3 Real-Life Solutions For Combating Impulsive, Aspirational Spending

By | Thursday, January 19, 2017

Every time I watch a Sex and the City rerun, I find myself on Poshmark browsing secondhand designer shoes. The only reason I end up on Posh is because I know I can’t afford them full-price. (To be honest, I know somewhere deep down inside that I can’t afford them used, either.)

The reason is simple: I’m an aspirational spender. Or rather, I used to be. I’ve talked about it before, but as someone who absolutely adores all things related to fashion and beauty, I’m a total sucker for any advertisement, blog post, Pin, Insta-pic, etc. featuring a cute outfit or makeup look that I’ll later kill myself attempting to replicate.

At this point, I don’t believe this is due to any insecurity, or has anything to do with not being comfortable in my own skin. I feel really good about myself most of the time (aside from the occasional I-feel-ugly-as-heck day), and know that my desire to have the sweater I saw on Pinterest or the lipstick I saw on Instagram has more to do with just a genuine love for creating looks that I find to be aesthetically pleasing. I generally feel okay about walking out of the house bare-faced with sweatpants, but I prefer not to, because it is fun for me to get dolled up and wear things that I think are beautiful.

So, emotionally speaking, my aspirational spending isn’t a problem. Financially speaking, it is. Because I’ve had the tendency (in the past, more so than now) to do it impulsively, and without any real thought.

Let’s jump back to the Sex and the City example — I know myself very well, and I know that I have zero desire to wear high heeled shoes ever. I think they look pretty on Carrie Bradshaw, and when I open up a magazine and see some chic lil’ lady sauntering down the street in pumps with skinny jeans, I think “what a great idea!” and go on the hunt for a pair for myself.

But if ever I actually do quickly act on that impulse to buy a pair of pumps, I know that they will wind up sitting in my closet forever, only to be gently considered if I’m going to a wedding or funeral (and even then, there’s a 98% chance I’ll choose flats anyway). I need to make a distinction between “liking an item conceptually and enjoying the way it looks,” and “actually liking the way the item would look on me, knowing that I would get actual use out of it.” These are such different things, and my ability to differentiate between the two relies heavily on my ability (or lack thereof) to give myself some time to think deeply and carefully about a desirable purchase before I actually make it.

To buy myself some extra thinking time, I have a list of tips that I actually use to combat my impulsive aspirational spending.

1. Create a running list of the things you “have to have.”

Make the list in a Google or Excel sheet along with the price, and the date you wrote it down. You’d be surprised how many items you forget about, find suitable, cheaper (or free) replacements for, or realize you simply don’t like as much as you thought you did.

2. Try to replicate the aspirational item or look with things you already have.

When I see an Instagram model wearing a black t-shirt with a pair of jeans, it somehow looks exponentially better than my own black tee shirt and jeans, so I feel like I need to buy a better, updated version to achieve her ~look~. The truth is, most black t-shirts are just black fucking t-shirts. Recreating the look with the exact items you see someone wearing on the internet will most likely not make you look as leggy and elegant as the model.

For this reason, I like to try to recreate desired looks with the (usually very similar) pieces I already have before convincing myself I need to buy something new. More often than not, I realize I have all the right stuff to create the desired look — I just am not a six-foot-tall, perfectly airbrushed woman with studio lighting.

Same goes for makeup and beauty products — while sometimes it is okay to buy things that look similar in color because you want to try a different formula, there are really only a finite amount of lipstick shades you truly need to own. Seeing a shade of red that looks gorgeous on a girl in a magazine shouldn’t always prompt a new makeup purchase — maybe you just need to sift through your own collection and break out the red you already own, which is likely quite close to the one you saw in the magazine, and will give you a look similar to the one you desire.

3. Give yourself a rule.

It is always a good idea to have some sort of rule or method to go by when it comes to actually making a fun purchase. I can’t take credit for this one, but in a recent post, I mentioned the idea of waiting one day for every hundred dollars a desired purchase costs. This method is a good one, I suppose, but only provided that you’ve already determined that this desired item is affordable, and isn’t going to be a purchase you make outside of your means just because you still desire it x-amount of days later. (Example: I’ll always lust after pretty pairs of $500 shoes, but I’ll obviously literally never buy a pair, even if I wait five days and still like them.)

Even better than waiting one day for every hundred dollars, I’d argue that you should wait one day for every hundred dollars the item costs to determine whether or not you still desire it, then wait one week for every hundred dollars it costs, intentionally setting aside a tiny bit of money each week along the way, before actually buying it. The commitment to wait so long for something (and to save your money with an end goal to buy something special) is a good way to determine how much the desired item is actually worth to you, and whether or not you want it as badly as you thought you did when you first saw it.

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 Unsplash

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