How the 48-Hour Rule Can Help You Avoid Debt
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Do you ever regret purchases you’ve made? Then you need to start living the 48-hour rule. Whether it is a pair of shoes; an expensive shelf for your garage that turned out to be too small; or even a bad restaurant dinner, many of us make impulse purchasing decisions that we later regret.
Sure, often times you can return said item; but sometimes you can’t return it, or, worse, you put off returning it until you outlive the store’s grace period for returns and then find yourself stuck with an item that you not only regret purchasing, but can’t use. The 48-hour rule can help you avoid this situation and the ever-growing debt that often accompanies a habit of impulse shopping.
Some people say you should always wait three days before buying something you weren’t planning on purchasing in the first place. Personally, I can’t remember what I ate three days ago let alone wanted to buy so I don’t think we need to wait that long to develop smart shopping habits. Two days, or 48 hours is more than enough time to figure out whether or not you really want to buy (or should buy) an item.
This rule is great for when you want to control your spending and I’d argue that it could even help you avoid getting into debt. With smaller purchases, two days is fine but with larger purchases or even if you’re considering taking out a loan, you may need more time.
Here are some ways the 48-hour rule will help you avoid debt.
Use Time to Create a Bigger Wedge Between Wants and Needs
Spending money is unavoidable. Often, it involves urgency. Marketers, retailers and salespeople etc. all use the same lingo to promote urgency so you’ll buy quickly without taking the time to think about whether or not you really need the item you want.
You might feel that sense of pressure when you’re checking out in the store and the person behind you is loading up their things on the conveyor belt and literally breathing down your neck in anticipation for you to finish.
I’m guilty of wanting to get my purchase out of the way as quickly as possible so the next person can step up. Sometimes, I don’t even take the time to look at my receipt and review what I actually bought or put my debit card back in my wallet so I just toss it in my purse and head out the door.
The common habit of spending money daily and letting urgency influence your purchasing decisions leaves little room to truly separate your wants from your needs.
With the 48-hour rule, you’ll have enough time to lay out all the pros and cons of making a particular purchase and will be able to identify if it’s a need or a want.
There’s nothing wrong with purchasing based on wants since we all do it. However, some wants tend to be lower on the priority list because we have other plans for our money. Instead of acting on impulse, taking a step back and assessing the situation can remind you of things you really planned to do with your money instead like buy groceries, pay bills, register your child for soccer, save up for a vacation, etc.
The more money you spend on things that don’t align with your values or aren’t on your priority list, the further you get away from reaching your goals and the closer you get to accumulating debt.
Identify Alternative Solutions
Taking 48 hours to assess your decision to make a purchase not only allows you time to think about how important it is and whether the item is a want or need, it also allows you the time to research alternative solutions that might be better for your budget.
Let’s say you need to buy a car. Ideally, you’ll shop around online and test drive different vehicles. You may really like a car, but you can’t always pounce on the offer.
When I was car hunting, I fell in love with several different vehicles and imagined myself driving off into the sunset with my dream car. Again, I was faced with overcoming the urgency factor since I didn’t want someone else to come into the lot and take my favorite car.
Yet and still, I’m happy I waited for at least 48 hours in some cases because I had the chance to explore other options that were more affordable and provided a better quality car.
The 48-hour rule would also be great to use if you are making a tough decision like choosing whether or not you should take out a payday loan. Payday loans are horrible options, but if you really need the money and won’t qualify for a 0% APR credit card or any better options, you may feel tempted to move forward with your decision.
In this case, exploring alternative options for two days before you pull the trigger on a costly decision would allow you to the opportunity to see if you could earn extra money by doing odd jobs; talk to your creditors and bill collectors to ask for an extension; identify resources in your community that might be able to help; and so on.
Let It Cool Down
Essentially, using the 48-hour rule as a minimum when you’re considering spending money allows you to let all that impulse and urgency cool down. I’ve never carried a huge credit card balance from month-to-month, but my husband has and when we looked at some of the purchases that had been made, we both agreed it would’ve been best to wait and delay gratification for a few days.
It’s too easy to pull your credit card out; sign a student loan promissory note; take out a loan; or finance a car or vacation without thinking twice about it. We live in an ‘I want it now’ society that perpetuates debt accumulation. To put an end to it, you need to regain control by giving yourself time to think about your actions and spend consciously. That way, you’ll have less debt and fewer regrets.
Do you ever put off purchases for a few days in an effort to save money or avoid debt? Have you ever made any hasty purchases that you regret and knew you truly couldn’t afford? What mental tricks do you use to help keep you from spending money you shouldn’t?