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Control That Vice

Ignore temptation, sidestep the impulse to shop and save money

BY PRIYADARSHINI MAJI , PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY NILANJAN DAS  
 
SIDDHARTH SHARMA*, 28, from Mumbai was a little stressed and depressed, so this is what he did. He ended up buying over `8,000 worth of things he did not need, during one shopping spree. "I felt really guilty afterwards, since I'm on a budget and trying to save money.
I am returning most of it and selling the rest on eBay to get the money back," he says.
Siddharth's experience-spending on an impulse and regretting it later, worrying about ruined finances-is common. Research suggests that emotions play a big role in our shopping decisions, something marketeers around the world leverage through advertisements and promotions. This, say financial experts, can be damaging to your long-term financial goals.
"Many of us use retail therapy (to boost our mood) from time to time. However, impulse shopping can be dangerous business. To prevent it and keep more money in your pocket, create a bucket of investment and then splurge," suggests LovaiiNavalkhi, chief financial planner, founder and CEO of International Money Matters, Bengaluru.
 
Here are some smart strategies that can help balance your budget.
 
Plan the purchase. Go shopping with a list and do not randomly wander around the aisles looking for 'bargains', advises Suresh Sadagopan, founder of Ladder7 Financial Advisories, Mumbai. List your expenses in advance, so you do not cross your budget. Understand your sudden urges and dodge them.
 
Need it or want it? Ask yourself if the potential purchase is a legitimate need. If it is a want, rather than a need, give yourself time to think about it. "An illusion is created [by retailers] that you'll save money when you spend," says Navalkhi. Be wary of such tricks; don't rush to buy when you see a 'sale' sign offering discounts for a limited period. "Do I really need this," ask yourself again.  
 
Cool off a bit. If you see something you like and you think it's a must-have, pause. Take a walk and let your mind process the information. Perhaps you should see how you feel about it in a day or two. If it was an impulse buy, chances are you will forget about it. If it was essential, you won't. "As Warren Buffett says, 'if you buy things you don't need, you'll soon sell things you do need'," says Navalkhi.
 
Dodge online retail. The temptations of e-shopping have sometimes broken people financially. The vast array of attractive options and the convenience of simply clicking on a link to pick up items that will be delivered at your location of choice draw shopaholics to online stores compulsively. Being aware of these traps can help. Distract yourself by taking a walk or exercising when you feel the urge. "Take yourself off the mailing lists of the websites that entice you to spend on stuff you don't need," says Navalkhi.
 
Cut off easy access to money. Beware of credit cards. They are excellent during times of need but can make us overspend heavily, considering the ease with which they can be used. When we need to count cash before purchasing,we tend to be more careful. Remembering this will be useful. "For those who buy on impulse, carrying cash and not credit cards can reduce the chances of overspending," adds Sadagopan.
 
Is shopping an emotional prop?
Be mindful of your habits: do you tend to make purchases on an impulse when you're happy or sad? Are you a bit image-conscious and tend to shop to impress others? Understanding these aspects may help you gain control over your emotions and practise restraint.
 
Find other ways to have fun. Don't walk around a mall just for entertainment. Window shop, if you must, beyond shopping hours. We often visit shiny, air-conditioned malls for a family outing or to meet friends. Staying away may take the fun out of your weekend, but it will help you save enough to indulge yourself occasionally.
 
Finally, do remember a little impulse buying is fine. In a world full of choices, it's easy to overlook the stress of making decisions, what experts call decision fatigue. It seems we have a finite store of will power. If you hold yourself back too much in one sphere of life, you may lose it elsewhere. So, balance is the key.

ADAPTED FROM MONEY TODAY. Copyright 2016 LIVING MEDIA INDIA LIMITED.

 

 

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