One Surprisingly Simple Tool to Curb Your Spending

I never really considered myself a spender until I started bringing in a paycheck.

There’s something about having thousands of dollars come in each month and having nothing to show for it at the end of the month that makes you question your commitment to saving money!

But the first step in getting past a bad habit is to address it, and the second step is to do something about it.

Enter: the “Want List,” which I now proudly hang on my refrigerator.

It’s Like a Check Out Cart Without the Pressure

No doubt this idea came from how fun it is to shop on Amazon and make a list of all the things you need or want. Clicking “Add to cart” is incredibly therapeutic… until you scroll down to see the total cost. Instead of keeping this list on Amazon, I decided to put it down on paper. For the past six months, whenever I want to purchase something that costs more than $20, it goes on the list for my husband and I to think about it and decide whether or not it’s important enough to budget for.

Over time, I’ve found that I lose my desire for an item or that it’s not really worth the money, so it comes off the list. Money = saved!

Right now I have two things I’d like to buy: a chlorine-eliminating shower head shower head and a food processor. Both of these items have been on the list for over three months, meaning it’s very likely that I will get and use these items frequently.

The “Want List” Gives You Time to Think It Through

Impulse purchases are murder on your budget. If it gets really bad, sometimes you forget what you’ve bought, leaving you scratching your head when it comes time to assess your savings account. That’s such an awful feeling and it spells disaster for your long-term financial goals.

When you have a “Want List,” though, you are constantly checking in with your desire for an item. It builds up an excitement and desire for it, or quickly shows you that you don’t really want or need it. Either way, you can be more sure that your money will be well spent or well saved. It’s not always about being frugal, it’s about making the most of your money in accordance with your lifestyle.

Do you make a list before you purchase an item? How long does it have to be on the “Want List” before you’re okay with buying it?

11 thoughts on “One Surprisingly Simple Tool to Curb Your Spending

  1. I don’t have a physical list, but I have a running one in my head. And items generally stay there for awhile before I take the plunge. If I do at all.

    A physical list is a bad idea for us. My husband has ADD, so he’ll forget most of his immediate wants pretty quickly. If he mentions something multiple times, I start taking it seriously enough to put on the mental list. If there were a list he could see every day, he’d remember (and therefore want) everything.

    That said, for most people this is a brilliant way to sort wants from needs.

  2. I am a completely online kind of dude. So instead of adding it to the shopping cart on Amazon. I add it to the wish list. But it still is just as effective for me. Sometimes items will sit in there from months until I scrub the list and delete things I no longer want.


  3. Hubs and I totally do this. Ours is in an excel spreadsheet and a few things have been on their for years. Our timeline is a bit different though because nearly everything has to wait until my loans are paid off (April 10th!!)
    I especially love this way of delayed spending because not only do you usually not buy the item, but it’s a way to keep the cost of splurges in alignment. Hubs tends to have smaller more frequent items where I typically want one big item. When mine is a bit spendy, it’s easier to compare it against a few of his items so my wants don’t get forgotten.

  4. Kelsey Cannici says:

    I use It serves 2 purposes – it allows me to save something I want for later, but also it alerts me when the price goes down. I feel better waiting on a purchase when I’m lusting for something because I know that it’s somewhere safe that I can find it again, and I’ll likely be able to squish the urgency of the purchase knowing that I won’t miss a good deal.

  5. I work away from home, and country, and continent, when I start to feel the pressure of working over here I used to shop online. For some reason that used to take off some of the stress. Now getting rid of stress is good, but shopping online for six months a year gets expensive. Lucky enough I started adding items to my shopping cart (want list) and leaving it there. Turns out it is a double win, not only did it help me get my mind off of my stress, it saved me money in the mean time. Turns out, half of the crap I had been “wanting to buy”, I didn’t want the next day.

    I have been running my want list this way for a couple years now and it turns out, I don’t want as many things as I thought.

    Great post!

  6. I do make a list of items to buy like always and as part of my practice. Seeing it on paper or on excel along with its price is really helpful because I can see the total amount and each amount as well as make me realize its importance.

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