Dubai: Have frequent shopping sprees spun your spending out of control – to the point that it has driven you deeper into debt? Adding your spending binges to a ‘Do Not Buy’ list can help keep money in your wallet, reveal money coaches and residents in the UAE. Let’s understand why.
“If you find yourself scrolling through retail sites when you're stressed or get anxious until you get your hands on the latest tech gadget, those are signs that you may be spending money that you don't have,” said Abu Dhabi-based personal finance planner and coach Andrea Barbara.
“Even though retail therapy feels good in the moment, the resulting worry about the money you spent and the debt you created will bring you misery. However, you can control your spending if you were to take a week- or month-long break from buying items that you often go overboard buying.”
With a ‘Do Not Buy’ list, you essentially make a personalised list of rules about what you could and could not buy for a week or month of no shopping for anything that in the recent past often tempted you to overspend, be it clothes or shoes, tech gadgets or smart devices, accessories or jewellery.
You can control your spending if you were to take a week- or month-long break from buying items that you often go overboard buying
Self-imposed spending limitations helps curb overspending
Miriam Da Silva, an expat bookshop owner living in Sharjah, confessed how she once enjoyed splurging on home décor accessories, but that was until she started to regret buying items she didn’t even need or even have the place at home for.
This is when she decided to take a year-long “fast” from buying anything that encouraged her vice, but still helped her lifestyle. For instance, Da Silva continued to buy books because she owns a bookstore and generally finds that books are a huge part of her life.
“I also permitted myself to buy anything I wanted at the grocery store and continue dining out regularly. Sure, I saved money, but that wasn't all I found in the year that I followed my no-shopping rules,” she said.
“Following the rules gave me a better perspective on money and its power, on how we get it, how we use it, and what it's good for. I also learned that the feeling of wanting something passes relatively quickly, and most importantly, not to shop when I was emotional.”
‘Buyer's remorse’ can positively reinforce good spending habits
For Jinu Raj, a Dubai-based physiotherapist, spending too much on clothes compelled her to one day decide that she would completely stop buying clothes for six months. “I’d look in my closet and there were just all of these shirts I never wear that I would just skip all of the time,” she said.
Following the rules gave me a better perspective on money and its power, on how we get it, how we use it, and what it's good for
“I’d wear maybe 10 or 12 of them in rotation and there were at least that many that I almost never wore, and I think that was eye opening for me. But by not buying clothes altogether for a few months, I easily managed to save hundreds of dirhams in the process.”
Whatever the spending pattern is, figuring out a rule will help you break it. Maybe you need to stop buying clothes, like Raj did, or refuse to shop for home accessories when you're angry, like Da Silva did. “Whatever the spending pattern, limits can help,” said Dubai-based money coach Mirin Raul.
“Have you made any purchases in the last few months that you regretted later? Maybe it's all clothing, or things you bought when you were angry, sad, feeling guilty from saving too less or overconfident of saving more than usual. Write them down and see if you notice a pattern.”
How should you go about setting up a ‘Do Not Buy’ list?
Barbara advises first asking yourself: “Where do I feel like I’m spending more than I want to spend? Once you’ve figured it out, put it down on your list. Another way to assess your negative spending habits is guilt. If you feel bad about certain purchases, put them on your list.
“I think that tells you where you’re spending money that might be against your values ultimately or it might not be according to your real priorities. Writing down your guilty purchases will help you visualise your problem spending, and take the first step in deciding where to rein in your expenses.”
Barbara further noted that even tracking for a month or two, “… you know how much you spend eating out, how much you spend on clothes, how much you spend on different things, asking yourself: ‘Where is your money going?,’ and then looking at that objectively,” she added.
“If all of your regrets are clothing, if all of your regrets are electronics, if most of them are nights out, I think that that can really be a really effective way of showing yourself, ’Oh, I often spend money in this category and I often always wish I hadn’t.”
“It may help you to track not only what you buy but what you were feeling when you bought. When you know how your emotions affect your spending, you’ll be better at curbing those impulses. Once you’ve saved enough money, you can start buying items on your do-not-buy list again”
In order to get a grip on impulsive buying, financial planners often recommend that sticking to a budget, setting savings goals, using shopping lists and paying in cash are different ways you can try to prevent spending from going off the rails.
“While a single purchase seems harmless, frequently spending beyond your means can add to financial stress,” said Raul. “Are you seeking instant gratification or a mood boost, overshooting budgeted spend, not being able to pay off bills, feeling ‘buyer’s remorse’, or not using a purchase?
“These are all signs of impulsive spending. A simple way then to start saving money is to make a list of don’ts before going shopping. Navigating the store, mall or even an online retailer becomes easier with a plan in hand. That way, the only purchases made are ones that fit into the budget.”