Food & Culture

This Simple Money Trick Could Help You Stop Overspending

You know that feeling as soon as you walk through the doors of your favorite store? You hear that little voice in your head all-out screaming, "I NEED ALL OF THIS!" Even though you definitely know that no, you do not need any of these tempting little tchotchkes catching your eye, you also know that you're bound to walk out with a few. Soon enough, the buyer's remorse sets in. But it doesn't have to be this way.

An Urge to Splurge

Western consumers sure do love to consume. Even though we have ample possessions, it's just so tempting to buy all the other cool new stuff so attractively displayed in store windows or in banner ads that follow you around the internet. Because of all the urges, many of us end up spending way more money than we'd like to — and that really adds up. According to a 2018 survey from Slickdeals, Americans spend an average of $450 every month on impulse buys. Do a little math, and that adds up to $5,400 annually or $324,000 over the course of a lifetime. That's a lot of chocolate bars thrown onto the grocery store conveyor belt last-minute.

Resisting temptation is hard, but far from impossible. Thanks to Rice University researchers, there's a simple little mind game you can use to prevent unnecessary overspending on impulse buys. Their May 2018 study gives purchase-hungry consumers one sound piece of advice: Think of all the stuff you already have.

The Price Is Wrong

In the Rice University study, just thinking about the possessions that the study participants already own reduced their willingness to purchase new items by about 14 percent compared to a control group. Lead author Utpal Dholakia, a professor of marketing at Rice, likened this exercise to "mentally shopping the closet." For this effect to work, it's best to think about recently used functional possessions, like blow dryers, food processors, clothes steamers, etc. "You think of what you already have, and it kind of calms you down. It calms that impulsive shopping urge," Dholakia tells Moneyish. "After people reflect on functional possessions, they are less tempted. They are less interested in pulling the trigger on buying something new."

Participants in the study were shown a pretty nice spread of five items: a sweater, a stainless-steel watch, a chair, a box of Godiva chocolates, and a coffee maker. The researchers then asked the participants to estimate the product's actual price and say how willing they were to pay for it. When the participants took a moment to reflect on their recently used possessions, they were less likely to pay for the basket of items than the participants in the control group. Before you get wooed by that super cool and slightly random thing you probably don't need, just take two seconds to think about the junk filling your home. The urge to splurge will die down soon enough.

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Feeling to urge to learn more? Check out the best-selling book "Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping" by retail guru Paco Underhill. The audiobook is free with a trial of Audible. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Joanie Faletto June 15, 2018

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