Association of Military Banks of America

Military Saves Month: 5 Ways to Stop Buying Stuff You Don’t Need

By Amanda Mitchell, AFC® Candidate

From Saturday Night Live skit “Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford”

Having enough money in savings is one of the top money challenges that service members report. Overspending and impulse buying are frequently the culprit preventing us from achieving our financial goals. In honor of Military Saves Month, I challenge you to take the pledge and save some extra money by cutting down on buying things you don’t need. Here’s how to do it:

Stop Signing up for Store Newsletters
Retailers will lure you into signing up for their newsletters by offering up a coupon or something exciting like an entrance into a drawing for free things. I fully advocate for using coupons when you do need to make a purchase, but the issue is that they send these emails frequently to tempt us into buying more. Remove the temptation to buy things you may not need by unsubscribing to retailer emails and refusing to sign up for them all together.

Reframe How You Look at Costs
Start translating the cost of things into how much time it would take for you to earn that much money. Instead of thinking about if those new Air Pods you want are worth the $200 price tag, ask yourself if it is worth your time to earn it.

If you make $15 per hour, it will take you a little over 13 hours of labor to buy them. That is almost two full days of work if you work a 40 hour week. For service members who do not have a set hourly wage, calculate a rough estimate by dividing your gross pay by how many hours you typically work.  

Once you start thinking about the cost of things in terms of your time, things will begin to seem a lot less worth it and help you walk away from unnecessary purchases.

Stick to Your List
Before you leave the house, make a list of everything that you need. Go into the store, get what you need, and nothing else. Don’t torture yourself by browsing aisles and allowing yourself to convince yourself to stray from the list.

  • *Pro-Tip*: Use a sticky note and stick it to your phone or another important item like your wallet to avoid leaving your list at home by accident.
  • Avoid temptation, order items online, and either have them shipped to your house or ready for pick up.

Institute a Waiting Period
Overcome impulse buying by implementing a 24hr waiting period for all purchases. Once you remove yourself from the situation for a bit, it is easier to determine whether you were seduced by clever marketing or something you need. If it turns out that it is a needed item, do this:

  • Discuss the purchase in-depth with your spouse or a friend.
  • Take the time to brand shop. See if there is a different brand that is comparable but may be cheaper.
  • Consider buying secondhand to save some money.
  • Create a plan to save specifically for that item.

Keep the Big Picture in Focus
Every time you are tempted to buy something, think about the goals you have set for yourself. Is this purchase going to help you achieve your goals? Or will it set you back a little further? Is this purchase worth setting yourself back? Think about how hard you have worked and what the payoff will be when you finally reach your goal.

This Military Saves Month, challenge yourself to take control of your finances and save more money for the things that make you happy. Don’t wait! Grab a friend and take the pledge together!

Take the pledge here!