The One Trick That Actually Keeps My Impulse Spending At Bay

You know how cathartic it feels to write an angry letter to someone, even though you know you’re never going to send it to them?

I kind of do that with shopping.

I mean, I don’t write angry letters to Banana Republic asking them to remove that gorgeous dress from the window display because it makes my heart ache when I drive by. I do, however, write long wish lists of the things I want — whatever they may be — in an effort to prevent myself from excitedly splurging on them (or at least to ensure I’m making more mindful, calculated purchases). Most of the time, I write these lists knowing that I’m very likely not going to buy any of the stuff written on them.

Here is why I do this:

It is soothing — it takes the urgency out of shopping.

When I have that crystallizing moment in the middle of a shopping mall where I realize I want something, it feels so urgent — like it has to happen right freaking now, or else that thing I want will never be mine. It feels like if I don’t drop everything and buy it at that moment, it will go away and cease to exist.

(I think most of the reason it feels that way is because I usually forget about these deeply desired purchases hours later, which just goes to show that I shouldn’t be thinking about buying them anyway.)

However, keeping a little running list on my phone of these things makes me feel like they’re not going anywhere. I have them written down, I know what they are, I can keep tabs on them, and if I decide at a later date that I truly want to get them (and can afford to), then I will.

It reveals what I truly want and/or need, and what was just a fleeting desire.

If I look back at the list and notice that something I jotted down two weeks ago no longer seems like something I want, I can easily erase it from my imaginary shopping cart. This is one of the best feelings ever, because erasing something you no longer want from your “I Want This” list feels like giving yourself a lil’ financial pat on the back.

It is a practice that I tend to find useful if used correctly, and it reminds me every day that I can pretty much have all of these things I want someday if I’m patient enough, and that perhaps I’ll decide I don’t want them at all.

I wrote a few months back about some things I wanted to buy, and why I was resisting them at the time. I pretty much always have things I want, and I also usually have decent reasons for why I shouldn’t be buying them. That’s why my wish list is so helpful.

I have a bunch of stuff on my list right now, and I probably add something new to it every few days. A lot of what I’m eyeing lately is home-related, although my new apartment is full and comfortable, and hardly lacking in actually-necessary items.

I’m a little consumed with all of these things, and I have been spending so much time ferociously Googling different places/ways I can acquire these items, and how I can get the best deals. (TBH, if you’re consumed with finding the literal cheapest possible way to get something, it is definitely worth considering that you might not genuinely need the thing.)

Sometimes, we all need a little reminder that the things we want aren’t going anywhere, and that we can (within reason) have pretty much anything we truly want someday with a little patience (and a lot of saving).

With that, I’ve decided to share what is on my list right now.

1. Flowers.

This isn’t exactly a crazy wish list item, but I write “Flowers” on my grocery list every week (especially if I’m going to Trader Joe’s because they’re flowers are bomb as heck) and always talk myself out of buying them because your girl can’t be spending $8 on something that will die in three days (especially because I am not home enough lately to enjoy them). When I feel like I have extra money that can be dedicated to flowers someday, I’ll buy them weekly. For now, just having the word “flowers” on my wish list (and grocery list) makes me feel satisfied — I’ll actually get them someday.

2. A new curling iron.

This is something I need in the sense that I often curl my hair, and my curling iron is currently broken. (The protective plastic part on the clip broke off, so technically it works, but it burns my fingers when I use it.) Oddly enough, I don’t think this is a purchase I want to give attention to. It is annoying that it is broken and not as perfectly easy to use as a fully-intact one would be, but it actually works just fine at curling my hair, and I need to train myself into not replacing things just because they’re not as perfect as they could be.

3. New concealer.

If I ran out of concealer and needed a new one, I wouldn’t deny myself that. I wear makeup every day, I like wearing it, and I definitely consider it a budgeted-for part of my daily life. However, I haven’t run out of my concealer, (which is amazing, by the way) — I just have this weird urge to replace it with a new one because part of me feels like my old one isn’t good enough anymore since it is getting close to being empty. That’s dumb — it still has product in it. I don’t need to spend the $7 until I need to. It is written on my list as if it is something I need, and although I’m definitely not buying it — at least not any time soon — it makes me feel better somehow just to have it written there. 

4. A new set of drawers for my desk.

This is an aesthetic thing, and definitely a home-update I’d like to work on getting done in the future, but as I’ve talked about recently on TFD, June is going to be a really hard month for me financially, and I need to cool it on spending wherever I can. I have one of those Ikea desks with the tabletop set gently on top of that set of drawers that everyone has on one side, with two $4 legs at the other end. I’d like to get an extra set of drawers to replace the legs, and keep all of my makeup/girly products in one side, and all of my work/desk stuff in the other instead of having my makeup in those dorm-room-chic plastic drawers. But it is an $80 piece of furniture, and I’m definitely not prepared to spend that this summer. So on the list it goes — my plastic drawers work just fine, and I certainly can’t justify replacing them just for aesthetic purposes. 

5. A bag that zips closed.

I have a purse that I carry around everyday and totally love, and it would be perfect if it just had a freaking zipper on the top. It has one of those little magnets at the top that doesn’t actually keep it closed at all, and I’m constantly worried something is going to fall out of it while I’m walking, or if I put it down for some reason. However, I’ve been carrying it for a year and haven’t lost anything from my bag, so I guess it is working just fine, and the “I need a zippered purse” excuse might just be me wanting to justify buying something new and unnecessary. But seriously, how cute is this? It might never get to be mine, but at least it has a nice little home on my list. 

6. Low-key tacky lamps. 

Drew and I don’t really have lighting in two of our rooms in this new apartment, which is fine during the day due to the gigantic windows, but we really do need to figure out an evening lighting situation. We have two hideous-but-functional table lamps right now that I assume he got as hand-me-downs at some point, and we’re definitely hoping to replace them as soon as we feel like we have a vision for the rooms, and the budget for some attractive, quality lamps.

Unlike a lot of things on my wish list, lamps are something that I genuinely do plan on buying at some point. However, this purchase definitely should wait until the pineapple home décor trend cools down, or else I’ll look back in a few months and really regret buying these. So yeah, we’re gonna wait on that purchase for a while, and make due with our ugly hand-me-downs. But “LAMPS!” are definitely at the top of my wish list.

7. A pile of floral wrap dresses from one of those cheap wholesale websites.

They really get me with those ads that pop up on literally every blog I ever read, but I genuinely feel like those cheaply-made but super-cute floral sundresses need to be mine every time I see them. I look on the websites and add them to my cart sometimes before realizing that I really shouldn’t buy any of that shit for moral and financial reasons. I know fast fashion is a pretty dirty business, and it stinks when you’re a person who loves clothes and can’t really spend money on ethically made, high-quality items. I’ll suffer through. For now, I just keep the sundresses written on my list and hope I can acquire some secondhand, find better-made versions of them that are still somewhat affordable for me later this summer, or hopefully, forget about my desire for them altogether. 

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

Image via Pexels

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  • Summer

    I get so many of those cheap wholesale fashion ads on my instagram, and sometimes the dresses really ARE cute. Fortunately, if I bother to load the comments and scroll through a few, there are usually enough people who have chimed in about having bought said item and discovered that it’s terrible quality, or they ordered it weeks ago and still haven’t received it yet, or they got the wrong size and customer service isn’t replying to their request to exchange or return, etc. Those comments usually abate any fleeting temptation I might have for ordering crappy clothing from a sketchy retailer.

    Also, I have 28 items in my Amazon ‘saved for later’ cart right now and I basically work off the same principle you just discussed here. If I really want the thing later, I’ll eventually order it (especially since the cart notifies me of price changes, sometimes a solid price drop will be the motivation for me to pull the trigger on an item I’ve been watching), but I often end up deleting stuff when the moment has passed and I’ve realized that life will successfully carry on even if I don’t order a particular book/household item/beauty product. It’s still fun though to check the cart every day and see if any prices have dropped and daydream about eventually having all those cookbooks on my own shelves.

    • Mary Parisi

      Oooh I totally do that with my Amazon cart. My favorite option on any website is having a ‘saved for later’ or ‘wishlist’ so I can bookmark things without actually putting them in my online shopping cart.

  • Solange Almeida

    If you want flowers in your house that last longer than a few days, I’d recommend orchids. Sometimes they can get a bit pricier here, I’m from Canada so I don’t know how much they go for in the States, but they’re easy to take care of (indirect sunlight, put a few ice cubes on the soil every few days to water them, etc). The ones with bark instead of moss as the base are better because they don’t retain as much water which is ideal for orchids (according to my mom anyways, but she has about 40 of them so she must be doing something right). It’s obviously not a necessity but just an alternative option to a bouquet of flowers that die almost immediately.

    Ps. I always love reading your articles!!

    • Mary Parisi

      Thanks so much! I’ll definitely look into orchids, they are very pretty. I think they’re sort of pricey here too but I guess if they last long they might be worth it!

  • Another way to make cut flowers last longer is to keep them in the fridge when you’re not at home or when you’re sleeping! I got some cut hydrangeas from TJ’s and they lasted almost 4 weeks like that.

  • Winterlight

    I buy a $5 bunch of carnations or other longlasting flowers and change the water every other day. They last about two weeks that way, and it provides long-lasting pleasure for a low price.

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