If you’ve ever stopped by the store to pick up milk and walked out with a week’s worth of snacks to go with it, you know the power of temptation.
Experts say the typical adult is exposed to 3,500 commercial ads in any given day. These hidden persuaders are designed to manipulate our behaviors. With consumer debt at an all time high, it would appear that as a nation we’ve been losing a lot of battles with temptation.
But it is possible to learn how to face down temptation, and win.
Identify the weakness. `Fess up. What are your areas of temptation? Clothes, shoes, collectibles? Movies, food, gadgets? Electronics, crafts, plants?
Stop flirting with danger. If you’re ever going to win over temptation you must stop cozying up to the very thing that causes you to stumble. If you are easily tempted by clothes, don’t spend hours cruising the mall. In fact, don’t even go there unless you have a specific need and a reasonable plan.
Don’t open mail order catalogs. Take them to the garbage and push them way down to the bottom to head off a middle-of-the-night retrieval.
Develop a diversion. Temptation is usually fueled by emotion, rarely by reason. It comes and goes depending on our moods and thoughts, and can come quite unexpectedly. When it whispers in your ear, divert your attention to something equally enjoyable but less injurious to your financial health. For me it’s ironing. You might be more drawn to a book or crossword puzzle. Or a nap.
Identify true needs. Here’s the difference between a need and a temptation: Needs are never realized while standing in the aisle of a store, while flipping through the pages of a catalog, surfing eBay or watching the Home Shopping Network. Those sudden desires are temptations. You, not retailers or advertisers, should set your own agenda. And if you don’t have a need, don’t go shopping. You’ll only set yourself up for a fall.
Assess the true cost. When you spend compulsively you’re doing more than giving into temptation. If paying with credit that you cannot repay fully in the month you make the purchase, you’re building debt. That $30 item is going to cost you more like $60 or $75 by the time you finally pay for it depending on your interest rate. If you pay with cash, you’re also giving up the opportunity to put that money to work for you for the rest of your life. The money you spend plus the foregone interest earnings represents the real cost of spending—the opportunity cost.
Seek accountability. It takes a great deal of courage and character to be accountable to another person for your actions and behaviors, but it’s one of the best ways to win over temptation. Make a pact with your spouse or other friend. Set an amount over which you will not spend without first discussing. Set boundaries and then ask for help to stay within them.
Winning over temptation is as rewarding as it is hard work. It takes commitment, tenacity and for some a great steam iron.