Have you ever heard the phrase “death by a thousand small purchases”? Well, I’m living that life—and it turns out a lot of us are these days. It refers to the financial state in which we tend to make smart, responsible decisions when it comes to larger-ticket items but find ourselves squandering savings on the little things—a lot of them. A glass of wine here, a new pair of shoes there—these under-$50 purchases feel easy and low-stress in the moment but add them up over time. And oof—they can hit hard.
So what’s the best way to ensure you don’t waste your money on things you either do not really need or soon will no longer want? How do we take a step back and save up for the truly special things we want but never seem to be able to buy because, hello, impulse shopping?
It’s simple, really. And I’ve been working this practice into my own personal spending habits for some time, with increasing success (and the occasional failure of strength, too, of course).
The next time you want something in that gotta-have-it-now sort of way, force yourself to take a beat. Step away from your checkout cart, take another lap around the store, and pause to consider it.
If you ultimately decide you can pass for now, take the amount the item costs and put it aside. You can do this by keeping a list, taking that money and adding it to a savings account, or even stowing it in a little hiding place (how old-school!).
Now, challenge yourself to wait a full month. If you cannot be without it, you have that money set aside and can simply dip into it and indulge your now-legitimized craving.
If, instead, at the end of the month you find you do not want the item anymore at all, awesome! You’ve just proved this experiment very useful indeed. Imagine that you do this several times throughout the month, and you will find yourself a pretty sum of savings waiting for you. What this means, of course, is that you can decide to make a more substantial, perhaps better-quality, purchase, or you can transfer that money into a real-deal savings account and start feeling like the responsible adult you certainly are.
It sounds super-straightforward, but the self-control-plus-small-reward dynamic of this practice will have you spending your money in more intentional and conscious ways in no time. And that’s a big step in the right direction.
How do you save money in small ways? Tell us in the comments and then shop our picks to get saving today.