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8 Questions That'll Break Your Cycle Of Making Impulse Purchases

If you're up for a challenge, because thistest the fibers of your resistance, try asking yourself these questions before you check out with something you didn't waltz into the store intending to buy.
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Shopping bags in the mall
Shopping bags in the mall

I love a good purge. There's something incredibly refreshing about cleansing my home from the extra stuff and clutter and junk that was weighing me down. Sometimes I look at the giant pile of stuff I'm getting rid of and I have to wonder, Where the heck did all of this fit before? Real answer: it didn't. I had just stuffed everything further and further into the cabinets or put things where they didn't belong.

For many years, I was stuck in a cycle of of purging, accumulating, snapping, purging, over and over again. I eventually grew frustrated for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it takes a lot of time to purge stuff. I was doing a major downsize every few months and hauling bags upon bags to the local donation center. Plus, it felt like I was constantly throwing money out the window. With every purge, I'd find items I had bought over the last couple of months and then never even used.

I finally realized that the only place where I could realistically break this cycle is in the accumulation phase, and this has been a game changer for me. However, I think this is the hardest part to take control of. Over time, I've developed a filter of sorts -- a system of questions that I ask myself before I make an impulse purchase.

If you're up for a challenge, because this will test the fibers of your resistance, try asking yourself these questions before you check out with something you didn't waltz into the store intending to buy.

1. Does it fit the budget? Even if it does, would I rather spend this same amount of money on something else?

2. Does this meet an immediate need? Will I use this item at least once a week? Once a month? If once a month, will it save enough time to justify the cost and the space it takes up?

3. Is it versatile? If it's a sweater, will it match most of my pants and skirts, or just one? Will it be appropriate for work, home, and play? If it's a kitchen tool, can it do double duty (i.e. a blender that can also be a food processor)?

4. Do I already have something similar at home? If so, does this go so far above and beyond the usefulness of the item I already have that I'd be fine with both 1) the cost of this new thing, plus 2) the cost of getting rid of the first thing? (Hey, I paid for it at one point! If I get rid of it, I no longer get any bang for my buck.)

5. Do I have a readily available space to store it in my house? If not, is there something I'm willing to toss to make room? Or will this likely end up at the back of a cabinet, pushed back by other things, forgotten until the next purge?

6. If I had to pack up and move tomorrow, would it be worth packing? Even harder: If I had to downsize to a fill-in-the-blank here (RV, studio apartment, etc.), would I choose to keep this? Now, this doesn't mean I can't buy things that would fall into this category, rather that I need to consider them carefully.

7. Would my husband wonder why in the world we need this? And if so, would I even be able to convince him it's necessary? It's not that I need to ask his permission, but he is my ultimate litmus test. He's not cheap, but he is incredibly practical.

And here comes the real kicker:

8. Am I buying this because I truly need or want it, or am I trying to fill an underlying insecurity? Am I turning to retail therapy because I had a rough day? Am I ashamed at the lack of decor in my home and trying to compensate? Am I discouraged by my body and trying to cover it up with something pretty? Am I coveting this table setting because I want to be someone I'm not (i.e. a dazzling dinner-party host instead of a takeout-on-paper-plates kind of girl)?

Sometimes if an item passes this inspection list, I'll buy it without guilt. And sometimes, even if it passes these tests, I'll still wait. Often within hours or days or weeks, I'll forget about whatever the thing is that I thought I couldn't live without. And sometimes, I'll still be thinking about that item many weeks later, and that's a signal to me that I can go back and buy it.

These questions are not meant to be arbitrary rules that I guilt myself into following. Instead, I see them as tools that help me find perspective and force me to question my knee-jerk reactions to in-store displays and marketing. They help me to understand more deeply the difference between my wants and my needs.

It's not necessarily a bad thing to buy the things we want--I do it sometimes, I promise. What's not good is buying things without considering what subconscious desires may be lingering underneath and without considering the cost beyond the price tag.

A version of this post first appeared on Brittany's blog, The Nested Nomad. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Tips For Ethical Shopping