How an Easy Smartphone Hack Can Help You Save Over $3,000 This Year

As fun and relaxing as we imagine retail therapy to be, the reality isn't so glamorous.  A 2022 survey found that the average American spends over $300 on impulse purchases every month.  It adds up to a whopping $3,768 per year in unplanned spending.  What could you do with that money instead?

Here's an effective way to use your smartphone to curb that impulse.


Go ahead and go shopping.

Don't try to resist, just go. 

Walk around the store and put all the things that catch your eye into your cart or basket.  Enjoy the dopamine hits as you pick and choose.  Take pictures of yourself with each item, and text the pictures (with or without cute captions) to friends you think would also enjoy the stuff you've chosen.

Watch those positive, supportive responses come in.  Smileys, hearts, LOLs, whatever.  It's the validation you crave, quick and superficial.  (More dopamine!)  And you don't need to buy all the stuff in order to give your friends a little lift too.  The pictures will be enough to show you were thinking about them – you don't need to add to their clutter.  (Why would you want to add to their burden, anyway?)

Now don't leave a headache for store employees.  Walk around the store again and put the things back, keeping a running tally on your calculator app of the price of each.  Add it up to see how much money all those things would cost.  Congratulate yourself on how much you're saving by not buying (and how many steps you're getting in at the same time).

Your chance to learn

Leave the store with a whole bunch of new pictures to scroll through, and all of your money and credit cards still in your wallet.  You can even post on social media.  But ask yourself:

  • How many of those things did I put in my cart because they were on sale or seasonally inspired?  (All those cute spring clothes, pretty necklaces, and pink cookware for Mother's Day!)
  • How many items came from end caps and other prominent displays?
  • How many items were things I had no idea I wanted or "needed" until I saw them in the store?
  • How many of those items were short-term highs destined to become clutter very soon?
  • How many of those items were junk food?
  • Will I ever even look at these pictures again after today?

So not only did you get to record your shopping choices, receive accolades from your friends, and rejoice at saving so much money, you also have the opportunity to learn more about what tempts you and how you could make better shopping choices next time.

Try it with your toddler.

This shopping hack works well with your toddler too.  Next time you're bored and want to go shopping, take your preschooler and let him pick what he likes and have his picture taken.  No need to actually put the items in your cart – just take the photos, which you can scroll through together later.

He might get the same enjoyment from looking at the pictures as he did from seeing the items in the store and taking them off the shelf.  Then he can move on and go back to playing with the trains, Legos, trucks, and whatever else he already owns.  Any pictured items he's still enthusiastic about can go on a birthday or holiday wish list to be considered again later.

But the question is – how much soon-to-be-clutter did you keep out of his playroom?  Is he really less happy sticking with what he's already got?

How to resist the impulse

I'm sure you didn't miss the point that our impulse shopping is toddler-like.  So is our desire to appear cute, trendy, and up-to-date.  Or maybe we're more like our middle school selves, who just "had" to have what our friends (or Marcia Brady or Kelly Taylor) had.  Peer pressure doesn't end when we graduate high school.

We cover up our impulses with "adult" reasoning:  "Doesn't this look good on me?"  "Wow, what a great price!"  "This thing really matches that other thing."  "I've heard about this – it's got high ratings."  We hope comments like this make us appear thoughtful, rational, and savvy.

But are we in control of our impulses?  Or are we "under the influence" of ads, social media, our girlfriends, or something else?  Friends don't let friends drive – or shop – while impaired!

So go ahead and take pictures of that springy flowered jacket that won't go with anything else in your closet, those cute shoes that you'll wear once or twice and then donate because they kill your feet, the white towels embroidered with dogs and cats that will need replacing in six months, the buy-one-get-one eye shadow palette when you already have so much makeup, the beautifully illustrated Bible you won't actually read any more often than the one that's already on your shelf....

(Oh yes, I know how temptation works.)

Look at all the soon-to-be-clutter you can keep out of your home by just snapping a photo and adding up some numbers.  You could save well over $3,000 this year!  It's one really good reason to use your smartphone.


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