| April 10, 2012

Question purchases to curb unnecessary spending

When individuals are trying to get a handle on credit card debt, it can take a great amount of willpower to say "no" to certain purchases. It can be easy to justify certain purchases by framing them as needs instead of wants, or by thinking it's a good deal because it's on sale. But these buys can add up and make consumers' credit card bills spiral out of control. There are several strategies adults can employ to help them discipline their spending and avoid making discretionary purchases that may add to their debt load.

First and foremost, adults should ask themselves why they want the item. In many cases, asking this simple question can be enough to deter shoppers from making unnecessary purchases, because they may find they only want it for a one-time event or because it looks attractive or valuable. Adults that also have to come up with reasons that explain when or how they will use the item should also think twice about making the purchase.

Second, individuals may want to think about their current credit card balance – either by checking their account or keeping a statement with them – to know how this purchase will impact their bill. Is an $800 flat-screen television that is on sale worth the months of overtime and added interest charges that will result from making the purchase? Sometimes framing purchases in these terms can provide more insight into how valuable the item really is. This is especially true if adults already have a similar item that may simply be an older model, but still functional.

Lastly, consumers can benefit from the employing the three-day rule when they see something they think they need. Walking away from an item for a few days can help differentiate between a need and an impulse buy. After a few days, most adults find that they don't really need or want the item after all.

In some cases, many Americans that are facing significant debt are in a tough position due to circumstances beyond their control, such as a job loss or sudden medical bill. But in most cases, credit card debt comes as a result of overspending. Learning to discipline spending may not be an easy task, but it's one of the most effective ways to stay out of debt and chip away at large balances. Money management tactics are not one-size-fits-all and individuals may have different approaches to tackling debt. Working with a credit counselor can help adults who are struggling to manage their spending find strategies that work for them.

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