. Whiting, Lake Villa, Ill.


One of our most important goals is to be self-reliant. In order to achieve this goal, we pay tithing first, savings next and then budget the balance of our income.

To balance our budget we plan ahead before purchasing. Planning ahead how we will spend the budgeted amount helps us curb impulsive spending. Also, we find shopping for planned purchases - rather than shopping without a list or plan - discourages impulsive spending. - Edith Tolley, Florence, Mont.

Formulate budget

Examine yourself.

Identify your goals, ideals and utmost values.

Make note of your assets.

Itemize your needs, according to priority.

Recognize your susceptibility, the moods associated with your spending impulse, and the reasons for your own behavior.

Focus on your weakness. Heed 2 Ne. 9:51.

Formulate and execute an on-going budget, allowing limited amounts for discreet personal expenditures. Make special note of all impulsive spending, both the wise and the unwise, and the savings accrued.

Communicate with those most affected by your buying decisions.

Incline yourself habitually not to wander into temptation, but to conserve your monetary and tangible assets. - Name withheld, Salt Lake City, Utah

Lack of self-esteem

My compulsive shopping was the result of a lack of self-esteem. I didn't think I was worthy unless I had new clothes to wear. The adorned outer self was compensation for my negative view of my inner self. I attempted to make myself acceptable to the world. I spent thousands of dollars on expensive clothing, but my inner self was unadorned.

Now, before I buy, I ask, "Do I need this?" Sometimes I give myself a few days to think about it. It has taken me two years of thought and preparation, but now I value my peace of mind more than anything. I clothe my spirit with the light of Christ's love. Every day I arise with a brand new hope, brand new faith and a shiny new me. - Sharon Avant, Buffalo, N.Y.

Need may disappear

You've heard the adage, "Don't go to the grocery store when you're hungry." Well, don't go window shopping when you have a pocketful of money and the urge to spend. If there is something you feel you need, sometimes the need quietly disappears or one day you will find it on sale - or donated to Deseret Industries by someone else who went window shopping. - Carolyn Grey Kohntopp, Las Vegas, Nev.

Buyer sales

As an employee of a major chewing gum company, I came to appreciate the importance of impulse buyer sales. The marketing techniques centered around how to be most visible at the checkout stand. Here are a few strategies that go against the best marketing:

Look at the prices. They may be higher than you think and knowing the price will often kill an impulse.

Make purchases at an inner-store register, such as the camera department, the sporting goods counter, etc. These registers never have the impulse traps found at the front of the store.

Do something to occupy your mind if you have to wait at the checkout stand, like plan how to pay off your unpaid bills. Take only enough cash to pay for what you have on your list. Impulse buying can "nickle and dime" you into the poor house. - Quinn R. Kellis, Glendale, Ariz.

Know limits

Keep a running balance in your checkbook. Small amounts add up very quickly. Sometimes facing the bottom line can be frightening, but knowing what your financial limits are can also be liberating. - Cheryl Acton, Layton, Utah

Sleep on offer

As a result of having been "sold" a set of cookware early in our marriage, my wife and I made a rule that we would not make any major purchase, specifically if it involved signing a contract, on the first day we heard about the sale. So often, sales people use ploys such as, "You must sign today to get this very special price or the extra bonus items." We determined that if it were a good deal today, it would still be a good deal tomorrow, and if the vendor was reputable, he would be just as willing to do business with us after we had "slept on the offer." - Gerald Blackburn, Costa Mesa, Calif.

How to checklist:

1 Set, live by budget; distinguish between wants, needs.

2 Take time to think before purchasing; resist sales ploys.

3 Be wise in buying on credit; know financial limits.

4 Realize your worth is not dependent on possessions.


June 15 "How to help your spouse adjust to retirement."

June 22 "How to teach children respect for the Sabbath day."

June 29 "How to adjust to life-altering changes."

July 6 "How to develop meaningful family traditions."

July 13 "How to help children cope with the death of a loved one."

July 20 "How to ensure you are not worshipping 20th century false gods."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2121 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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