I was listening to one of personal productivity maven’ David Allen’s teleseminars and he said something incisive about the impulse to buy fancy stuff. People think they want to buy a sports car, Allen said, but maybe what they really want is the sense of freedom they think a sports car will give them. Advertisers understand this and use it to get you to buy stuff. It’s the principle of “selling the sizzle, not the steak.”
So what do we do if we want to curb impulse spending? Try to stop a moment and think about what’s really motivating the desire. I want to buy x because it will give me y. What is the y? Can y be substituted with z, which gives me the same feeling but is cheaper or better for me? Failure to understand this algebra is how rich people end up with a garage full of import cars, and a medicine cabinet full of Valium.