It happens to all of us at one time or another. We have good intentions when we start our shopping trip. We have a detailed list in hand and a budget set in stone, but something happens along the way that causes us to go over our budget.
This has happened to me more times than I would like to admit. I have the best intentions, but as I stroll the aisles of Target I throw caution to the wind as I toss some cute flip flops in my cart along with a bar of dark chocolate. These items weren’t on my list, but they are necessary.
I need cute protection for my feet at the beach this summer. That chocolate? Well with the way my day has been going, it will certainly be for medicinal purposes.
And then it happens. My well planned shopping trip flies out the window along with my self control. I overspend and when I get home my shopping high is crushed by buyer’s remorse.
How do we recover? A momentary lapse in judgement and self control doesn’t have to cripple financial progress. With the following tips you can erase the damage or at least mend your wounds.
Assess the Damage
The first thing you need to do when you over spend is look at what you spent compared to what you budgeted. You need to know how bad it is. Living in denial won’t help you recover. That is one reason why it is so important to save your receipts and actually look at them.
Not only should you look at your totals, but you should also look at the individual items you purchased as well as their prices. Looking at the individual items and prices can tell you a lot about where you went wrong. Maybe you only went over a little and can easily recover. Or the total the cashier gave you was a shock to your system and you have no idea how it could be so high. Look at your receipt. The answers are all on that little, or possibly big, slip of paper.
Make a game plan
Now that you know how much you over spent and where that money went you can devise a plan of attack.
If you purchased unnecessary items and can return them figure out how much money you will get back if you return the superfluous items. Factor in driving time and gas if going to a physical store and shipping costs if returning online. If the costs to return outweigh the reimbursement you should just keep your items.
What if those items will cost more to return, but you really need to stay on track? You still have options. Can you give the items as a gift to someone that you would eventually be buying a gift for? Candles, clothes, shoes, stationary and art supplies would be great items to gift to someone. Simply deduct the amount spent from your gift budget for that person and you are back on track.
Things like lingerie, personal care products, and cleaning products probably could not be gifted. Unless you have a unique and special relationship with a person who you know would not feel weird receiving such items from you, go with another plan.
Here’s the underwear I bought for myself. Now it’s yours. Happy Birthday!
If you’re like me you shop at a lot of the same places as friends and family. If a friend of family member happens to come to your place for a visit before they head to the same store where you over spent you could ask if they wouldn’t mind returning your items to save you a trip. This idea is a stretch and only works if they mention they are headed to the store where you need to make a return. Don’t make things awkward and call everyone you know to find out who will be making a Target run soon to see if they will come pick up your items and return them for you. That’s a no-no!
What if returning items is not an option at all? If you purchased clearance items or during a going out of business sale you cannot return the items. All sales are final.
That’s how they get you.
The price is amazing, so you buy even though you had no intention of buying the item. Maybe you buy several items, because the prices are just too good to pass up. Then you get home and find you have no use for or space for a life-sized, cardboard cutout of Nicholas Cage.
Before you throw your impulse buy to the curb for trash day, try your hand at selling online. Try your personal Facebook page, Facebook groups, Craigslist, Ebay, Amazon, Offer Up, or any other online selling platform. You may not be able to sell it for the same amount that you paid, but making some back is better than none. Or you could get lucky and be able to sell for more than what you paid. You may have just stumbled into a side hustle idea, but that’s a whole other post.
You could also try selling at a yard sale, either your own or someone else’s. Obviously if you aren’t planing on having a yard sale anytime in the near future this doesn’t help you, especially if you don’t actually have room for the unwanted item. You may have a friend, family member or neighbor who is having a sale that would be willing to try and sell it for you. To sweeten the deal for them offer to split the profit with them. Again making back some money is better than none.
Learn From Your Mistakes
After you have figured out a way to recover from your over spending you need to make a plan to prevent it from happening too frequently in the future. Let’s face it, no one wants to deal with unwanted or unnecessary items after every shopping trip.
Take a look at your most recent overspend. Look at the number and types of items purchased that were not on your list. See if you notice a pattern or an area of weakness. Maybe your list had socks and you also purchased, cute underwear, bras and pajamas, but all you actually needed was socks. Your area of weakness is clothes or more specifically undergarments.
Whatever your area of weakness, you need to be mindful and have a game plan. If you know you can’t resist an impulse buy, allow yourself one. Before your shopping trip set aside $5-10 for impulse buys. When you are shopping you can pick out one impulse item and not feel guilty about it after the fact.
Know the store layout and avoid unnecessary browsing. If you are going to a large store for only a handful of items, you may be able to avoid entire sections of the store. If I need to run to Target for some beauty items, I can completely bypass the clothes, shoes, jewelry and bags. There is no need to unnecessarily tempt myself. Avoiding certain areas of the store will keep you from being tempted.
Only look at the clearance items in the department where you are shopping. If you are planning to buy pants then go right ahead and look at the pants on the clearance rack. Two pairs for the price of one regular priced pair of pants is a real possibility. Don’t stroll through the clearance section in other departments if you don’t need anything from that department.
I’m guilty of this, but usually I can justify it by only making purchases that will be gifts. I try to be very careful, but still sometimes get sucked in and taken for a ride. Luckily these above tips have helped to keep me from going too much over my budget and over the years I have really learned my shopping weaknesses and how to avoid them… usually.