Do you struggle with reducing your spending even though you know you’re buying things you don’t need? I do.

It’s something I’m constantly working on. I see something I want, and I have to convince myself to stop spending money. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Reducing temptations by staying away from the mall and not browsing online retailers in my free time helps. I’m like a kid that way. You know how they have parental controls for non-PG websites? I need that, but for Amazon (and Sephora and ASOS and Old Navy…) Without going completely offline, there is no way to remove all temptations though (I’m looking at you Instagram Ads). You still need an arsenal of tactics to trick your brain into not wanting that thing.

Shifting your mindset doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can be as easy as taking one extra minute before swiping your credit card to consider the value it will add to your life. Challenging yourself to justify a purchase before finalizing it is a good habit to create, but how do you do it?

Simplicity of Spending

With the creation of credit cards and online shopping, money has lost its tangibility. Spending money has become such a simple transaction that I rarely pause to consider a purchase before clicking ‘Submit’. I refuse to enable the one-click ordering on Amazon because it’s already too easy! You get a receipt in your inbox that you probably never look at and wait for the shipment to show up on your doorstep. A few weeks later you’ll skim over your credit card bill and pay that off. Each purchase will blend together, and you’ll be left wondering how you racked up such a big bill.

Think about this in comparison to the past. Way back when (but really not that long ago), you had to get out of bed, put on real clothes, walk or drive to the bank to withdraw money, go to a store, find what you need, fork over that cash you just pulled out, and finally go back home. I am lazy; there is pretty much zero chance I do all these steps unless it is something I desperately want or need. Grabbing my laptop off the bedside table and clicking one button is hardly the same deterrent.

I’m all for efficiency, but the simplicity of spending is affecting how and why we buy.

Determining Your Hourly Wage

I know I’m not willing to swear off online shopping and credit card rewards so, without doing that, how can I make spending more challenging?

Relating money to something else helps. For me that something is time.  And to figure that out I need to know what my time is worth.

If you work on salary and have never calculated your hourly wage, it might surprise you (good or bad). Mine works out to about $50/hour, which is higher than I would have guessed. I have a flexible (and variable) schedule, and I don’t work Mondays, so my limited hours bump up that number. To figure it out I took my annual salary, divided by the number of hours I work in a year (an average week times 52). It’s an estimate as my hours do vary throughout the year and I didn’t account for vacation, but it’s close enough to make my point.

Side note: If I ran the numbers for blogging it would be substantially lower and, honestly, probably a negative number {cringe}. I like to think of blogging as a hobby and not a job 😉

Putting a number on your hourly wage is important because it gets you thinking about the value of your time. Instead of thinking about something costing ‘X’ dollars, think of it as costing ‘X’ hours of your life. This is more impactful for me. There is always a way to earn extra money, but there are only so many hours in a day to do so.

Those $100 jeans are fabulous but are they two hours worth of work fabulous? Hmm…

Cost Per Use

Focusing on quality over quantity can also reduce spending in the long-run because you’ll already be surrounded by items you truly love. We all have those regret-laden purchases sitting in our closets that we never reach for and always feel guilty about. Let them go. As Marie Kondo says, you should only keep items in your home that bring you joy. Hold onto a little bit of that guilt to remind yourself to make better purchases in the future.

One of my favourite articles about spending is ‘What if One Dollar Was Worth One Use?‘ by Alyssa over at Mixed Up Money. Her challenge is to reduce the value of every item you buy to $1 per use. Can you picture yourself wearing those $100 jeans 100 times? Are you going to reach for that $15 t-shirt 15 times? Will you make zoodles 40 times with that $40 spiralizer? If the answer is no, then you’re not getting enough value out of the things you buy.

Maybe you don’t think this is something you struggle with. Take a look in your closet and run a few quick calculations for the clothing you already own. I bet there are at least a few things that aren’t anywhere close to the $1 per use target. Doing this in my own closet has also taught me what styles work for me. There were trends I kept buying because I liked them on other people, but I rarely reached for those pieces when they were in my closet.


It doesn’t matter if you want to build sustainable practices for selfish reasons (it’s cheaper) or to keep the earth healthy for the next generation. Introducing green habits will benefit both your wallet and the planet.

I had a discussion on Twitter with Freedom 33 about coffee, and he made a point I honestly hadn’t really considered.

You know I’m not the person who’s going to judge your pricey latte habit. If you can work it into your budget, then you do you. However, have you considered the environmental impact of all those paper cups? Do you bring your own reusable mug? (Freedom 33 also wrote a post on this over on his blog)

I definitely have some room for improvement in that area.

We’re supposed to be talking about saving your money and not saving the planet though. There are better resources out there for learning about that than my blog.

So, how can going green help with your spending? Focusing on the worth of your time and the cost per use of an item are better at discouraging larger purchases. Spending $5 on an item is pretty easy to justify if you’ll use it five times or if it only costs you six minutes of time. Factoring in sustainability can make small impulse purchases seem wasteful. Think about what all goes into to making that $5 coffee. Imported coffee beans, maybe a milk carton, a paper cup, a cardboard sleeve, and a plastic lid. You’re going to enjoy it for maybe 30 minutes and will then chuck the remnants into the trash. Worth it? On some days yes, but on other days concern for the environment might be enough to dissuade you.

This works for material possessions as well. It can be easy to justify buying something that costs less than $20; often you won’t even think twice about it. Instead of arguing against the price, what if you use the sustainability argument. Are you likely to toss the item after just a few uses? If so, it might be a hard pass.

To Sum Up:

By developing a few tricks, you can shift your mindset away from the dollar value of a purchase to something that makes the value (or lack thereof) more apparent. Figuring out what your time is worth, calculating the cost per use, or factoring in sustainability can all aid in the decision making process of spending money.

It can be so easy to get caught in a cycle of buying things just because it’s so easy. Establishing a habit of questioning yourself before taking the plunge can save you money and ensure only quality items are entering your home.

Do you have any tips for preventing impulse purchases? Share them in the comments so we can all improve our buying habits. 

The three tactics I use to talk myself out of spending money.

This post was proofread by Grammarly.


    • Sarah Reply

      Oh my gosh, I’m an idiot! I have 90’s on the brain apparently!

  1. I loooove the idea of breaking down your money in terms of time. It’s one of the best ways to realize that you don’t need to buy something. “Is this worth four hours of my life? Eh, not really.”

    • Sarah Reply

      Converting price to time has made a big difference in how I think about spending money, I wish I had started it sooner! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  2. When I had a job it was easier for me to spend and not feel super guilty about it. Now, since I don’t have a job, I don’t put myself in the position to buy anything. When I do find a job I will be on Sephora.com again earning my insider points. 😉

    • Sarah Reply

      I totally feel you on those insider points! They can be addictive. Removing the temptations to spend money is a huge help in stopping yourself from spending money, especially when money is tight. Good luck on the job hunt.

  3. Yes! I have used all of these tricks in the past (and present) to control spending and see tremendous value in all of them. We also use a “Purchase Pause” at our house. Basically we put everything on a two week waiting period before buying it. Typically we find that we don’t actually need it once the initial impulse to buy has worn off.

    • Sarah Reply

      The ‘Purchasing Pause’ is another great tip to prevent impulse purchases! I’ve definitely done that before, especially for big-ticket purchases.

  4. I agree it’s got really easy to spend money with online shopping nowadays.

    I’m trying to go more minimalist and reduce clutter, first step is to stop buying unnecessary things (even cheap things!).

    • Sarah Reply

      I would also like to go more minimalist but it’s never been something I’ve had much success with. I need some sort of middle ground because I do still like having a certain amount of ‘stuff’.

  5. I’ve used all of these methods over the years to change my spending habits. The ones I find I keeping coming back to is equating a price tag to my time and environmental sustainability.

    When I quit my online compulsive shopping habit something that really helped was reducing my access. I unsubscribed from tons of marketing emails, unfollowed all brands on social media and deleted all the shopping apps from my phone. That made a big difference in my mindset since the ability to shop wasn’t constantly at my fingertips anymore.

  6. Yes to all this! I use the cost in money trick all the time. I like the cost per use or cost per wear too. For kitchen things I’ve gotta say I’m certain I’ve used my blender WAY more than 100 or so times, so that was a worthwhile purchase. Same w my crock pot, I’ve used that bad boy several hundred times. But that won’t be the case for everyone. It’s worth thinking of how likely it is that a purchase will actually be used in your daily life.

    • Sarah Reply

      Oh gosh, our crockpot has to be a tiny percentage of a cent at this point. It’s lasted for years and we use it so often. Lifesaver!

  7. That whole “figuring out what your worth” part has been particularly tricky for me. Dunno why, but always has.

    Also totally agree it all starts with that elusive mindset shift; what’s valuable, what’s not, what matters, what doesn’t, etc.

    Good work 🙂

    • Sarah Reply

      It’s certainly tougher to figure out when you don’t have a set salary to base it on. I think many of us have a tendency to underestimate our worth when basing it on solo endeavours.

      Thank for stopping by Pete!

  8. I love cost per use and cost per wear! I’ve recently really started to push myself (and my husband and HP) to make greener decisions. It’s probably because I feel so guilty about using disposable diapers. But I’ve spend hours and hours researching organic cotton. And it everything reminds me that no matter how “green” a practice is, the best thing I can do is not shop (and in the case of HP, accept hand-me-downs with open arms!). I guess that’s a really long way to say that not buying anything is better than trying to buy “the right thing,” at least for us!

    • Sarah Reply

      You’re right, not shopping is always greener than even the greenest of shopping.

  9. I love that you’ve added an environmental impact per-use thought to go along with your cost per-use mindset! I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to buy less single use plastic this year and can attest that is hard!! My biggest problem is still buying things without thinking at all (usually because it’s on sale…gets me every time) but trying to build up greener spending habits has certainly been helping, even if it is slowly… with lots of mistakes along the way.

    • Sarah Reply

      Thanks so much for commenting Tessa. The environmental impact is a good one to consider and is often missed in terms of saving money.

      Sale prices still get me too, it’s hard to resist everything!

  10. I worry on top of all those, the opportunity cost of money. In terms of cost per wear, my addiction to thrift stores continue and I’m pimping on less than 0.01 cent per wear 😉

    • Sarah Reply

      You are the thrift store master so this doesn’t surprise me at all!

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