How to put barriers in place for your spending

Record player stylus

Numerous services exist to make spending easier. Contactless cards allow you to pay without even taking the time to swipe or insert. Apple Pay, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, Facebook Pay, Netflix Pay (okay not all of these are real, but just you wait) all are there to make payments easier.

Convenience is the name of the game.

Actually it’s not. The name of the game is “spend more”.

Here’s how to stop that.

Why put barriers to spending?

I love spending. I think most of us do. I love spending on what brings me joy, and what I’m excited about. I bought a record player earlier this year which was the cost of a plane ticket, and have spent countless hours enjoying music on it.

And speaking of plane tickets, I’ve bought plenty of those this year as well.

But too often, we spend unintentionally. Not only does this cause us to spend more, possibly more than we have to spend, but we don’t even get some of the pleasure of anticipating and savoring that comes with a purchase planned. The trip you plan for a year from now is one that you will get more enjoyment from (in aggregate) than one you book for tomorrow, hands down.

Because of this, I believe that making spending harder, not easier, is an important counterbalance to all the trends that exist today. So here are some ways you can do this.

Use cash

Nothing makes purchases more intentional than pulling out bills. I once bought a $750 guitar for cash, and let me tell you, it never escaped my notice.

Compared to using plastic, cash is slow, laborious, and gives you mostly useless change. It’s great for in-person transactions

Use a debit card online

Cash isn’t all that great for online transactions, so use a debit card for those. Yes, you’ll forgo all those airline miles, but you’ll actually be spending money, as opposed to a credit card which, by definition, you’re not spending your money—you’re just making a promise to spend it later—which is why it doesn’t feel as hard to use.

(Note that there’s some disagreement on whether it’s problematic to use a debit card online. If this seems risky to you, I won’t argue.)

Cancel Amazon Prime

As of 2017, 64% of U.S. households have Amazon Prime. That number is doubtlessly higher today.

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The biggest benefit to you with Amazon Prime is the free and fast shipping. But the biggest benefit to Amazon is that you will buy more things from Amazon.

I’m not convinced that the amount you pay in shipping fees will always equal more than the yearly Amazon Prime membership. But even if it is, consider canceling Amazon Prime an incidental cost of slowing down. You may spend more on shipping, but you will be less likely to spend without thinking.

Also, Jet offers free 2-day shipping on orders $35 and higher, something Amazon doesn’t offer.

Don’t save card numbers online

Companies positively ache to save your card information online, to make it easier to purchase things. A few sites store my card without me even realizing that I’ve allowed them to do so.

If you delete your saved cards, you’ll have to go dig it out when you want to buy something. Which granted, isn’t very difficult to do, but it adds just a little bit of friction to the purchase, which of course is the whole point.

Resist any suggestion to make payments easier

There are a lot of ways that companies will try to make payments easier. (“No payments for 60 days!“) Whenever you see this, just head in the other direction.

If you do some of these, you’ll be well on the way to making sure that when you do spend money, it’s because you really want to. You’ll get more satisfaction from what you do buy, I’m sure of it.

But enough about me. Do you put systems in place to make it more difficult to spend money? What do you do?

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