I’m Trying a Waiting Period — And I Like It

by Miranda Marquit · 4 comments

waitingI’ve never been one to budget every last cent, and I’ve never been on a spending diet. Most of the time, I’m content to make sure my goals are being met each month — and I spend whatever’s left.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed my old habit of just buying something because I have money is creeping up. I mostly stay away from impulse purchases, but when I look back over my spending for the month, I see that they are making something of a comeback.

So I’m trying something new. I’m trying the waiting period. So far, I like it.

What is a Spending Waiting Period?

The idea behind a spending waiting period is to avoid buying something until after a pre-determined amount of time has passed. You might impose a 14 day period on yourself, or decide to aim for a 30 day waiting period. I’ve instituted a 21 day waiting period. Before I make a purchase, I wait 21 days and if I still feel like the purchase is a good idea, I’ll go ahead and pull the trigger.

So far, I’ve managed to avoid pretty much any unnecessary spending for the month of February.

How a Waiting Period Helps You Save Money

One of the biggest problems with spending is that you often end up buying items you don’t really care about, and ones that don’t help you reach any short-term and long-term goals. As a result of buying too much on impulse, you might not be spending money according to your priorities because you aren’t giving enough thought to your choices.

A waiting period helps you get beyond that. It gives you a chance to reflect on a purchase and determine whether or not it’s really going to add to your quality of life. I’ve decided against two different purchases in the last two weeks just because I realized that the items were only “okay,” and that they didn’t really mesh with the rest of my priorities and values. I thought they would be fun to have, but on reflection, I decided that there were probably other things (more important and interesting things) that I could do with the money.

Much of the time, after going through a waiting period, you realize that the item isn’t really needed, or that you wouldn’t use it as much as you originally thought you would. When you decide not to make the purchase after all, you save money — and it’s there for something that you might value even more down the road.

I’ve been surprised by how much I like the waiting period. It’s bringing me back to my values of conscious spending and a desire to make sure that I really am doing what matters most to me with my money. My son is even trying out the waiting period idea (although he opted for a seven day period). So far, he’s mostly just forgotten about whatever item-of-the-moment he was interested in, which means that his unspent allowance is adding up fast.

If you haven’t tried a waiting period before, this can be a great way to help you think more about your money and learn a little more about yourself.

Do you give yourself a waiting period before you buy things you see on display? How else do you control your spending?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Michael Belk says:

    That is a good idea because most of us get into trouble by impulse buying. It is better to do it yourself than let your bank embarrass you by declining your purchase.

    • David Ning says:

      I’ve had my card denied once on a pretty big purchase because they thought the purchase was fraudulent. I called and they apologized, gave me the cash back that I would’ve gotten if I actually could have used the card too. The result is that I ended up getting double cash back because I used another cash back card to make the purchase.

      I didn’t mind that one bit and wish they will continue to embarrass me more often! 🙂

  • freebird says:

    So procrastination has its rewards?

    Doing this pretty much rules out any kind of purchase while attending an event like a ballgame or concert and also while traveling. These are the places where we’re most vulnerable to overspending. But delaying could be a bad idea when hunting through thrift shops because whatever you find now, you probably won’t be able find again on your next trip. So for this I keep a mental list of target items and the prices that are immediate buy decisions.

    I think wait time isn’t as important as being able to think about the purchase in a different mindset. Maybe you don’t need to wait weeks to decide, just mull it over breakfast the next morning. If you still think it’s a good idea when you’re sitting in a familiar environment doing something routine, then it’s probably worth it.

    One area where I do use a waiting period weeks long is when buying stocks. I aim for what I think are bargain prices, and the risk is some underlying defect drives the company into bankruptcy. Avoiding this takes a thorough assessment of financial statements, and this takes time to consider all of the angles. I used to do this quickly and found mistake after costly mistake, so now I look at the same company over and over again days apart to see if I missed anything before buying shares. My batting average improved as a consequence.

    • David Ning says:

      Great insight about using the waiting period to buying stocks. I’ve never thought about applying the concept to investing. It does make sense for individual stocks though.

      I’m mostly a buy and hold index investor now, but I could use some patience with my entry points since I often buy on up days and then see a better price point literally the day after 🙂

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