How to Spend: Slow Down Spending (Podcast)

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Much of learning how to spend is learning how to not spend. After you understand what is the core of your budget and you are trained to avoid the lure of advertising, you are ready to practice thrift and frugality in your spending.

Walking away from tempting purchases is particularly difficult, especially for those who regularly shop, but by training yourself to slow down in your spending, you can concentrate your dollars towards the purchases that create the most joy.

On Friday, April 1, 2022, Megan Russell was interviewed by Michael Morton of Financial Planning for Entrepreneurs podcast. Michael Morton is the founder of Morton Financial Advice where he provides hourly or subscription-based financial planning and wealth management.

In this podcast, we discuss the hazard of advertising for your budget and how to not fall prey to marketing tactics.

The episode was released on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. You can listen to the audio here:

Additional Reading

Transcript

Mike 0:00

Welcome to Financial Planning for entrepreneurs and tech professionals. I’m your host, Mike Morton, Certified Financial Planner. And today we welcome back Megan Russell to the show to continue our series about aligning your spending with what brings you the most joy. Megan Russell works for Marotta Wealth Management. She’s the Chief Operating Officer. She has numerous hundreds of articles that can be found on MarottaonMoney.com. Megan, welcome back to the show.

Megan 0:35

Thank you so much. It’s always fun to be here.

Mike 0:37

We’ve done a couple of episodes on this topic. The first was about healthy spending, and I love the exercise, how to help figure out what brings you the most joy. So you had a very great exercise that we could do to help that process. Because, a lot of times we are sort of spending money on the things that are in front of us or we think we need or we do need. And so that was great! Healthy spending.

And then the last time we were together, we talked about avoiding advertising, all insidious ways that advertising is making it into our lives and pulling us away from our healthy spending. And so you want to be very aware of avoiding advertising as much as possible.

And today’s topic is slowing down your spending. So what does that mean slow down spending? What does that mean? Does that mean I can’t spend as much money, Megan? Is that what you’re telling me?

Megan 1:36

Oh, no, no, no.
So if you think about the core budgeting strategy, that told us what lane we wanted to drive in.
Then, we had avoiding advertising. That was “Don’t leave the lane. Don’t veer off into some other plan just because some advertiser wants you to.”

And this one is basically how to go safely down the road. So how do you go down the road in your lane, and make sure that all of your purchases really align with your goals and are something that you’re not going to regret later. So the idea is that you can drive down that lane at the fastest speed your car can go, but you’re not going to be making really great driving decisions, and you’re going to put yourself into more the range of reckless driving. Whereas if you just slow down your spending, you slow down your decisions, you’ll be able to make really smart ones. And whatever comes your way, you’re going to be going slow enough that you can react to it better.

So it’s another piece in that puzzle of creating a healthy financial plan, really, that is going to support your joy and make sure that you can succeed no matter what’s happening. So slowing down your spending means you finally decided you’re gonna buy something — you think you’re gonna buy something. So we’ve avoided all the advertising, we’ve pared down our budget, you have the money for it even. It’s in your budget, you’ve planned for it, and you feel like maybe you’re going to buy something. And so this is what are some of the steps that you can take on the road to actually making that purchase that will help to guarantee that the purchase is what you really want.

Mike 3:11

Once again, Megan, we should have recorded this episode a few days ago for me. Because I find myself reviewing my credit card statements online, and it was unfortunately not just a few lines or one page, the one month was multiple pages. I had to hit the Next button to see all the things I had clicked on and purchased. It made me actually feel really terrible. Oh my gosh, there’s like multiple pages. I can’t even find that thing I was looking for because it’s on like page three, and it was just like a couple of weeks ago. I think I’m driving way too fast by clicking on all these things that I think I need. So today’s episode, I’m really looking forward to it in terms of helping me to slow down on that spending and what I should be thinking about going forward. So where do we start?

Weak desires cannot withstand the trial of waiting.

Megan 3:58

So the very first lesson is — If there’s only one thing you do from this podcast, this is the one you should do. — I call it wait a week. It doesn’t have to be a week. It could be a little bit longer, but I call it wait a week. So the idea is you have a desire; you really want something. And the point is if you wait — Again, I like a week but if you just wait at all — weak desires, things you don’t really want will not be able to withstand the trial of waiting. They just won’t. So even if it’s like you see it at 8pm and you wait until the next 8pm, are you still going to even remember that you wanted it? You might not.

Mike 4:39

That’s what I was really thinking when you said that I was like “Geez! I only have to wait a few minutes. If I don’t click it right then, there’s no chance I’m remembering five or 10 minutes later it’s gone.”

Megan 4:48

So just wait that’s the first concept. I first learned this when I was a kid. My dad is also a financial planner, so he was all about teaching my brother and me random habits to give us good healthy spending. And so he taught me this wait a week principle when I was a kid. And we would go to the toy store. We actually went once a week, which is, I don’t know, an interesting experience. And we had money that we earned from our chores and whatnot. And we had enough money that we could buy ourselves things at the toy store. And we just go and look and see what was there. And if there was something that we wanted, we had to tell my parents what it was. Like “Okay, this is the thing that I really want.” And next week, if we still remembered the same thing, we had the option of getting it.

Back when I was a kid, it was kind of a rule. I was only like five or so. Can I remember for a week what I really want? Five-year-olds have very impulsive desires. Most of the time, I probably didn’t remember a week later. But even as an adult, I find that just imposing this “I’m gonna wait a week and see if I still want it” or “I’m gonna wait a few days” or “I’m just gonna wait.” If I don’t need it right now, there’s no reason that I need to buy it right now.

Financial planning is a very slow game. What’s the goal of financial planning? Normally, it’s a lifelong goal. There’s some sort of life-long goal that you’re trying to support, like your future retirement or maybe even you have a goal that’s happening in 10 years. Ten years is a long time. You can wait a week on, you know, buying that impulsive thing that you really think is cool today. You can wait a week, and it’s not going to make a big dent on the lifetime of enjoyment you could potentially have with this item. So wait a week is this first principle and again, if there’s only one thing you do, implement that: waiting to make your purchases.

Mike 6:44

Yeah, that is fantastic. I like the week time frame again, for me. Man, I would never buy anything, because I would not remember it. I like that time frame. I love that your parents would take you to the toy store every week and then make you wait to buy something. If I if I did that with my kids, it would just be mutiny. That would just not go over well. You know, I am a financial planner now and thinking I’m just failing. I need to do a better job there.

What you really said was that financial planning is a long process. And it’s not really a process. You know, and I say this a lot. It’s not the plan. The plan is worthless. It’s the planning that’s important. Because your life is constantly changing. As soon as you write it down, it’s going to be out of date. And so this just fits right into that where it’s the planning process — constantly kind of reevaluating, slowing down — because it is years long. We’re trying to do things, whether it’s raise kids, work at our career, enjoy certain things out of life experiences. It’s not going to be just that one trip. It’s going to be those experiences over time. And so slowing down is a great concept to consider. And here’s a specific way to implement a slowing down mechanism that will again help you to realize how you can reach your goal in a better fashion.

Megan 8:11

Right. Now, the first complaint I often hear with waiting a week is — well, really there’s two big ones, but one of them is — “But Megan, it’s on sale!” It’s a big one. “Ooh, but it’s on sale.” I do want to let you know that everything almost everywhere is on sale right now. Doesn’t matter where you’re looking. Like on Amazon, almost every listing I look at is “This is the list price, but today, it’s on sale.”

Mike 8:37

Oh, the other thing that just reminds me of is on Amazon, the new thing where it’s like, “There’s only seven left” Right? “Better order soon.” I’ve noticed that it’s like, “Oh, there’s only four left, you better order soon.”

Megan 8:50

They’re always making a sense of urgency, because they’re trying to make sure that you drive really fast. That’s their incentive. They want to get you going really fast on your purchases, so they just fly by and you have no idea if that’s actually what you wanted. So things are always on sale. So I would say first of all, unless you’re very familiar with the exact pricing of this item. Like you’ve been tracking for months and you’ve been looking at these types of things and finally you found one and you’re like “This is actually a really good deal” and you have such an informed sense. That’ll be the only time that I would be like okay maybe because really you’ve wanted this for a lot longer than a week. You’ve been really researching it and you just happen to have found this one. But even then, humans, we still have a prey instinct, so when you find something and you’ve been hunting for it, the joy of the hunt can sometimes still compel you to buy it. So I still think waiting until the the joy of having found it has worn off and you are a little more sober minded about whether or not you really want it for that price. Just wait enough that you can imagine not buying it. And if you can imagine not buying it, and you still want it, maybe then you could. But most sales are just fabrications. They’ve marked it up and now they’ve marked it down. I’ve almost never seen kids clothes that are actually on sale. It’s always “We weren’t going to charge you $20 for this item, but we’ve cut it back to the normal price of where everywhere else it would have cost this.”

Mike: 10:28

I love sometimes you go around to the stores and you see the the big mattress stores, every mattress store. There’s always an “Everything’s on sale.” And there’s signs there all year long.

Megan: 10:40

And they’re like faded. Yeah, exactly. It’s so true. So that’s the first complaint I hear.

I will mention at this point when I was a kid and in my entire life, I’ve only had one time that the wait a week principle has let me down. I went to the toy store, and there was this Pet Shop squirrel set and I really wanted it when I was a kid and it was in the clearance section. And it was only going to be like $2. And I told my parents I really wanted it. And we debated for a long time together about whether or not we were going to still wait a week. We decided to wait a week. And when we went back, the clearance section was gone. And I wasn’t able to buy the squirrel. So in my entire lifetime of waiting a week, including several times that items as an adult have been on sale. This is the only casualty I have. So I think for most of us, we can wait a week. And you know, was my life really impoverished for not having it? I think I’m probably fine. It’s probably fine that I saved the $2.

Mike: 11:48

Well, yeah, I love that in the real world. And your experience has never come back — except for one time — it’s never come back to get you. But I will point out, you still remember that one time.

Megan: 12:03

So it’s funny because when I first started really writing articles, and if you go back, you can find it I have an article that’s writing about this Pet Shop squirrel. You can see a picture of little me with a picture of what the squirrel set looked like. And when I was writing about that article — my dad shops a lot on eBay — and a few years later, for my birthday — I’m well into my adulthood– but for my birthday, I opened up a Pet Shop squirrel set. And what was really funny was that it costs the same price. Basically, he got it for $3. So in all of those years, it hadn’t gone up in value.

Mike: 12:39

No inflation on that product for those years.

Megan: 12:42

Still just a clearance Pet Shop squirrel set.

Mike: 12:47

Oh, that’s great. Okay, so wait a week is really good strategy for all the things you mentioned. Really aligning and everything. So what else do we have in terms of slowing down your spending, staying at a good speed on the road?

Megan: 13:04

So the second complaint, I hear to the wait a week principle. And this is a pretty modern thing. It’s “I’ll forget where I found it.” Because on the internet, sometimes you’re like, “I don’t even know what website I’m on, but I found this really cool thing, and I like it.” So there’s the “I’ll forget where I found it.” And this is where the second strategy comes in, which is that I think that everybody should have a wish list. You should have a place where you save the cool things that you find. And if you find something really cool on a website, have a wish list where you go and you save it. And that’s like your wait a week list. You make it the things that you’re waiting on. And when you go open it up to put another thing down, you’ll realize like, “I put that one on two weeks ago, then I forgot about it.” And every time you open it up again, it gives you another opportunity to ask the question, “Do I still want it?” So I have a way to week wish list. I have things that I had added to it when I was like 15 that are still on there. Like I’ve avoided buying it for so many years, because I just haven’t ever really wanted it enough. But when I look at it, I’m like yeah, that’s still cool, actually, like still kind of like that. I don’t want to remove it because I don’t want to lose it. But I have it in its own little category of someday. It’s a wish list someday, maybe? Yeah, I still like it.

Mike: 14:27

Yeah, you know what I love about that too, because you were talking about the prey and the predator. Clicking the button gets us that dopamine hit, which we really want. So I’ll really want to click that buy button, add it to my cart, and then click the Checkout and get those dopamine hits. But guess what? If you click the add it to my wish list, right? You get the same chemical reaction, you’re still gonna feel really good about it.

Megan: 14:52

It feels like you own it when you’ve had it on your wish list for 20 years. It just feels like you own it at some point.

Mike: 14:58

But even just that act of clicking — we know this from the scrolling. It’s why social media works this way. It’s the cycle of find, search and find. And that’s where you get these little dopamine hits. That’s why you endlessly scroll. And you’ll be like, midnight, “Why am I still scrolling?” because it’s search and find.

I love this, because you interrupted this with the wish list, and also give yourself that reward. “Cool, found this thing. Oh, man, I love this thing.” Boom! Throw it in the wish list. And you’re gonna get that dopamine hit and feel good without actually opening up your wallet. And then like you say, weeks later, “Just forgot I added it.” For me, what’s gonna really help is not even clicking. Because like I said, a few minutes later it’s totally forgotten. If I put it on a list, I’ll be like, “Oh, yeah, it has been a week now. Now, I can buy it. Megan said, all I need to do is wait a week.”

Megan: 15:49

See, here’s my rule. This is my rule. If you don’t remember a week later, it doesn’t count. You have to start a new waiting period. So, that’s how I do it. So if I’ve added it to my wish list, and it’s been eight days even, and I’m adding something else. I wasn’t going there to look for that particular thing; I was just adding something else. I reset the clock for myself. Look, I didn’t even remember, it was on there.

You know yourself better, obviously. I know, for myself, I err on the side of not spending money. Sometimes I need to be encouraged that actually, this is a good purchase and I should do it. So because of that my not removing the graveyard from my wish list is actually helping me to be more joyful in my spending, and it helps me create more joy in my life. Whereas if I was more of an impulse purchaser, I could see keeping the graveyard being a really bad thing. “Oh, I’m gonna give myself the excuse that I need in order to get this.” So do what you need to do to not give yourself an excuse. That’s the whole point. You’re trying to make driving really slowly and thoughtfully the default.

Mike: 16:55

And as you were saying about getting to know yourself and building that awareness, so important in so many aspects. And it just brings me back to financial planning, and being financial planners in general. Because that’s where when you have that relationship with clients and doing financial planning, that you could be so helpful over time as you get to know. And a lot of my clients will have that self awareness already. But they also need help like there because you have these money stories and money scripts that you grow up with. So whether it’s I’m really good at spending, I need to slow down, I’m really bad at really finalizing that purchase, but I know I should, because it’s gonna bring me a lot of joy. That’s where planners, I think, just earn a lot in terms of just being able to help or doesn’t have to be planners could be friends, family, whatever. But just being able to help those innate natures, and helping people feel great about either saving more or spending more or having experiences, whatever it is.

Megan: 17:48

Along those lines, I know some of my friends benefit from having a person that they can tell. So I play that role for some of my friends, because I’m super frugal, and I’m not going to encourage them to buy something. Whereas there’s some people you tell them about a purchase and they’re like, “Go for it. That’s awesome.” I’m just gonna listen and be like, “Oh, that sounds cool.” I’m not gonna push them into doing anything. But also there’s some purchases that as soon as they imagine telling me about it, they’re like, “This isn’t a really good purchase, is it?” And just having that friend that you can imagine — sometimes they don’t have to tell me about it, just imagining telling me about it, they save money because they don’t do it. Feel free. You can imagine telling it to Mike and me. Imagine telling us about your purchase and what would we say about you buying it? Having a strategy like that can help.

Mike: 18:36

Yeah, yeah, no, it’s so true. Yeah, you know, and we’ve talked about that just feeling how it would feel one way or another or how it would feel to say it out loud to somebody else. And it’s just reminds me of those accountability partners and that whole system too is just really valuable. Not just for the gym and doing workouts, but also for budgeting and spending. It can be just really helpful for sure. All right, so wish list, using the wish list. Good place to keep things for the wait a week, so we don’t really forget about it, depending on your situation.

Megan: 19:05

So you’ve waited a week, maybe you’ve saved it, maybe you’ve haven’t. You’ve finally decided that you have waited a week you still want it. Okay, before you just buy it, I ask myself “Do I need it right now?” Because this is a lifetime commitment here. I’m buying something that I plan on having for a long time. Normally, these kinds of purchases — sometimes it’s food — but most of the time, it’s a lifetime commitment. I’m gonna keep this through its whole life and its whole usefulness. And do I need it right now?

Because if I don’t need it right now, that’s an opportunity to put it on a real gift wish list, something that somebody else could get me for my birthday or somebody could get me for Christmas. And there’s a lot of waste that happens at the holidays. Economists, they get a bad rap for talking about it. But there’s a lot of waste that happens. There’s something that’s called the deadweight loss which is the difference between the price the giver paid for it and the amount that the receiver would have paid for it. So it’s this lost value. I got you a gift and it cost $50, but you would have only paid $10 for it. There’s $40 of value that just disintegrated basically. I wasted it, because you wouldn’t have paid that much for it. And that happens a lot at holidays.

But if you have a wish list, and it has a bunch of stuff on it that you have waited a week, it’s for a price where you would have bought it for yourself, and you’re sticking it on a gift idea list for your spouse, for your parents, for somebody else, to be able to gift it to you, then there’s nothing lost there! It’s just so much joy. And I think a lot of people who give into their impulses a lot — they buy a lot of stuff — they’re the hardest people to shop for, because you’re looking for a good idea to get them and everything you can think of they already have. But if you’re somebody who’s waiting a week, who’s saving those ideas, who’s putting them on this public wish list, maybe your shared wish list that you can share with your family and friends, it’s going to be way easier to buy one, because there’s literally an idea right there. I could get you that. But also, they will be able to see the type of things that you do really want, and they’ll be able to surprise you with other things that are very similar to the kinds of things that you want.

With a wish list, your family and friends can support the core of your budget too.

So I think having some sort of shared wish list with your family is another great tool for savings. They’re going to be getting you a gift anyways, may as well get you something you legitimately want. It’s like outsourcing some of the joy of your budgeting. I don’t need it right now. Now, it still gives you the option of buying it for yourself. There’s nothing that says that when the day comes in, you’re like, “Actually, I do want that thing right now. It’s not just an abstract, I want it later. I’m not as happy waiting anymore. There’s some reason why I want it now.” Go for it! Shop your own wish list. Get it off of there. You’ve been waiting a year for that thing and nobody else wanted to get it for you. Or maybe you’ve only been waiting a month and there hasn’t even been a holiday yet. But the thing is come and now you’re not happy waiting, you want it. But by putting it on the wish list and having that be the next step before purchasing you, you save yourself that little bit more and you slow down your driving that little bit more and you widen the amount of resources available to supporting your core to not just your own resources. But now your family and friends can support the core of your budget too.

Mike: 22:36

Wow. Yeah, I love that. So they get to know you even better through that wish list and help them be in that lane of your core wishlist. And you know what else really struck me when you were talking about the waiting? You said, “Do you need it now?” And I feel like that’s the thing. We know, we over consume. Everybody knows, like, the majority of people are just over consuming stuff. And so I’m thinking about purchases, whether it’s clothing or kitchen stuff. It’s “Oh, yeah, that new spatula. Do I need it right now? I have a spatula that I’m using right now. And it works fine.” Do I really need that new one or the next pair of shorts to go running? “Oh, yeah, this new one looks awesome. Do I need a right now? I have shorts that I run in now. And they still work.” So like, the answer’s no. Like so many times the answer will be no, I don’t need it right now. Because if I did, I’d be doing without something. And maybe you do. Maybe there’s something that’s like a new activity or a new thing you’re doing it’s “Oh, I don’t have a utensil in that category. So yeah, I need one because I’m going to do this class next week.” But a lot of our consumption is not right now. And so again, by clicking the put it on the wish list, you’re going to get the hit and feel good. You’re going to share it with your family and friends that you can help them align with your core. And you’re also going to save yourself on things that you just don’t need right now. Until you do. Yep, so that’s great.

Megan: 24:03

And there’s one more like very small benefit that wish lists bring. I haven’t actually written about this one because I can’t figure out how to put it into a larger article. So hot tip just for this podcast, which is that if you keep your wish list somewhere like Amazon — I have one of my wish lists on Amazon — and you keep your wish list on Amazon, you only add things to it when you want it for the price it’s been sold at and you’re willing to wait for it. So that’s my concept. When there’s a big sale, okay, it’s Prime Day, what are the Prime Day sales that you’re going to capture? You go to your wish list. You search this page; Ctrl-F is what you do on Windows. You search the page and type the word “dropped” in. Amazon is trying to get you to take advantage of the sales and will tell you every item on your wish list and what percentage the price has dropped since the price you added it. So you can literally just scroll through and be like, “Oh, there’s 50% off that router I want to buy. I wanted to buy it at the old price.” And it’ll tell you what the old price was. “I want to buy it more now that it’s 50% off.” And so you’re able to actually take advantage of real sales, as opposed to getting snookered into “Oh, mattress sale! Read my faded sign in the window.”

And so I really like that feature. And there’s a lot of different sites that have it. Amazon is just the one that most consistently has that. It’s going to actually tell you about the real sales. And since they’re already things that you’ve wanted — they’ve passed the wait a week, they’ve moved into the I wanted to buy it, and now they’re on the I’m waiting for either it to be the right time or for someone to buy it for me. They’ve passed so many levels, that you’re really actually producing savings when you’re purchasing something in that category. And sometimes, it’s Prime Day, and I’m looking at the thing, and it says it’s 30% off, and I don’t want it. I realize it has jumped through all the hurdles. And even at this price I’m like, “Yeah, I don’t think I want to buy it.” And instead of buying it, I’m removing it from my wish list. But even that, yeah, it’s another test to see is: Do you want it for this price? Do you want it? Do you still want it? It is another way to capture the discounts with your wish list.

Mike: 26:24

Yeah, no, I love it. But you got to be careful, though. I’m thinking: Oh, geez, everything’s gonna be on sale on Prime Day. I click a whole bunch of stuff.

Megan: 26:32

You’d be surprised because you think everything’s going to be sale. And when you browse the things — like Amazon has a click to see the Prime Day sales, and you’re now browsing just those. Suddenly, you’re like, “Wow, everything is so discounted. This is amazing.” But when you go to your own wish list, it’s going to be two things. It’s some small number because you’ve added a bunch of random stuff on there. Those things aren’t willing to discount it that much or Amazon’s not using it as a loss leader or whatever reason things have gotten discounted. It’s just the spatula. It’s that spatula that you thought you might add to your kitchen. And it’s maybe just a penny off. It says like it’s dropped a penny since you added it to your list. And you don’t even know if that’s because it’s Prime Day or not.

Mike: 27:17

The cool thing about that too, I’m thinking, is you get to take advantage of, “Oh Prime Day is coming up. I want to take advantage of it.” So instead of going to the Prime Day page where they’re gonna get you with all that advertising, all that good stuff that’s been so discounted from an inflated price probably… Instead, you could still get that great feeling — “Oh, Prime Day is coming up! I’m gonna go to my wish list and see what’s going to be on sale.” Yeah, what’s on sale and do it there. So that’s great.

Megan: 27:42

Oh and an extra tip: you can do the same thing on your family members’ wish lists. So on Amazon, you can share your wish list with another family member so that they can see it. And so I can go over to my — it’s called like gift ideas instead of called the wish list — you can go over to your gift idea list, and I can look at all of the things that my husband has said that he wants, and whether it has dropped from the price he added it to his list. And I can also look at all the things I’ve secretly added to a gift idea list for him to see whether those have dropped. So you can do this across — like if all of your family is on board, and they’re all doing this wish list and they’re all adding things at the price that they would have paid for them — you can capture deals across the table for all of your family members. It’s really cool.

Mike: 28:29

That’s awesome. That’s great. All right, so we’ve got in terms of slowing down staying in our lane, we have the spending, wait a week to slow down, it’s gonna slow down and then to make sure it’s really something you want you get it on your wish list and review it. If you forget, hey, too late, start the clock again, according to Megan, and lots of great tips on using the wish list. So do you have a couple of other things in terms of how we slow down our spending just to round out tips and strategies for this episode?

Megan: 29:01

Yeah, so another one is if you’re shopping in person, so a lot of times when I go on vacations and things I’ll find myself like in a gift shop or I’ll find myself you know, I am at a really cool bookstore or something. I found myself somewhere and I’m shopping in person, and especially when on vacation, but you’re tempted to just get it because when are you ever going to be there if you want it? You can’t wait a week. This is your only chance.

So one thing that I always do is I take a picture of the thing that’s really tempted me. I did this back in the day when I had a dumb phone and I was a kid and I would pull it out and take a really grainy photo of it. How much even more so now! Man, my phone camera now is better than my real camera. So, you take a picture of it, and that gives you a nice sense of ownership over the item. And sometimes all the desire to buy it can just fizzle away right there. It’s like adding it to your wish list, it gives you that nice click. It gives you that nice feeling, so even in person, you can take a photo. But it also means you can walk away from it, and later you can decide, “Do I really want this?” So you can still wait the shopping experience. You found it in the store at one o’clock and at 1:20, you’re leaving. Do you want it at 1:20? You got the hit of having found it. At 1:20, do you still want to buy it? And so you can still get a little bit of a wait a week.

Also, a lot of times — again, when I’m on vacations — I’ll see things that I’m like “Oh, so-and-so would like that as a gift.” I think I’ve talked before that gift giving is a big part of my core budget. And so I like buying gifts for people. And sometimes I’ll see something in a store, and I’ll think, “Oh my goodness, this is so perfect for this person!” Taking a photo of it gives you the option of showing it to them. So you can give them the gift of showing them the cool thing you found and avoid actually having to buy it. So that’s especially true, again, at those gift shop type places. You see some signs. It’s got a funny phrase on it. You’re like, “Oh, this is just like what my friend would say.” You take a picture of it. You text it to them. You feel a lot better. You got to share it with them. You don’t have to buy it to share it with them. You can just take a picture and then share it with them.

Also, taking a photo can sometimes mean that it gives you the chance to find it not in the gift shop. You’d be surprised how many random Gift Shop items are also just on Amazon or just like some random site online. And so taking a picture of it lets you either do a Google Image Search with it or you can know exactly who the author of that book was or what the title was, and do the search to see if you can find it elsewhere, which gives you then the option of waiting a week.

“You are looking mighty prosperous today. Might I interest you in one of these impulse items here by the cash register?”

Now I came up with all these rules before smartphones. You can also just literally — while you’re standing there — be like, “Is this somewhere else online?” I’ve done that in the grocery store before when they have those impulse purchases. When I was a kid, there was an audio that used to say, “You are looking mighty prosperous today. Might I interest you in one of these impulse items here by the cash register?” That goes through my head anytime I am tempted by one of them. “You’re looking mighty prosperous today.”

Anyways, let’s say you’re tempted by an impulse item, you can also look up those and be like, “Okay, they’re selling it for $25 here. This book is a kid’s book that looks really cool and it’s in the impulse lane.” And when I look it up online, it’s $5, so we don’t have to buy it.

Mike: 32:20

Now I love that. When you’re in the gift shop and you’re on vacation. Cause that’s, yeah, they get you all the time on those things. So taking the picture — again, I just love that. It’s same as clicking the wish list. When you were saying it, I was just imagining and I definitely felt really good. Oh, yeah. I could just take the picture and then continue to walk around the store. And that really just made me feel good as if I had bought it. And then probably don’t need it. And then definitely with the gift, sending the picture, I was thinking they’d want the gift, but it’s really — we know so much of gift giving is the act of thinking about someone else and really knowing that person and thinking about them. And so when you text them that picture of that thing, they’re going to all of feeling. They don’t need actual thing. They’ll be like, “Oh man, that’s so cool. Thanks for sending my way. Hope you’re having a good time, blah, blah, blah.” And it’s perfect.

Megan: 33:12

And sometimes you can text it to them and you’re like, “This is really cool and I thought of you.” And they’re like, “Oh my goodness, that is really cool and I want one.” Do you now? Cause I’m standing right here and it’s right there.

Mike: 33:23

That’s right.

Megan: 33:27

I feel like cultivating to that openness with the people you buy gifts for can be really helpful. Cause sometimes, I’ll sitting on a gift for my dad for a long time. Man. It’s been on that list for years. Finally, I’ll just show him, I’ll be like, “Hey dad, I found this thing. And I’ve almost bought it for you like three times, but I haven’t bought it because I don’t know if you really want it. Do you want one?” Most of the time my instinct is right, and he doesn’t want it. That’s why I haven’t bought it, but every now and again, he’s “Oh, that is really cool. I do really want that one.” And then, I say, “Okay, you’ll have to pretend to be surprised.”

Mike: 34:02

That’s right. Okay. Pretend we never had this conversation.

Megan

Yeah, exactly.

Mike: 34:14

All right. Cool. So taking a photo can definitely help us out in the way the wish list is helping us out. That’s great. So any other ways of slowing down our spending?

Megan: 34:21

So I think the last one here is just remembering that you don’t need to buy. There’s a lot of challenges that happen online. They’ll be like, “No Buy November” or something like that. And it is, okay, see if you can not make any new purchases for a month. And those can be really helpful exercises. Whether it’s one budgeting category or it’s across the board, there’s people who try to do that even. But I think even simpler than that is just remembering that you don’t have to buy. If a month by and you don’t buy that much, that’s fine. You’re succeeding. That’s a great month.

No matter how much you make each year, there is someone who’s spending every penny of a salary five times as great, and there’s someone saving more than you on a salary half your size. And I think it’s just good to remember. There’s nothing that you have to keep up with here. You need to make sure that you’re staying in your budget, but if your budget is bigger, even maybe, than you feel like you want to spend, you don’t have to spend it all. Just as long as you’re within your means there, it doesn’t matter how small you make the amount that you spend. The less you spend now, the more you get to spend later when you actually really want something.

No matter how much you make each year, there is someone who’s spending every penny of a salary five times as great, and there’s someone saving more than you on a salary half your size.

So I think it’s helpful that learning to do without. Learning that you don’t need to make a purchase. A lot of these strategies are things to slow down, but there’s also just the, see if you can want less stuff. Focus in on the things you really do want. And when you have something and you are like, “That’s cool.” Train yourself a little bit mentally to know that it can be really neat. It can be a very valuable, very good thing that you don’t need to own for it to be awesome. And again, I think it does come back a little bit to that, like that kind of prey instinct. You found something cool and now you want it. But you can train yourself in some ways to just appreciate that it is, and that you don’t need to have it. You can have joy in just knowing that it exists out there in the world.

I’ve heard, it said, you want to be the type of person who can afford anything, but you have to remember that you can’t afford everything. So every cool thing you find, you can’t afford. There’s too many. There’s so many cool things but you want to be the kind of budget and have the kind of life where you could buy anything that you want. So that’s the financial independence goal we’re trying to get to. We want to make sure that you find something that’s really going to bring you joy, you can buy it, but we also need to remember that every cool thing that could bring you joy, can’t all be bought.

Mike: 37:03

Right. I like the way you said that and especially around, someone’s spending five times whatever you’re spending and someone spending less than half. It’s so true that at every level — and we know this working with a lot of different clients and everyone know this — that at any kind of level of income and expenses, we as humans have the same problems, desires, whatever it is. We have the same kind of human emotions. So that tells you, it’s not about the dollar figure. It’s about all these other things that what brings you joy and learning to do without. I always say it terms of having constraints actually opens up the freedom. Because without the constraints, life doesn’t really make any sense. Think of any kind of game that you love to play. There’s rules and constraints, and that’s what makes it fund. And so just knowing that, you can afford anything, just not everything is fantastic to help you continue to hone in on bringing yourself joy.

So all these tips and strategies from today will definitely do that. Clicking the wish list brings you joy. Taking the photos is going to bring you joy. And it’s going to help you really continue to align all of that spending with what’s really core and critical for you. So thanks, Megan, for walking us through all of these for today and the other ones. And we’ve got a few more potential podcasts on this topic coming up. So stay tuned for those as well. Definitely. Great to have you as always.

Megan: 38:47

Yeah. And if anybody is listening and has any questions or wants to hear more about a particular topic, you should send your question in to me on my website or Mike on his website, because maybe we’ll get to have a whole podcast where we answer some of the questions that you guys have. So feel free to send in your questions so that we can continue to help.

Photo by Jacob Kiesow on Unsplash

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Chief Operating Officer, APMA®

Megan Russell has worked with Marotta Wealth Management most of her life. She loves to find ways to make the complexities of financial planning accessible to everyone. She is the author of over 700 financial articles. Her most popular post is "The Complete Guide to Your Washing Machine" while one of her favorites is "Funding a 3-Year-Old’s Roth IRA."