Back in the days before one-click shopping, author and frugality expert Tracey McBride curbed her spending in two ways: She avoided the mall and tossed out every catalog that came in the mail. Looking at things she wasn't supposed to buy gave her a bad case of the "I wants," and made sticking to a budget tough.
"I keep a timer at my desk and set it for five, 10 or 15 minutes, depending on the site and my schedule, and then try to move on once the timer dings," said McBride, who blogs at Frugal Luxuries. "I can't tell you how often it rings me out of my 'I wants' trance!"
Laura Gage, a reader on my Facebook fan page, swears off shopping altogether unless she's after a specific item.
Just as it's tough to stick to a diet when you're face to face with your favorite dessert, it can be hard to keep to a budget if you're constantly exposing yourself to buying "opportunities."
"I'm terrible at this," confessed Brandylyn Swafford, another reader. "I see 'the deal' and tell myself it may not be there if I wait. Then I will be paying double for it. However, I find that I am then not sure if I bought it because I wanted it or because it was 'a deal.'"
Of course, we can't insulate ourselves completely. Even if we commit to a period of no-spending, like my "buy nothing" month, eventually we have to shop.
So here are some ideas on how to resist temptation when you're trying to save money:
Ask yourself what it will really costSome people think about what else they could buy with the money.
"I put it into a little better perspective. That $100 dress that I will probably only wear once could buy 4 BIG canisters of baby formula or 5 jumbo mega boxes of diapers for my baby," wrote Alexandra Pollick. "That's A LOT of diapers for one dress!"
Others focus on their goals, and whether the purchase gets them closer or -- more likely -- delays the day they'll get what they really want.
"I have a peaceful, relaxing image of me in early retirement," wrote Jenny Dillman Wilson. "It's appealing enough to make me want to transfer my extra money to savings and investments rather than throw it away on stuff I don't need."
Richard Ivey thinks about the time he spent earning the money.
"I always think of my worst hour ever at work," he wrote. "Say you make $20 an hour and something cost $60. You ask yourself: 'Is that worth three of the worst hours I ever had at work?'"
Think it all the way throughVisualization is an important tool for athletes and other performers. It works for shoppers trying to reform, as well.
Sherrill St. Germain tries to visualize "paying actual cash money for whatever it is."
"What would that stack of bills look like? Could I actually hand it over to a cashier in exchange for the item?" St. Germain wrote. "Usually, this image is arresting enough to clarify whether it's worth it."
"I use the '10 year' rule," wrote Dave Waldschmidt. "I ask myself how will I feel 10 years from now? Will I be glad I spent the money to create a 'priceless memory' . . . or would I rather have the money? The money, by the way, if invested would most likely have doubled in that amount of time."
Nancy Marion Cole cuts to the chase. "I picture what an item will look like at a flea market or in a yard sale in a year or two. Guess I really didn't need that 'want' after all!"