my $100 rule.

I’m an impulse shopper to the max. Actually, less of an impulse shopper and more of an impulse buyer. I don’t shop often and despise the mall, but somehow I find myself in a continuous state of Target Rampage: shoveling $30 tops and skirts into my basket as if Y2K was calling for a shortage of separates.

This year, one of my goals for myself was to cut out the impulse purchases. No more $4 tubes of lipstick (I have yet to finish an entire tube b/c I swore I haven’t yet found my color), $10 scarves and definitely no more $50 dresses that hang unworn in my closet.

It’s just getting ridiculous and I’ve got to grow up someday, yes?

Anyway, I think I’ve found a way to combat the problem. Everyone has a number in their head; a number that officially defines “expensive.” Maybe that number is $40, or maybe its $4,000. My number is pretty easy: $100. I live pretty cheaply and can’t remember the last time I spent $100 on a single item — clothing, home or food related.

So, when I’m faced with yet another $30 top that I love at Target (or online, even) I ask myself:

Would you spend $100 on this?

The answer is always no. So, of course, the top returns to the racks and I’m left feeling richer and in control.

Even better? It helps me decipher what I truly need. For instance, I need a pair of black tights in a major way. So badly, in fact, that yes, I probably would’ve dropped $100 if it meant I could have a pair of run-less black tights. And yay! That meant I could buy them. For the record, they were $6, so it’s almost as if I saved $94.


Anyway, I’m super proud of my new rule and so far, its working out swimmingly. What about you guys? Do you have rules you live by when it comes to spending, saving and splurging? Do share!

Image Credit: Sanna Kvist

  • I wish I would have known you were in the market for new Target black tights, because while the regular $6 Merona ones are stellar, I’ve recently become a total convert (and devoted fan ) of the Merona fleece-lined tights. These slightly thicker tights don’t add a lot of bulk, but in the frigid winter temps they do an amazing job of keeping a girl warm in even the thinnest of skirts. Seriously they are amazing.

  • I love this! I am the same way. I find that if I avoid super stores it is a LITTLE easier for me but I know where you’re coming from.

  • I love this new rule to live by! I’ll definitely keep this in mind the next time I go shopping. Sometimes I struggle with loving something in the store, but when I get it home…not so much. Maybe taking the extra time to stop and consider this will really help. Thanks for the tip! :) (Love your blog by the way!)

  • I like it! The only thing it doesn’t apply to for me is layering tees. I live in the lab, what can I say? And it’s freezing here, so that’s how it goes. Beyond long sleeve tshirts, my splurge of the season is a pair of Hunter Wellies. They just look so perfect for this slushy Boston weather…and let me tell you, my old cheap rainboots split up the back and in the sole last spring, leaving my feet quite wet for the rest of the season. Here’s to buying quality!

  • I love this idea. Mine is similar. When I buy an item that is say $100, I then have to wear it at LEAST 10 times. For every $10 I spend on something it has to be worn that many times. That way I feel like I put my money to good use.

  • SUCH a good rule! i try to practice this, too. and when i’m saving for something specific (i.e. a downpayment on an amazing house right now), i’ll take whatever i ALMOST spent on said item and put it in a box. sort of a reward later for what i didn’t spend. and it adds up so fast. bonus.

  • What a great rule! It should help me when I am shovelling $10 shirts into my cart in the Joe section of Superstore….

    My rule is to put back 4 items every time I shop at the grocery store. I am an impulse junk food buyer, especially when I am hungry. It has helped us save money and eat less crap :)

  • What a good rule! I usually put like 10 things in my (online) shopping cart and then go through and say “Where will I wear this?”, “Will this fit seamlessly into my wardrobe?”, and “What else could I buy with this money?” — sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. As a college student, it’s a little easier for me to cap spending because I don’t have too much money to spend, haha :)

  • My rule is, would I pay $20 for this at a thrift store? And, in general, for frivolties, nothing more than $10 and nothing less than $100. It’s the mass market middle range that’ll kill ya.

  • Great rule – mine would have to be $20 instead of $100 because I’m THAT cheap. My rule is basically that I hardly EVER pay full price for anything, unless I absolutely need it and it never goes on sale. Since we have gone down to one income and added two humans to our family I’m the queen of coupons.

  • great idea erin! if i’m trying to save (which, let’s face it, is all the time), then i steer clear of shopping places – online or in person. can’t buy stuff if there’s nowhere to buy from!

  • I am Jennifer and I am a compulsive buyer.

    My partner and I recently had to move from a large 4 bedroom share house into a tiny 1 bedroom apartment. It wasn’t until then that I realised how much stuff I had accumulated over the span of only 2 years.

    The amount of stuff I had left over from packing away the “need to have items” filled an entire car port. 90% of it was clothes I had brought at thrift shop that were “ok”, but were never big enough, small enough or the right colour etc.

    Every time I look at a new piece of clothing I think to myself ‘if I brought this, would I wear it right here right now and how much would I really like it?’ and when that doesn’t work and I still feel the need to buy yet another not quite right item I use my quitting technique. I put the item back, even if its the last size.

    leave the store for 1min and look back in and see the what it was that made me go in there. If it was on impulse because of the signage, the colour of the shop, how many people were in there or ‘just to see.’

    its not long before I realise that I didn’t even really want it that bad. I was just being persuaded and the hype/feel of the store itself was a major motivator.

    Being outside of the store gives you that opportunity to just walk away.

    self realisation is a wonderful thing.

    Oh and always keeps receipts and the tags on so when you try stuff on at home and you’ve got a world of buyer regret then you can at least take it back for a credit.

  • I try to keep most of my shopping online. When I find something I like, I bookmark it. At the end of the week I look at the bookmarks and if one of the items is still on my mind after a week then it means I really want it, if not I usually just blog about it and let it go at that :)

  • Wow! You’ve obviously tapped into something big, and shared, among your fans (myself included).

    Love your $100 rule, and the other tips shared by everyone above. I need all the help I can get, and am feeling newly empowered. I am going to make a list of these ideas, laminate it, and put one copy in my wallet, another on my laptop!

  • What a great little idea that can change your habits in a big way. I agree with everyone else here about walkaway power!

    Two years ago my husband and I took Financial Peace University, and it changed our lives. I have $10/week to spend on clothing, and since Kendi’s 30 for 30 challenge I have a MUCH better idea of what are my clothing needs and what are wants. Her idea is that you have to fulfill your needs list before you can buy your wants. It makes for much smarter shopping!

  • I’m definitely a bargain shopper, but can go loooong stretches without buying new for myself. The problem is when I finally crack I go a little crazy, dropping a couple of hundred in one trip! I usually only really want about half of it. The only thing that has worked for me is the power of putting items on hold while shopping the mall. If at the end of the day I still really want it, I go back and buy it, but more often than not I don’t . This cuts down the impulse buys and the amount of bags I am carrying around!

  • OMG. This is sheer genius.
    I usually just ask myself is this a need, a “really really reeeeeally want”, or just an “I’d like to have”. If it is the last, forget it.
    Or I don’t purchase it and make myself wait a day. I can be lazy, so if I don’t want to go all the way back to where I saw it to get it the next day I don’t really want it that much anyway.

    I am totally co-opting your $100 rule though. :)

  • what a GREAT idea!!! we don’t often talk about money, but we should. lets share all the saving tips we can get!

  • Hi Erin, I discovered you at my first Alt last week. Your a doll!
    I just found this blog and had to comment b/c I swear I couldve written this pretty much verbatim! I have got to stop the madness….so much that im close to hosting a give-away party!
    Thanks for sharing-it just further pursuaded me to make the shift!! Ha!

  • Okay, this is total GENIUS. I am definitely stealing this technique as I have a similar problem! What IS it about Target that inspires madness, anyway!?

    I wish I could have been at ALT to meet you in person, it sounds like it was a blast! xo Laura

  • No strict rules per say but I’ve been noticing lately that the things I still have in my closet from maybe 5, even 10 years ago are the ones I spent money on so I guess they were worth the money. I do think you get what you pay for.

  • keisha–
    oh yay — i’m hosting a giveaway party soon, too! as soon as into my renovation house, that is!

    thanks for your sweet words; its great to see you over here!

  • excellent rule! i have done something similar over the years, but recently switched to this rule:

    when making any “want” purchase, i double the price. if this is still feasible for me to buy, i get it. i then place same amount in a saving jar located on top of my fridge for travel. hence, everything costs twice as much, but it is forcing me to save that amount i just spent.

  • Shirts: $10 max
    Pants/skirts/sweaters: $20 max

    Don’t bring your wallet with you when you go anywhere. It makes everything so much easier, because you think you’ll go back to get something, but the hassle stops you.

  • Ooo…I love this idea! And I love cleen’s idea a couple of comments back — brilliant! I’m pretty, um, frugal (still sounds better than cheap) but every now and again I will see something that costs more than I would normally spend. Like, say, $120 dress (VERY rare for me). So my rule is it has to cost no more than $1/wear. So would I see myself wearing this dress 120 times? If I can honestly answer yes, I’m allowed. Believe it or not, it’s stopped me from buying things that were bound to be closet-sitters.

  • oh so smart! go you and good luck! I’ve put myself on a budget, not because I have to but because I should. I am too good at spending money (and that’s not a good thing!). I can’t just buy, just because. It was really tough at first, and an unbelievable eye opener. One month down and I’ve hardly shopped at all! Hopefully I can keep it up. Cheers!

  • i LOVE that! i’m hoping for a similar result — i actually don’t shop a lot, but its the little things at target that kill me. i’d love to live a minimalist life!

  • oh this is good….I am *totally* that girl with the huge Target shopping cart brimming with “stuff” (but it’s just so goooood, all that Target stuff, eh??). BUT you are totally right. And this rule is fantastic (the whole thread is fantastic!). Thanks for the inspiration. lady! That Target…..*sigh* (but i’m glad i’m not the only one….haha)

  • Many many years back, Oprah did a show where she got someone who taught people to convert a price back into the number of hours or days they work. So you see a dress and go “Is this worth 3 days of work?” and then decide. Found that idea pretty neat.

  • this sounds pretty lame, but it’s worked wonders for me: I plan out my wardrobe each season. Then I only buy something if it fits into my wardrobe plan (and I can afford it). Like last summer it was fitted tee, stretchy skirt/or banana republic capris and diesel shoes or flats. It was like my uniform, i loved it. Now I’m not so tempted to buy something because it’s cheap and I think i’ll wear it but 9 times out of 10 will sit in my closet forever before I donate it back to goodwill.

  • I love this, Erin! Such a good filter. As for me, you know me and my conscientious buying ideals. My hierarchy is: 1) Do I love it? 2) Is it high quality and classic, to last me a long time? 3) Does it benefit good things in the world (independent business, fair labor, eco-friendly)? If so — I’m in!

  • and rebecca, this might be the best tip ever. you’re so right, and i’ve been loving the idea of a uniform lately. so smart! thank you!

  • came to the same conclusion when dithering around a MAJOR shoe sale recently … i picked a few pairs up, whooted at the incredible prices, then put them down again, thinking, would i buy them if they were not on sale?

    having read your blog, i have decided the $100 is about my limit too!

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