Some folks are way too susceptible to those exhortations that spending is your patriotic duty. It's all well and good if people who are not in debt and are on schedule to meet their savings goals decide to spend a bit extra to help the economy along, but your first duty is to your own financial security.
If you have credit card debt, it's never the right time to add to it. Ditto if you don't have an emergency cash cushion to break your fall if an emergency comes up.
But how easy is it for you to cut back when you need to? Could you be a compulsive spender? Take our quiz and find out.
1. Do you frequently exceed your spending limit when you shop?
Not often, I usually set a limit and stick to it = 0 points
Yes = 5 points
What spending limit? = 10 points
2. Do you suspect you're under a post-hypnotic suggestion that causes you to read "on sale" as "must buy"?
No, I only buy items on sale if I really need them = 0 points
Well, maybe = 5 points
Yes, Master = 10 points
3. You've had a really bad day. How do you unwind?
An hour in a hot tub = 0 points
An hour in a cool mall = 5 points
Eat a Sacher torte = 10 points (Oops, wrong quiz)
4. Do you own more than five pairs of dress shoes?
No = Fine yourself $5 for lying
Yes, but three are more than five years old = 0 points
Yes, but some were gifts = 5 points
Yes, but I need them to match all my different outfits = 25 points
5. Have your friends ever suggested that your buying habits might be out of control?
No, my friends think I'm too cheap = 0 points
No, but then they all spend too much = 5 points
They aren't my friends anymore = 10 points
Score: Surprise! The points don't really matter. Our little test was simply meant to get you to think a bit about what compulsive spending means (and to practice your off-the-cuff addition). We've all bought things on impulse; the question is, can you control those impulses?
For millions of folks, compulsive spending is no joke. It's a clear and present danger to their financial future. You know better than we do what your weaknesses are. The only real question is: Do you think you may have a problem controlling your impulsive spending? Look deep inside and answer honestly. OK, now you know.
If the answer was "yes" or "maybe," help is on the way. We'll help you fight the urge to splurge with the following list of helpful tips.
- Stall. If you feel the urge to buy something not on your list, go home and think about it for a week.
- Substitute. Compulsive buying often develops when shopping becomes a recreational activity. Find a different way to spend your time.
- Stay home. Stay away from stores that trigger compulsive purchases, and don't shop with friends who encourage your bad habits. Or simply don't shop. Hmmm, that has a few potential problems -- for example, starving to death or showing up at work naked one day. Keep reading for some suggestions on how to deal with temptation when shopping is inevitable.
- Make a list. Buy only what is on the list. No exceptions. If you think you just have to have something, add it to next week's list. Then review that decision next week.
- Avoid malls. Shop where you can drive right to the store, so you won't be tempted to wander into other shops.
- Rotate. If you have a lot of something (clothes, for example), try putting some away for a while -- completely out of sight. When you think you need something new, raid your stash.
- Credit cards. Don't use them!
- The buddy system. Enlist the help of a trusted friend to hold you to your budget.
- Get a hobby. Find alternative ways to spend your time. Develop a hobby that can lead to income. Say you decide to start carving duck decoys. You'll make money twice: the $2 an hour you earn and the $20 an hour you didn't spend at the mall.
- Value simplicity. Find the beauty in a blank wall, an uncluttered shelf, a sparsely furnished home.
- Think lazy. Keep firmly in mind that almost everything you buy will need to be put away, dusted or washed, moved around, or dealt with in some way that involves work. When looked at it like that, most work-saving appliances don't, most home decorations detract, and ... just how many shoe racks did you really want to install? Buy things that make your life easier, not more complicated. And remember that in most cases, not buying anything is often the simplest solution.
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