Personal Improvement

What Is the 30 Day Rule (Stop Impulse Buying with This Simple Trick)?

Updated on July 28, 2020 Updated on July 28, 2020
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Do you tend to add things to your cart without thinking about it? We’re all guilty of it from time to time. Whether it’s at the grocery store check-out or surfing the web, it’s easier than ever to spend your money without batting an eye. These purchases have a particular name – impulse buys – and they could be dragging down your finances. If you’ve had a regrettable experience (or more than one), we recommend trying the 30 Day Rule to curb your spending.

In this article, we explore the 30 Day Rule and how you can use it to control your finances.

What Is the 30 Day Rule?

The 30 Day Rule is a tool to save money and develop healthy spending habits. We like this rule because it’s a simple concept to put into practice.

When you get the urge to splurge on something new, wait 30 days.

Simple right?

It doesn’t require you to budget like a badass and save money for a rainy day. But, for the record, we recommend you do both of those too.

You don’t need to cut out coffee or make DIY clothes. You still get to buy whatever you want. It’s just about waiting.

At the 30 day mark, make an assessment. If you still want to make the purchase, go for it. If not, let the item go and don’t look back.

Why wait?

Spending and saving money for lots of people isn’t cut and dry. The 30 Day Rule will help strengthen your control over money’s emotional components we often express through emotional and impulse purchases.

What Are Emotional & Impulse Purchases?

Most personal finance rules tend to take an impersonal angle with spending and saving. Do x and you’ll get y.

But it’s not always so cut-and-dry in real life.

Money for most people holds an emotional component. Corporations capitalize on this phenomenon with commercials that target our emotions.

They promote products frequently for how they make you feel rather than what they do. These are emotional purchases.

On top of that, retailers – both online and in-store – design the shopping experience to encourage impulse purchases.

Impulse purchasing or impulse buying is a term for an unplanned decision to buy an item right before purchasing. It can be as simple as the snacks next to the cash register or the “similar items” linked to the stuff already in your online shopping cart.

Both instances are powerful ways designed to spend money without realizing it.

The 30 Day Rule is a controlled and thoughtful approach to spending money.

More Than a Bad Habit

Finances and money are frequently tied to emotions, whether you recognize it or not. “Shopping therapy” is a popular mantra for those who like to spend for the sake of spending.

But it can be affecting your life in severe ways. Have you opted for a big purchase like a new tv or car without a plan to pay for it?

Did you throw some shopping therapy sprees on top of that? Millions of people are drowning in credit card debt from this type of spending.

Emotional impulse buying may be sinking your finances (and life).

Look in the Mirror

Do you buy random things and forget about them? Or tack on lots of extras to a purchase? Do you have purchases you later regret?

You may not regret that new pair of shoes but you probably didn’t need them.

People may spend money because they’re feeling a specific emotion we’re lead to believe shopping can relieve. It could be anxiety, anger, depression, or any other type of discomfort we feel.

But the satisfaction from an impulse buy is fleeting and short-lived.

It often leads to more unnecessary spending which can contribute to debt (or, at a minimum, a wasted opportunity fund).

It may be time to look in the mirror: how much of your spending can be tied to an impulse buy?

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Why Use the 30 Day Rule?

Financial independence and security are long-term plans. It requires foresight, planning, and healthy habits.

Many people feel daunted by this prospect but they shouldn’t be. It starts with simple everyday practices.

Getting out of debt and saving money is like exercising and eating healthy (Admittedly, not the most fun analogy, but stick with us).

Think about impulse buying like eating junk food. It tastes good in the moment, but doesn’t satisfy your hunger or fuel your body in the long run.

It sets you back and messes up other areas of your life like sleeping and love handles. Results don’t happen overnight and nobody’s perfect.

You’ll have your slip-ups and cheat days. But you’ll start to see improvements over time with consistent behavior. It’s all about sticking to a plan.

Food for Thought

Impulse buying can have a dramatic effect on your finances. Even smaller items like clothes – or any random thing on Amazon – can make a difference.

Thoughtless spending can set back your financial goals without you noticing it.

Thirty days isn’t a random number. It takes time to curb bad habits and build your muscles. Setting aside 30 days allows you to distance yourself emotionally from the purchase and spend time thinking about if you want it.

The 30 Day Rule is the perfect tool to start building your financial muscles without depriving yourself of spending.

How to Use the 30 Day Rule

The 30 Day Rule principle may be simple – wait 30 days to buy the item you want – but there are still some tools you can use to make it more effective.

If you are struggling to control impulse spending, these tools may help you curb and eventually break your habits.

Again, the rule isn’t designed to deny you anything. It’s meant to make you a more thoughtful, efficient spender.

Take an Inventory of Your Spending

Taking an inventory of your spending is a great way to sort out your purchases and recognize patterns in your spending habits.

Personal Capital offers great budget tools that will automatically sort and categorize purchases for your bank and credit card accounts all in one place.

Personal Capital Budgeting

Budget like a business and focus on your cash flow. In addition to their budgeting software, they have an awesome suite of tools to help you optimize your investments. Did we mention it's free?

Don’t cringe at the word “budget”. You don’t have to allocate money into pots each month. The software will automatically organize your purchases into categories.

It allows you to retroactively see where your money is going.

Getting a better understanding of your spending habits, and figuring out where your significant spending “hot spots” are, is a great way to uncover impulse buying habits.

Do you recognize any categories that seem bloated? Do you have any purchases you may regret or didn’t even want?

You don’t have to be hard on yourself  for regrettable past purchases, but you have to be honest.

That’s the key to erasing debt and setting a path for success.

Start Small

Impulse buying isn’t limited to only one area – say clothes or jewelry. It’s probably happening with most things you spend money on.

It’s not your fault.

Always Remember

We are (by design) propositioned to spend money wherever we go.

That’s why it’s crucial to build healthy spending habits. But remember, strengthening our muscles doesn’t happen overnight. It’s important to start small with something easy.

Start with food.

We frequently process our emotions through food. People say never go to the grocery store hungry, but you probably shouldn’t go if you’re stressed, sad, or anxious.

You wouldn’t believe how much money you can spend each month with little food purchases, fast food, and other impulse buys.

Next time you’re in line at the grocery store and get the urge to reach for the candy at the register, stop yourself and put it on your list.

Start telling your money where to go and stop wondering where it went

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Waiting 30 days for ice cream?

It may seem trivial, but little gains like this will go a long way to train your brain. Walking away from small items like these are big wins in the long run.

Once you master food, take it up a notch. Review your inventory and see what spending hot spots are draining your finances.

Perhaps it’s clothes, shoes, kids toys, pet products, video games, or tools. There are lots of culprits you can work your way up to. So….

Upgrading your cell phone? Wait 30 days.

Getting a new work outfit? Try again next month!

30 Day Rule

Set a Goal

Once you work your way up to the bigger ticket items, it helps to set a goal. It’s another easy and effective way to train your brain.

Write down the name of the item, the price, and anything else that will capture your attention like the make, model, brand, or store.

Put that info on a post-it or piece of paper and post it up somewhere where you’ll notice it every day – like on the fridge or your computer monitor.

It will encourage you to think about the item and reflect on if you want to buy it.

Over the 30 days, you can do some research and find out if you can get it somewhere cheaper. Don’t try and break the rule if your item is on sale.

That’s one of the oldest tricks in the book!

Sales are a marketing gimmick used to drive impulse buying. They come and they go. There will be more sales in the future.

Right now, stay focused on the goal: 30 days.

Commit to Challenging Yourself

The principles of the 30 Day rule are great to apply to more expensive purchases too. Many people fall into debt when they buy big-ticket items like TVs or cars without a plan to pay for them.

If you’re getting the urge to keep up with the Jones’, take a step back and examine why you want to buy that specific item.

If you are confident you want it, set up a savings goal. A twist on the 30 Day rule is to contribute to a savings account each month until you can buy it outright without any debt.

A debt-free life should be everyone’s number one goal.

Try setting up a separate savings account at places like CIT, Personal Capital, or Discover where you can build up your monthly savings until you have enough to buy.

True satisfaction will come from a debt-free purchase!

Start Today

Taking control of impulse buying is a major step toward financial success. The 30 Day Rule may seem simple, but retraining your brain is considerable work.

Start small and build your muscles, and soon you will be shopping – and saving money – with confidence. Thirty days is a small price to pay for that peace of mind. Start today!

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Mike Uberti - Contributor Mike Uberti is a personal finance writer, researcher, and municipal government policy analyst and project manager. His passion for the almighty dollar was sparked by a graduate course he took in college. Since then, he's used that knowledge to successfully fund his education, buy a home, and save for retirement. Mike received a Masters in City Planning from UC Berkeley and lives with his wife in Oakland, California. In his free time, he contributes to his IRA.
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