January 29, 2011

I don't know about you, but I'm starting to get the bills in from Christmas...and let me just tell you. It ain't pretty!!! Going back and looking at what was bought over Christmas, and really thinking about what was needed - well - lets just say there is a little bit of a discrepancy between the two. We didn't need to spend the amount on Christmas that we did spend, and funny enough, much of the spending was impulse buying.

Ok ladies, you know what I'm talking about. Visualize...you're in your fave store. You're looking around for something in particular, and it just hits you right in the face. The cutest blouse you've seen in a long time. They have your size. The colour is perfect. "I'll try it on...just for fun".

And the shopping trip that started out with others in mind, ends with MOI.

Lets not think about the fact that I already have 17 blouses, 5 of which are exact replicas of the blouse I'm now wearing in the change room. Or let's not think about the fact that it costs $56.99 (ooh, but there's 15% off today, make that $48.49). "It's so comfy - way more comfy than the 17 others. It has this little bobble on it - my others don't have any bobbles and (here's the kicker) I totally NEED this particular blouse more than I need groceries this week."

Well. I've just proved to all the advertising companies that their sales gimmicks work, and I'm keeping them in business.

If this at all sounds familiar to you, well, maybe you could use the following tips I came across while reading "The Average Family's Guide to Financial Freedom" by Bill and Mary Toohey. This book spoke to me, probably because this couple is an average couple, they have a few kids, live in a average home, and aren't on Oprah.

But they have achieved a level of financial freedom that most people think impossible. Through a series of very thought-provoking steps, they spell out down-to-earth strategies to first get you out of debt, and then flourish financially. It all starts out with naming your goals, and then creating a real plan, a plan that you can remember when you're in the store looking at that blouse/chocolate bar/fake italian hand-carved pipe and wanting it badly.

Here are their tips to avoiding impulse buys:

1. Ask yourself "Do I really need or want this?"
a) Yes - proceed to #2

2. Ask yourself, "Can it wait?"
a) No - proceed to #3

3. Ask yourself, "Do I already own something similar?"
a) No - Proceed to #4

4. Ask yourself, "Do I want this badly enough to delay progress to my goals in life?"
a) Yes - Proceed to #5

5. Ask yourself, "Can I buy a similar but cheaper substitute?"
a) No - BUY IT
b) Yes - Buy cheaper substitute

And there you have it. I have written these on a little piece of paper and take it with me on shopping trips. If you see a lady wandering around Sears muttering to herself holding a ripped and grotty piece of paper, yeah, that's me.

But this plan works, if you can substitute the thrill of buying NOW for the thrill of accomplishing a life goal like getting out of debt. The Tooheys talk especially about how just $46 per week, which is about equivalent to buying a lunch and a coffee every work day turns out to be about $2400 per year, and if that sum is invested wisely, it can turn into a very handsome sum in a few years - $26,000 was their estimate!! That is incredible!!

The ability to control our spending, especially in very small things, is not only helpful for our own personal finances, but also helpful for our own Churches and communities as we can end up tithing more. And isn't there a tenet of our faith that says something about denying ourselves? Well, there's no shortage of opportunities, that's for sure. Maybe when I'm thinking about my next impulse buy, instead of my list of questions, I'll just bring my last credit card bill with me to look at. That should stop me in my tracks!


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