How to Spend: Wait a Week

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My Balinese cats, Hazel and Fiver, with the old-fashioned lint brush I purchased after waiting a month.

Walking away from tempting purchases is particularly difficult, especially for those who regularly shop.

One way to conserve your willpower is to make it a policy to take a picture of the item you want to buy with your phone, save it to a wishlist, or pin it to a Pinterest board. Sometimes, just taking ownership of an image of the object can feel as good as owning the object. The photograph can ease the pains of wanting to purchase it. Other times, sharing the item is half of the reason you want to buy it. Showing the item or photo off to your friend will be rewarding and you won’t feel the need to buy it any more. Still other times, you may just really want it.

In those cases, one way to exercise thrift is to wait a week. After the week is up, review the items you’ve noted to see if you still want them.

Items where my desire can withstand the trial of a week, I am more likely to treasure for months to come. Originally when I wrote about this strategy in 2011, I wrote about how I learned this principle on the Barbie aisle and was applying it in the Psychology section of a bookstore. Now in 2019 as a mother and wife, I find that I am applying the wait-a-week principle most frequently to mundane purchases.

After getting white cats, I found that my dark-colored dress clothes were not as professional as I would like. I’d been expending much effort to remove cat fur by hand or with minimal strips of Scotch tape after leaving the house. I found an old-fashioned lint brush and wanted it. It cost $10 when I found it. After waiting a month to see if I thought I’d use it, I bought it for $9 while it was on sale. Now, after a few weeks of using it, I love it.

My Internet router was intermittently failing and did not broadcast in the frequency some of my husband’s technology needed. My husband researched and selected a new one. It cost $130 when we found it. I added it to my wait a week list. After waiting a week, we decided that we would get it. Then, we watched the price on Amazon until it dropped on sale. Then, we bought it for $99.

On my wait-a-week list now is a new brand of face wash. My old face wash brand was discontinued. When I was three quarters of the way done with the bottle, I started shopping for a new brand of face wash. I saved ideas to my wait-a-week list. I’ve been periodically reviewing them again and narrowing down the options. My front runner costs $5 per ounce and will require a bit of DIY add-ons to make it ideal. I’m waiting a week now to see if I think that it is still the best option.

Although these are not impulse purchases, they are non-essential purchases. I did not need to buy the items right away. My old router did work. With effort, I was able to remove enough cat hair. My face wash has not run out yet.

Because they were not needed right away, I took my time with them. I delayed. I imagined using the new item. I contemplated what I would pay for a solution when I was faced with my problem. When my desires can endure the distance of a week, I buy it.

If after a week I still feel uncertain, then I wait longer. I wait months. I wait years. If I ever decide I don’t want it, I remove it and stop waiting.

This technique of waiting a week helps those who sometimes buy on impulse. If every impulse purchase is simply delayed a week though, there is no savings only inconvenience. Savvy shoppers should use the week’s time to apply dozens of other thrifty techniques.

I keep my “Wait a Week” list on Amazon. It is a private wishlist where I squirrel away purchase ideas. I curate it periodically to remove items that I have decided not to buy. Even so, the list has 400 or so items on it.

I save things there that I want to remember exist but do not yet want to commit to purchase. My wait-a-week list is filled with “if onlys” such as “if it were cheaper” or “if only I had the space for it” or “if only I had the time for it.” The circumstance where I would want the item is possible but not yet current.

The oldest unpurchased item on my “Wait a Week” list was added on May 30, 2005. It is the book Never After by Rebecca Lickiss. It is currently $5.95. My note says, “Supposed to be like Dealing with Dragons or The Two Princesses of Bamarre.” Those are both two books I greatly enjoyed. It is 2019 now, and I’ve never bought Never After. I have also never read it. It still sounds like an interesting book though, so I’m going to keep it on the list. Maybe I’ll find the book at the library. Maybe I’ll stumble on it at a used bookstore. Maybe I’ll decide I don’t want to read it and remove it later.

The newest unpurchased item on my “Wait a Week” list is black bike shorts. I want a pair that I can wear underneath dresses so my three-year-old does not make me indecent if she plays with my skirts. They are currently $4.99. I’m waiting a week to see if I feel I actually need them and if this is still the ideal pair.

You can see from my examples that I wait on any nonessential purchase. Most purchases that I wait on cost less than $10. Many of them I avoid entirely. The memory of weak desires cannot normally withstand the trial of a week’s separation.

I add approximately 10 items to my wait-a-week list each month that I do not buy. At a minimal estimate of $5 to $10 per item, that is $50 to $100 per month of savings thanks to this principle. Waiting has likely protected my money from thousands of dollars of reckless purchases each year.

Waiting a week rarely has a bad outcome. In my almost three decades of life, one Pet Shop squirrel is the only casualty of the Wait a Week principle. Furthermore, waiting a week or longer normally means that you can wait for a sale, as was the case with my router and my lint brush.

Photo by author, Megan Russell.

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Chief Operating Officer, CFP®, 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 800 financial articles and is known for her expertise on tax planning.