Avoiding spending: It's all about timing.

It's easy to get sidetracked when shopping, and that can lead to overspending. Avoid that trap by setting a time goal. 

Tim Kimzey/The Herald-Journal/AP/File
Watching your time in a store can help you avoid unnecessary spending, Hamm says.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, when I walk into a bookstore, I can easily get distracted and find myself with my nose in one book or another. I’ll walk in, intending just to spend a few minutes, and find myself an hour later sitting in a reading chair surrounded by books.

I dawdle. I browse. I find interesting new books I just can’t live without. Often, I’ll leave the store with more books than I ever intended to buy when I went in there.

Obviously, the best strategy for countering this is to have a very specific list when I walk in the door. In other words, don’t walk in the door unless you know exactly what you’re looking for.

That doesn’t always help, of course. I’ll be in the cookbook section looking for a particular title, stumble upon something interesting, and before I know it, I’m buying a book I didn’t plan to buy when I went in there.

Of course, I’ve also noticed that if I go into a store with a list and a tight deadline, I tend to dawdle a lot less. I head right for the item I need, don’t stop even if I see interesting things, and try to get out of there quickly.

Of course, you can’t always shop with a pre-existing deadline… but you can always make your own.

Whenever I find myself walking into a store of any kind, I try to set a “time goal” as I approach the door. I review what I need, figure out roughly how long it will take if I head straight for that item and then get out, and then set a deadline for myself to get back out the door.

How do I “enforce” that idea? I try to think about all of the things I have to do that day besides this shopping trip. I think about the things I could get done if I get out of there quickly.

In other words, I put the idea that I have more important (or better) things to do in the front of my mind. This makes it much easier to stick to my time goal.

Then, when I enter the store, I get down to business. I keep an eye on my watch as I look for the items I need and, since I’m so conscious of the need to take care of business quickly, I don’t dawdle.

The end result? I walk out the door with just the items I need and with time to spare, time I can use on something else in my life.

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