Stop before you impulse buy

RICHARD MEADOWS
Last updated 05:00 30/03/2014
Fiji

SLEEP ON IT: The best thing about the 30-day rule is that you’re not denying yourself. If after the wait you still really, really want it, you can have it.

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I couldn't look away from the road bike in the shop window. The streamlined, silver frame. The slender racing tyres.

Already I was calculating how many minutes I could shave off my daily commute if I just upgraded to this impressive machine - and on sale, too.

I'd only popped in to the bike store to get a $10 chain link, not a $500 bike. But there it was right in front of me, calling my name.

Everyone has their weaknesses, whether it's expensive clothes, vehicles, jewellery, equipment or gadgets.

My achilles heel tends to twinge when I'm in the presence of hardware stores and apparently, bikes.

And yet I walked out of the shop only $10 poorer, as planned, and another tiny step closer to financial security. My saviour was the 30-day rule, an oldie but a goodie from the world of personal finance wisdom.

Here's how it works. When you see something you really, really want (but don't actually need), take a deep breath and walk away.

Once you get home, write down what you wanted to buy, the price, and where you saw it.

Come back to it 30 days later, or even longer, if you can make yourself. It's highly likely that once the heat of the moment has passed, you'll be puzzled why you ever wanted it.

Suddenly a month has passed, and the object you simply couldn't live without has been long since forgotten about.

I use this sort of strategy all the time.

My life is ruled by lists, which includes a "wishlist" saved on my phone.

It currently features, among other things, a GoPro camera and a speargun. It's unlikely that either of these strokes of must-have inspiration will translate into actual purchases and soon they'll drop off the list.

A month is long enough that all sorts of things can happen. You could do some more research and find out what you wanted wasn't really what you needed anyway.

You could find an alternative, like borrowing tools from a neighbour, or finding them elsewhere even cheaper.

And sometimes, your insatiable urge to have the item just ups and disappears. For example, that shiny new bike might stay in the shop window forevermore, after I realised my trusty secondhand steed does the job just fine.

Essentially, it's a psychological trick that helps logic win over emotion. And the best thing about the 30-day rule is that you're not denying yourself. If you still really, really want it, you can have it. But at least you're sure.

If you take a look around your house, you'll see this isn't always the case. Be sure to poke into the deepest recesses of your wardrobe, storage cupboards and garage. Chances are there's a metric tonne of junk you wish you'd never bought in the first place. Imagine if you still had the cash from all those dozens of ill-thought out, impulsive buys.

Conservatively, there's at least $500 you could be saving each year. It might be one big ticket item, or a whole lot of small dumb decisions.

Now imagine you not only had the moolah, but you'd been investing it steadily over the years, or paying down debt. That's what the path to financial security is all about. The 30-day rule is just another tool in the box to help you get there faster.

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