Impulsive spending can be a sneaky little budget-destroyer. We all know that, and there's no shortage of tips for eliminating it. If you want to get to the root of your impulsive spending problem, though, focus on the space between the impulse and your action.
Certified Financial Planner and money expert Carl Richards breaks this concept down in the above video. Personal finance focuses on two things when it comes to impulse spending: stimulus and response. For example, stimulus-focused advice might be to delete your saved payment info or stay away from deal sites.
Response-focused advice might be to cut up your credit card, use only cash, or constantly monitor your spending.
That's all great advice, but as Richards points out, "there's a third way that deals with both." Focusing on the space between a stimulus and your response might be more effective. Within that space lies your power to choose your response. Richards expands on this idea in a recent post at the New York Times:
In his book "Man's Search for Meaning," Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, also appears to have given us this bit of insight: "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response." Whoa! There is a third element to this little dance with stimulus and response. To break this frustrating spending cycle, we can focus on creating space between the two of them.
One practical way to implement this is to sit on a purchase and wait before you buy. Yes, that's an incredibly simple, no-brainer tip. The point is that tips like these, the ones that focus on expanding that "space" might be the most effective.
A sense of control is absolutely crucial when it comes to managing your money. This advice focuses on control. Rather than punishing yourself or eliminating your stimulus altogether, it forces you to deal with your behaviour and make better, more empowering financial choices.
Richards has a lot of additional insight on this topic, and you can check out his video above, or read his article at the Times below.
One Secret to Cutting Spending: Wait 72 Hours Before You Buy [The New York Times]