If you've ever stopped by Costco to pick up milk and walked out with a big-screen TV, you know firsthand the power of temptation.
As weak as we may feel at times, the truth is that it's possible to learn how to face down temptation and win.
IDENTIFY THE WEAKNESS
'Fess up. What are your areas of temptation? Clothes, shoes, collectibles? Movies, food, gadgets? Electronics, crafts, plants?
What tempts me doesn't faze my husband. He could go for the rest of his life without the slightest desire to buy more fabric. I, on the other hand, could spend all day at a woodworking show without a single thought of actually buying something. But put me in a craft store or quilt shop? I'm a shopping disaster just waiting to happen. It's our natural born temperaments. We're wired differently.
STOP FLIRTING WITH DANGER
If you're ever going to win over temptation, you must stop cozying up to the very thing that causes you to stumble. If you are easily tempted by clothes, don't spend hours cruising the mall. In fact, don't even go there unless you have a specific need and a reasonable plan to fulfill it.
If mail order catalogs are your weakness, don't open them. Take them out in the garbage, and push them way down to the bottom to head off a middle-of-the-night retrieval. If Pinterest is your weakness, don't log on. Is it Quality Value Convenience or Home Shopping Network? Delete those channels from your lineup.
DEVELOP A DIVERSION
Temptation is usually fueled by emotion, rarely by reason. When temptation whispers in your ear, you need to divert your attention to something equally enjoyable but less injurious to your financial health — like ironing, reading a book, doing a crossword puzzle or taking a nap.
You've already guessed that for me, it's ironing. I'm not kidding. I really love the soothing sounds of a steam iron as it glides back and forth, removing wrinkles and giving off an indescribably clean, fresh smell. My iron is always at the ready. I can divert temptation with the flip of a switch. And I do, often.
IDENTIFY TRUE NEEDS
Needs are never realized while standing in the aisle of a store, flipping through the pages of a catalog, surfing Pinterest or watching television. You realize your needs in the normal course of life. Those sudden desires are temptations. You, not retailers or advertisers, should set your own agenda. If you don't have a need, don't go shopping.
ASSESS THE TRUE COST
When you spend compulsively, you're doing more than giving in to temptation. If you're paying with credit, you're likely building debt. That $30 item is going to cost you more like $60 by the time you finally pay for it. If you pay with cash, you're also giving up the opportunity to put that money to work for you for the rest of your life. The money you spend plus the foregone interest earnings represent the real cost of spending.
It takes a great deal of courage and character to be accountable to another person for your actions and behaviors. Make a pact with your spouse or a friend. Set an amount over which you will not spend without first discussing. Set boundaries, and ask for help to keep to them.
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."
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