Are your spending habits out of control? You’re not alone. We are constantly tempted to spend money and splurge on things we don’t need.
Clever marketing tactics, FOMO, the YOLO economy, and the desire for more have become a common part of daily life. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. If you care enough about yourself and your future, you can learn how to control the urge to splurge. By the end of this post you’ll be on your way to saving more money!
The Temptation To Splurge
I went shopping one weekend in 2009 to buy myself a new pair of comfortable brown leather loafers for work. I’d worn my $60 Timberland loafers from Shoe Pavilion (discount store) for two years. Sadly, they were starting to get holes.
I have to say, when it comes time to shop for work attire, I’m just so uninterested. Back when I was working a traditional office job, shopping for work clothes was a “work expense” I resented.
Dressing reasonably professionally was a necessity at my job. Thus, I felt annoyed that I couldn’t spend my money on what I wanted.
Ever since I left my grueling day job, retired early, and blog for fun I get to wear what I want every day. My ideal outfit, which I get to enjoy now, is a t-shirt, a well worn pair of jeans and flip flops.
But back in 2009 I still had to abide by a dress code. That weekend I went shoe shopping, I decided I wasn’t going to buy the same old boring shoes anymore. I was on a shoe revolt!
The “I Can Return It Later” Splurge Excuse
Instead of going to DSW Shoe Company or Ross Dress For Less, I went to Barney’s New York to buy a $435 pair of Tod’s loafers! I’d been eyeing that shoe for more than two years, and just couldn’t find my size when it went on sale for “only” $250 last Christmas.
It’s a good looking shoe, with beautiful leather and a nice rubber sole. However, there’s no way in heck it’s worth $435, or 5X what I’d normally pay for shoes.
That said, I bought it anyway, because I wanted to enjoy the shoe, at least temporarily before I’d see the charge come up on my credit card bill online.
On that day I’d really spent $0 dollars, b/c credit cards are wonderful tools to temporarily borrow something without any cash outlay. But of course, that’s a dangerous mentality. Where people seem to get in trouble is when they actually keep the item, go figure.
Barney’s has a standard 30-day return policy. I thought I could control the urge to splurge. I wanted to wear the shoes in the house and marvel at them for a couple weeks. And then wake up, smack myself and realize that $435 is just an absolutely ridiculous sum of money to spend on loafers and return them.
I was just being lazy, and did not search cheaper stores for equally attractive shoes. In the meantime, I wanted to enjoy those loafers to my heart’s content. If I could control the urge to splurge by just temporarily buying them and then return them within 30 days, why not?
Avoid The Temptation To Splurge If You Can’t Afford It
Well, in the end, I did not return those expensive loafers! They were so darn comfortable. Fortunately, I had the financial means to pay them off in full when my credit card came due. I got fantastic mileage out of them and they held up extremely well. But I ultimately failed to the control the urge to splurge.
If I had taken the time to search for a similar looking pair of shoes at a discount store, I’m sure I would have been just as happy. Perhaps even more happy since I would have saved 5X as much money.
It’s obviously best to avoid the temptation to splurge if you want to save money. And especially so if you can’t afford it. Even though you might have every intention of returning an expensive item before the return policy, you may fail to do so.
If you control the urge to splurge, you can invest more. Perhaps one day, your investments might generate enough passive income to cover your living expenses. That would be huge!
Or, if you can’t wait that long, then having more investments is always great during a bull market. We’ve been in a bull market from 2009 – 2021 so far. For some long-term investors, their investment returns have started to consistently surpass their day job income. As a result, they can now splurge a lot more!
How To Control The Urge To Splurge
My system of resisting the urge to splurge is quite simple.
1) Recognize Splurge Euphoria Is Brief
Splurge on things if you really want it, but make sure there is a return policy and that you understand the terms! The initial point of purchase is generally the highest point of euphoria, especially when not paying cash.
The euphoria of a splurge tends to fade over time, and the dread mounts when the bill comes due. If there was a return policy on cars, I’d be all over it! But, as my wife always says when I’m about to buy a new car, “There’s no return policy!”
2) Never Miss A Return Policy Deadline
If you are very disciplined, you can try to temporarily enjoy a splurge and return it. Enjoy the item for the life of the return policy minus 1 day. You need to enjoy the good for as long as possible to rid yourself of the desire for that good.
But you better return it one day before it’s due at the latest, b/c you may forget, or the store may try and manipulate you into not being able to return the good. However, the safest way to control the urge to splurge is not to buy it in the first place, period.
3) Calculate The Pre-Tax Cost Of A Splurge Before You Pay For It
This is one of my favorite tips to control the urge to splurge. Take the cost of the item and multiply it by 130% to get the approximate pre-tax income you need to make/spend.
Next, take this pre-tax income and divide it by your hourly wage to figure out how many hours you need to work to buy that good.
The first exercise is generally enough to make me not buy anything wasteful. It’s the second item that really pushes me over the edge.
Related: The Best Rewards Credit Cards
4) Remind Yourself Never To Pay Full Retail
The reason why luxury goods manufacturer LVMH has 90% gross margins, is because they charge customer 9X their manufacturing cost.
Try your hardest to find a similar good at a much cheaper price. Make it an adventure in savings if you will. There are so many products available today that chances are high you can find something cheaper.
5) Take A Good Look At Your Credit Card Bill
Finally, take a look at that credit card bill on-line and tell yourself how good it’ll feel not having to pay such debt and return the darn thing! The reward for not splurging is the cash/savings that remains in your bank account!
Control the urge to splurge by prioritizing your financial goals. Think about the lost investment returns you’ll be missing. And remind yourself that any money you spend is less money you’ll have for achieving early retirement.
Splurge Within Reason
After all these defenses, there are some things in life you just have to have, such as that fine Rolex watch you’ve waited 10 years for ever since graduation.
Whatever the case may be, I firmly believe one should be able to treat oneself within reason. For a car, my limit is spending no more than 1/10th my gross income.
It’s just when you want to have that 2nd watch, that 5th pair of jeans, or third LV handbag where things start spiraling out of control. I think you’ll have fun resisting the urge to splurge with the 5 defenses above.
Don’t ever feel guilty returning an item. It is your right, and your early retirement prerogative!
Related: A Savings Guide By Age
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Updated for 2022 and beyond. Personally, I’m investing aggressively in real estate. I think real estate is going to be one of the best asset classes over the next 10 years. If the U.S. housing market ever gets as hot as the Canadian housing market, U.S. real estate prices could easily increase by 30% – 75%.
Shoes for Women says
Hello! I like the design of your blog (and content too btw) and I would like to know what theme are you using? Is it your own design or free theme? thanks in advance, regards Pete
Ok, I have to ask a few more questions about this method. Do you *wear* the $435 loafers for 29 days, and then return it? If so, that is very very not-cool, and bordering (or in my opinion tipping quite far over into) the unethical. The store is going to be much less likely to sell those loafers, with 29 days of street scuffs and wear, at $435.
Now, if it’s just a matter of looking at them on the shelf (without putting wear on them), I’m ok with it. I think you’re crazy ,mind you, since those loafers look so ordinary to me that I assume the joy comes in the comfort, internal structure, and quality of materials… and most of that enjoyment comes in the wearing, not the looking. Now if you were a woman talking about a shoe that was ridiculously cute and stylish, that’d be something different. I’d still say $435 is too much, but at least understand why it’s worth looking at.
But I would say, it is often worth a significant investment (maybe not $400+, but around the $150-$200 range) for quality men’s footwear.
@ Tentaculistic – Nope, don’t wear them at all. Those loafers are extremely ordinary looking, but they are so comfortable and look better in real life. The strategy is to bask in the glory of the product (hold, touch, smell whatever), and once that initial excitement is over, to then go ahead and return it.
$400+ is ridiculous. $150-$200 is fine, I agree. I actually don’t think the most enjoyment comes from wearing shoes, especially women’s shoes b/c they are so uncomfortable. The most enjoyment comes from looking at it, and owning the shoes.
Like a car, most interiors are roughly the same more or less at a certain price point. But, what makes guys salivate is the exterior which turns heads and makes guys think ‘wow.’.
Thanks for stopping by!
Fabulously Broke – Welcome to my site! You have great discipline in thinking things through before you buy. Looking forward to seeing you more often.
I like your post! For me having to return an item is too much of a hassle but I can see where the points. I know girls that buy fancy dresses, wear them to a party with the tags hidden and then return them afterwards. They can get screwed though if they spill something on the clothes or if the tags slip out!
FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com says
Wow, that's quite a system you have worked out :)
Mine is a bit more simple
1. Lust after item
2. Decide if I really want item
3. If yes, run through head what I could use as a substitute and if I really need to buy it NOW or if I can wait and find a deal
Then from there, I tend to delay purchases and end up not buying it in the end :) Win win.
For what I do buy, I really do have a purpose or want for it.
Thanks for the great article. Adding you to my reader and looking forward to more.
Hey Everyone, thnx for your commentary. Yes, this is a bad system for retailers (sorry guys). But trust me, having worked in retail before, retailers have every single trick up their sleeve to get consumers to spend unnecessarily! Our favorite is the Gift Card! Retailers are counting on 30% of you never to use it due to an expiration date or loss!
I'm not saying we should return everything we buy. Au contraire. We should just think about returning things we know in our hearts are ridiculous splurges i.e. my $435 Tod's loafers, $6,500 Hermes handbags, your 50th pair of Nike kicks, etc. I need to find some different shoes, and I will find something similar for under $80 bucks.
If all adults could control their urges, there would never be financial crisis's and adultery. We know that's never going to be the case.
Fight on people! We'll conquer the bombardment of temptations, and utilize evil tools such as the credit card for our own benefits and financial freedom!
You'd think adults could be able to control their urges, and yet here we sit, in the worst recession of our careers b/c "adults" weren't able to control their spending in housing, stocks, material goods etc.
Anon 3:06pm, maybe you've never made a splurge purchase and regretted it, but I'm sure a ton of other people have.
This is just silly , either you buy what you need or want or you don t. Adults should be able to control their urges.
Beside this approach just raise prices for everybody.
RB, You must have been smelling your shoes and wondering if you should return. :O) I was content with my $20 something work shoes from Naturalizer for a long time until they ran out of the style I wanted. So I started looking for another brand that I could afford and comfortable. I have bought many pairs of Easy Spirit since. I have also retired since! I am not rich, but I am content with my meager retirement pension, two grand a month.
Retailers will love this! …if your readers fail to heed your formula. Or hate this, if your readers find this formula works. After all, how many of us are disciplined enough to make this work.
My guesstimate is the 20% of us who have a legitmate chance of making it by 40 may have the discipline to follow though. For the other 80 percent, it's bye bye baby! discipline to follow through with your formula that makes you logically want to return this unnecessary luxury.
Hey RB! Thanks for your counter intuitive suggestion to just go buy it! :) I'll give it a go for these pair of retro Jordan kicks that came out. It's $350 for the two at Foot Locker. I'll lock my receipt up and just admire em until it's time to return em. I hope i can resist the urge to keep em! hahaha