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How to Stop Buying Cheap Stuff

Trying to stick to your budget but keeping getting pulled in by great deals? Here's how to stop the cycle!

Thank you for all you do. I have been inspired to be more mindful about my purchases. I would like to hear you address an issue I have had and that is buying things because they are so cheap but not needing the items. So, the purchases just sit there. A purchase only is good if you need it. -Tina

At this time of year, when there are deals and sales galore, it’s easy to get caught up in the sale frenzy and spend money on items that aren’t actually a good deal for us.

A sale might be a great deal for some people, but just because a sale is a great deal for some people doesn’t mean that it’s a great deal for everyone.

So how can you be more mindful of your purchases and not just spend money because it was a can’t-miss deal? Well, here are four suggestions I have:

1. Have a budget.

You knew I was going to say this, didn’t you? I know, it’s not exciting to have and stick with a budget.

But guess what? It will be exciting when you don’t have to stress over getting a credit card bill that you can’t pay!

Jesse and I have always lived on a strict written budget. And we attribute the current financial position we are in almost 100% to the fact that we have stuck with a budget since the time we were married.

(Hate the word budget? Then don’t use that word and use a different more positive word that works for you.)

A budget has also forced us to communicate about our wants and needs and goals. And it’s forced us to be really creative when times are tight.

There are times when it’s been really hard — because having a budget has meant that we have had to say no to a lot of good things and fun things and things we’d really love to have or do.

On the flip side, a budget has also given us permission to spend money. As soon as we had some wiggle room in our budget, we were able to add a Blow Category to our budget. Living on a budget and spending less than we make has also allowed us to have the extra money to give generously.

The best thing about a budget is that it lets you know whether you can spend on an item or whether you shouldn’t spend on an item. When you see that great deal on shoes at the mall or electronics on Amazon or cereal at the grocery store, you will know whether or not you have the money for it by consulting your budget.*

Psst! Feel like you can’t cut your budget but you’re not making ends meet? Read this post.

2. Use cash or a prepaid card or gift card.

A budget is imperative, but if you need help with actually sticking with your budget — especially when it comes to purchases like your Christmas gifts — you could make it easier for yourself to follow through with a budget by using cash or a pre-paid card or gift card.

These might not be as efficient as using a debit or credit card, but they will certainly be more effective at helping you stick with your budget.

I prefer cash since I can see exactly how much I have left to spend. For me, there’s something about having to pull out cash and hand it over when shopping that forces me to really examine each purchase and be 100% sure I want to spend the money on it.

I’ll find myself asking questions like, “Will I really use this? Could I get this for less money somewhere else? Do I really need this right now? How often do I think I’ll use/wear this?”

Using cash is great for in-store purchases, but it doesn’t really work for online purchases — and that’s where most of the best deals often are. This is where a pre-purchased prepaid card or gift card can come into play.

Designate the amount of money you plan to spend online for Christmas gifts (or whatever the purchases will be) onto this card and then that will highly motivate you to actually stick with that pre-determined budget!

(You can also earn free gift cards to use on Christmas gifts! Here are some of my favorite sites to use for that.)

Psst! Thinking you might want to start using cash envelopes? Read this post on 7 Budget-Saving Cash Envelope Hacks.

3. Get some accountability.

If you struggle to stick with your budget and are often swayed by “good deals” to overspend, I would encourage you to set up some accountability. This could be in the form of a budget tracker program like You Need a Budget. But I’d strongly suggest taking it a step further and asking for someone to be your accountability partner.

This would be a person who would know what your financial goals are, know what your budget is, and would get to check in with you regularly on how it’s going sticking with your budget. You could even give them access to your budgeting spreadsheet or software so they could check up on you in real-time!

Also, set up parameters for what influences you have in your life. If you find that reading certain blogs or following certain people on social media or going to certain stores or reading certain magazines or websites causes you to want to overspend, maybe you need to just stay away from them.

In the same vein, replace those negative influences with positive ones. Have people around you who will encourage you to stick with your budget, make wise financial choices, and live intentionally and frugally.

(Need some help finding frugal friends? Read this post.)

4. Wait 24 hours.

If you have the money in your budget, but you’re just not sure whether you should spend it on this item, a great exercise is wait 24 hours before purchasing it.

This gives you time to consider whether you really think it’s a good deal. It gives you space to step back and analyze whether or not you will really use something. And it also guarantees that you’re not just buying into an adrenaline rush and buying something you’ll later regret.

If you still think the item is a great deal after 24 hours, then you can guiltlessly purchase it. And there’s a really great chance it will be something that you will love and use for years to come because you were so thoughtful in your purchase.

What tips or advice would you have for Tina? Share them in the comments.

* One of the tools we love to help us track our spending and make sure we are sticking with the budget is using You Need a Budget. You can read more how it works and why we love it so much here.

photo credit; photo credit

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  • Melissa says:

    Another thing that has helped me not buy just because things are cheap is to fall in love with a more clutter-free home. Now I not only ask “Do I have the money for this?” but also “Is this item something I’m going to want in my house for the next five years?
    Am I willing to drop this off at Goodwill in a year if it becomes clutter?”

    I’m loving the blend of the perspectives of The Magic of Tidying Up and The Cozy Minimalist. I DO take advantage of sales but buy with much more intentionality. My splurge areas are things like a fiddle fig (that is a statement piece and makes a pleasant contribution to our home) and last more than one season (hopefully for years!).

    • Aimee says:

      This is what I was going to say! Agree with everything Crystal said AND…do I really want this taking up space in our house and how long will it be before I donate it because I rarely use it? I almost always skip the purchase and take the kids to do something – experiences over things!

  • Having a budget is so important, thanks for great tips.

  • Lisa says:

    Stay off the internet, stay out of the mall, and stop getting sale alert emails- those are my biggest keys. If you aren’t aware of what’s on sale, you won’t be tempted to buy!

  • Need Anap says:

    Thinking grocery/drugstore deals:
    buy almost exclusively only brands you use. I’ve given up on all body washes and shampoo/conditioner deals unless it’s brands I know we’ll use. This limits my time spent and shelf space. I think it’s fine to buy for donation or garage sale IF you do those things. I’ve been more intentional about donating because I’m decluttering more. HTH!

  • Rosanna says:

    Another thing that helps me is to unfollow bloggers, friends, avoid pinterest and instagram because I find that doing those things can make me feel bad because I don’t have all the beautiful things that others might have. For me, it would be decor. I love new decor and am quite full for ideas all the time. If I start getting dissatisified I stop doing all the above things and start counting my blessings. That along with having a strict budget really helps.

  • Akaya says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with sticking with a budget! I use Mint which is free and has a budgeting feature built into it…this feature helps me shift funds around if I go over in one category and helps me stay on budget overall.

    I also have a “gift” category in my budget that allows me to buy nice inexpensive items throughout the year so I can use them as gifts for baby showers, birthday gifts, and Christmas gifts.

  • I ask myself if it is something I really want and use, and if I would be willing to pay full price for it. I love being able to get a good deal on things, and I will buy things now at 70% off so that I can use that stuff throughout the year and not have to buy it at a higher price. But if I didn’t need it yesterday, I don’t need it today now even if it is on sale.

  • Anne M says:

    I find thinking of the space needed to store a new item is very compelling in getting me to say no. This also works for “free” items. There is also the issue of “lost opportunity costs.” For example, if I buy several skeins of really, really, ugly sale yarn that I won’t want to actually use than I won’t have the funds to buy 1 skein of not-so-ugly sale yarn that I will want to make something with.

  • Monica Johnson says:

    I always say to myself, yes it may be a great deal but if I don’t need it, I’ll still be spending $0 if I don’t purchase it.

  • Stella says:

    Thanks for the tips Paine. I’m addicted to the shopping deals and discounts and this post can stop that.

  • Amanda says:

    I’m probably a little late to comment, but I have a running list of items I’d like for our home or for our family/ home projects that need supplies to complete (to receive as a gift, or to purchase ourselves) I check the sale prices on them frequently, and if we’ve saved enough in other areas or for long enough…AND the price is right, sometimes we can buy it. It also helps me to know what gift cards to suggest to family when they ask what we’d like for a birthday or holiday, and where I can cash in Ibotta dollars to. Having a list helps me weed out impulse buys… just like at the grocery store, if it’s not on the list, I don’t need it. Sometimes, it’s a long wait of saving up for an item with gift cards and change and points and small amounts of cash, but I find I only buy what I really love when I have to wait that long.

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