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                5 min read

                Smart Spending #2: 7 Ways To Shop Smarter

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                Ever feel like you’ve been on an online spending spree but don’t know how to stop? What about those in-store impulse buys that always seem to catch your attention at the check-out? These days, it’s all too easy for us to spend WAY too much, whether we mindlessly “add to cart” on our phones, or tap to pay before we think about our purchase. It’s no wonder that consumer spending in 2023 outpaced expectations, as Americans continue to buy, buy, buy… But our spending wasn’t the only thing reaching new heights — credit card debt topped $1 billion (yes, billion) for the first time in history.


                In other words, our spending habits are proving to be incredibly costly, possibly even dangerous to the point that they could derail our financial futures. That’s why it’s time we break our bad shopping habits once and for all. Thankfully, there are ways we can all slow down and spend less and shop smarter. Here’s a look at 7 of our favorite methods.


                Watch Stress Spending


                Instead of spending when you feel stressed (ahem, “retail therapy” isn’t always a good thing!) walk away and find something else that makes you feel good. This could be a walk around the neighborhood, a bath, a good book, a yoga class, or even a phone call with a friend. Find whatever works for you and put it in place whenever you feel your stress levels rise. The truth is that while “stress shopping” may make you feel better for a short time, in the long run, it can cause you even more stress if your purchases put you over budget.


                Give Yourself An Allowance


                We all need the occasional treat. After all, we work hard for our money, and it’s nice to reward ourselves every now and then. But problems arise when we reward ourselves without having a budget in place — if we’re going to splurge with a new piece of clothing, a dinner out, or even a short vacation, we need to know exactly how much leeway we have to spend without busting our budget.


                Having a spending allowance in place “helps people from a psychological perspective to make smarter decisions,” explains Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at TrueTrae.com.


                Pro Tip: Set a weekly or a monthly spending budget, depending on your financial situation. Just remember that the goal shouldn’t be to spend it all — rather, you’ll know how much you can spend should something amazing pop-up. If you don’t spend your splurge fund, just keep saving that money until something you really want comes along.


                Establish Set Shopping Times


                How often have you found yourself killing time on your phone, mindlessly scrolling Instagram or TikTok, when your feed displayed something you just had to have? This could just as easily happen at 8am on a Monday as 2am on a Saturday night, which is why you need to put guardrails up to make sure you aren’t purchasing something new and shiny every time it catches your eye. Establishing set shopping times during the week as the only times that you’ll make purchases can help you cut down on impulse spending. The goal is that you pick a time that feels good for you… If you do this, there’s a good chance that those impulse buys that once grabbed your attention won’t even be remembered. (Which means you just saved a ton!)


                Make The Switch To Cash Or Debit


                Spending money that you see leave your wallet or bank account immediately — via cash or debit — can be a game-changer. We know that when we spend money in a more tangible way, we spend less than when we use a credit card, which can seem like “magic” money. The truth is that humans just don’t feel as much of a connection to our money with in-app spending, which may be one reason why mobile spending hit an all-time record of $171 billion in 2023.


                “Psychologically, the apps don’t show us the total of what we’re losing,” says Sherrie Campbell, a clinical psychologist. “We push a button, and bam — our Uber shows up. You don’t even ‘pay’ for Starbucks anymore, you can just bring your phone in. We’re not feeling the loss of money, only the gain.” Essentially, using digital payment methods like apps and credit cards can cloud our judgment on exactly how our spending is adding up. Cash and debit make things more real.


                Every Time You Buy Something New, Sell Or Donate Something


                Do you just need that pair of new shoes? What about that great new shirt, or sporty new backpack? First, ask yourself: Can I afford it? Then, ask yourself: What else in my life am I willing to part with? When you sell or donate your old items, not only do you clear up closet space, you also stand to earn some extra cash. Setting a “one in, one out” rule for yourself can really make you stop and think before snapping up new things. A few of the best places to sell your unwanted stuff online include eBay, Poshmark, and Mercari. It’s a win-win: not only do you declutter, you also stand to bring in a little extra money for the month.


                Walk Away, And Revisit Later On


                If you want to add something to your cart, or “wish list” (as many of us often do on Amazon!) go for it — just don’t purchase until you’ve taken at least a 24-hour pause, or until your weekly shopping moment rolls around, explains personal finance expert and CEO of HerMoney Media, Jean Chatzky. These digital lists can function as a handy repository for things you want to come back to. “The trick is that you come back the next day and re-assess. If you find you’ve been thinking about the item often, then it may be time to pull the trigger. But if you’ve found you’ve lost interest, then move on without it,” Chatzky says.


                Pro Tip: Many retailers will tempt you with “limited time deals,” that they say are expiring ASAP. Many websites even have a time clock counting down the minutes left to snag the sale. But don't be fooled by these tactics — rarely is a bargain a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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