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The 6 Questions Everyone Should Ask Themselves Before Spending Money

An expert on shopping addiction has an easy fix to keep compulsive shopping from getting the best of you.
Photo by Stocksy / Kathryn Swayze

It's so easy to buy stuff you don't need. On an epic trip to Chile earlier this year, I convinced myself that I would start drinking mate, a caffeinated tea drink that's popular there, on the regular. So I bought a pretty drinking gourd to put it in, a metal straw, and a couple big bags of yerba mate. Six months later, I haven't touched any of it.

While that's just a tiny example, the urge to splurge happens to me several times a week. I think I gotta have something, only to realize at some point a few minutes or days later that actually I don't. Sometimes I can stop myself before I whip out my credit card, but often it's too late.


So I was thrilled to hear a super simple solution to this problem on a recent episode of the Bad With Money podcast by Gaby Dunn. "You can never get enough of what you don't really need," April Benson, a psychologist and expert on compulsive buying disorder, told Dunn. Her trick to help people control their shopping urges? Before buying anything that you suspect may not be a great move for your finances, ask yourself these six questions:

Why am I here?

How do I feel?

Do I need this?

What if I wait?

How will I pay for it?

Where will I put it?

"If they can answer these questions to their satisfaction, preferably in writing, it's probably not a compulsive purchase," says Benson, who recommends writing the questions down on a note card that you carry at all times. (Making a note on your phone works too.)

And if it's any consolation, remember that it's hardly a moral failing when you buy things you don't need, as there are all kinds of external forces egging us on. "Consumption fuels our economy," Benson noted. "Advertising is all about the creation of desire."

Here's the whole Bad With Money podcast The High of the Buy, on why we buy things we really don't need—and sometimes don't even want.

Follow Anita Hamilton on Twitter.