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On Declining Savings Rates

In the times of our parents and their parents, the need to save money was taken for granted. Debt was something undertaken for big purchases, such as houses, cars, and appliances. Most importantly, and this is something you’ll see if you watch an old movie, people stopped going out socially when they ran out of money.

Now, in the miracle age of convenience, we’re not troubled by many worries. It’s become more and more convenient to access our money and credit. In fact, it’s so convenient that retailers seem eager to subtract as much unnecessary waiting as possible, and that includes the time we used to use to think.

That’s right; our brains are an obstacle in the ultimate retail equation.

As a society, we recognize that impulse buying can be dangerous. Many states and countries have waiting periods for the purchase of firearms and other weapons. We know that an impulse purchase of a gun while in the wrong state of mind can be dangerous for a person and society in general. But, when we look at the catastrophe that sub-prime mortgages have caused, where people have bought houses that they truly couldn’t afford, can we honestly say that guns are the only purchase that can damage society?

It used to be that to spend money, we’d need to stand in line at the bank to withdraw what we’d want, or right a check and balance our checkbook. Now, it’s as easy as whipping out a card. They’re making it easier too! I just received a credit card with a microchip that means I won’t even need to sign many receipts.

Many marketers and retailers appeal to our basic impulses rather than our sense of logic. This isn’t deceitful; it’s just how they’ve chosen to market their goods. While it might feel good to satisfy your immediate impulse while shopping, you ultimately benefit more by thinking in longer terms. Here are a few ways to defeat the urge to impulse shop:

1. Shop with a list. Your brain can also be satisfied with the hunt for items. If you go in with a list and then leave, you’ll find that you get less temptation than a wander through store aisles might provide. Shopping with purpose cuts through most impulse urges, while shopping as a distraction opens you up to them.

2. Leave your cards at home. If you don’t have access to money, you’re less likely to spend it. Bring enough to get what you need. Some people actually freeze their credit cards in a block of ice. It ensures a waiting period before use.

3. Do your research online. If you know what you’re looking for and know the details, you’re less likely to be swayed by a last minute deal or a good salesperson.

Remember, while satisfying an impulse might feel good for a moment, being in complete control of your finances feels good for a much longer time. So control your money, don’t let it control you.

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