What NOT to Do: Give in to Impulse

February 27, 2012

What Not to Do is a series based on the numerous mistakes that I have made in my life. I am not a financial adviser, I can’t tell you want to do but I can tell you what NOT to do. I hope you will use this series of posts to help educate those you love about the dangers of debt and how they can affect your life. Use the trouble that I have gotten into as a springboard for your own discussions, please.


Lessons in What Not to Do with your FinancesImpulse control is a huge issue for me!

I am an adult with ADHD. I was a child with ADHD. And I was a 20-something with tons of credit and ADHD.

It is no secret that the majority of my debt is due to impulse control. As a college student, my girl friends and I would often hit the mall for fun. We would purchase clothes and brag about who had more credit cards.

As a college graduate, credit cards fed my emotions when I was alone or bored. They helped make ends meet as a young teacher living beyond her means. Credit cards were there for me when I wanted to go out or just hit the mall out of boredom.

As a new mother, credit cards were for used when we lost a second income but continues to live like we hadn’t. I suffered from the need to make myself happy with things. I shopped to feed my emotions while I was in a failing marriage.

Post-divorce, credit cards were used to have fun. I was so happy to be out of an less than satisfying marriage that I had a lot of fun at the expense of my finances.

During all of this time, I knew I shouldn’t be using my credit cards. I knew that I was not able to pay more than the minimum payment due. I knew each time that I handed over my card that it should be my last purchase. Yet, I never could say ‘no’ to myself.

I had absolutely no ability to stop myself.

Or so it seemed at the time.

In actuality, I did have the ability to control myself, it would just take more work than I was willing to exert. At that time, I was lazy and very uneducated about the effects of debt.

If you experience regular lapse in impulse control, I want you to know there are things you can do to help you. Whether you need an extra step in your life to avoid using credit cards or whether a professional might be a better assistance, I thought of a few tips for you to try.

  1. Freeze your credit cards…literally. Wrap it in plastic, stick it in a bowl of water and freeze that sucker. When the urge to shop hits, think about why you want to shop as you chip away at that block of ice. Remember, heat could ruin that magnetic strip so don’t so sticking it into the microwave or pouring hot water on it.
  2. Put a sticky note on them. For each card you  have, place a sticky note on them with a financial goal written on it. When you take out that Visa and it says “Save $1,000 for Emergency Fund” maybe you’ll be more inclined to ignore the impulse.
  3. Don’t take them with you! If you are heading out to run errands or shopping, leave your credit cards at home. Take cash and stick to the budget that you have set for yourself. I don’t care if there is a great sale and you may bump into it, leave them at home!
  4. Make an agreement. Whether it is with your spouse or your best friend, make an agreement to talk to them before spending a certain amount of money. If you are about to check out at Target, call up your husband and talk about what is in your cart and see if there is anything that should be put back.

Evaluate the psychology behind why you are spending money. Think about why controlling your impulses is so difficult. Could you have depression or another mental health issue? Is it possible that you have ADHD (Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder)? After you have thought about this consider doing one of the following:

  1. Seek out a Debtors Anonymous or similar shopping addicts support group and attend meetings with others who are like you.
  2. Consider individualized therapy. This really helped me and I know it can help you if you feel that your situation needs something more severe than a sticky note.
  3. Is medication an option? If you do suffer from a disorder that involves impulse control issues, medication may help you. I know that it helped me tremendously.

This lesson isn’t one just for you to consider either. Be sure you are talking to your children as well. If you notice your children wanting to spend their money as soon as they get it or if they are buying small items instead of saving for a larger item that they really want, consider talking to them about what you are seeing.

Remember, I write these and share my mistakes with you in the hopes that you will talk to those you love, especially your children and help them avoid going down the path that I went down.

I also blog at A Five Star Life. I write about anything that comes to mind but try to focus on finding the good in daily life.

95 Responses to What NOT to Do: Give in to Impulse

  1. shelly on March 1, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    At our house we just use cash. We are debt free and it is so nice to no longer have any debt to pay off. If I don’t have the cash for it we don’t buy it. I also put a spending limit on our credit card spending each month. Once that limit is met nothing else is bought. Then each month I pay the full balance. We only use a credit card for online shopping. If I am in a store we pay cash. Really nice post lots of good ideas.
    shelly recently posted..8 Ways Stores Encourage You To Buy


  2. clarissa danielle on March 1, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    I can’t tell you how much I loved reading this post. I am 150% impulsive. I am one of those that literally leaves her purse at home any chance I get (not to be inconvenient, but in order to NOT spend money). It helps, most of the time :) lol


  3. See You In The Garden on March 1, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks for being honest and real. Credit card debt is something that is so easy to get into. I tend to be on the other side, not wanting to buy things even if I like them. May not sound like a bad thing, but it can be.

    When we were first married and got one, I told my husband that if at any time we were not able to pay off the balance, I would cancel the card and cut it up. It is really hard to use it if it is in pieces in the trash. Thankfully we have never been to that point. However, if we do not have a monthly meeting to go over what we spent our money on, the monthly balance creeps up slowly each month. We are both savers, so this is something that neither of us likes.


  4. Nancy Stewart on March 1, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Terrific post and so very timely. You’ve lots of great advice here for all types of spenders. Very well thought out!


  5. Lou Lou on March 1, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Freezing your credit cards. I LOVE THIS TIP. I have never read anything like it. It really makes you think doesn’t it? Imagine if you literally had to chip away a block of ice, everything time you were going to put something on credit. I can just picture people going around shopping with a freezer box in one hand and an emergency hair dryer (for melting) in the other! It would certainly make you think before pulling out the ol’ card again!


  6. Julee on March 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Credit can be a terrible thing when you’re out of control. I had a friend who was a shopping addict and had gotten a credit card, kept it a secret from her husband and ran it up to $25K before she realized she was out of control. She had to tell her husband, who, bless his heart, worked a part time job after his full time job to pay that card off!
    Julee recently posted..250 Print Runner Premium Print Stickers #Giveaway


  7. April H on March 1, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    We use our credit cards like a checking account, paying them off each month. Fortunately, I’m a saver not a spender!
    April H recently posted..A Guide to Camping


  8. Emily on March 1, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Credit card debt is not fun! These are great tips to avoid getting in debt. Thanks for the great reminders.


  9. [email protected] on March 1, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Thanks for being willing to share your mistakes in order to help others. It’s a great idea to share money management skills with your children. I think much of the over-spending comes from parents not instilling wise money management skills in their children when they are young.


  10. Maura on March 1, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    I appreciate your open and honesty about this topic, but more importantly that you saw that you needed to make some positive changes in your life. Inspiring!


  11. Clarinda Olenslager
    on March 1, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    I wish I had learned these tips a long time ago but thankfully we are learning and almost got all our credit cards paid off. I pretty much shopped cause I wanted to because of college and lost job.
    Clarinda Olenslager recently posted..03/01/2012


  12. Sarah on March 1, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    this is so great! i love that you are blogging about debt. this is such a real and tangeable thing for everyone to learn from. we are in a lot of student debt and credit card debt that we will be out of in 3 years after enrolling in greenpath to get out of debt. we don’t care if it puts a hit on our credit as along as we get out of debt. there is also something to be said about student loans and the dangers of taking out so much because they can never be forgiven and the gov’t will literally garnish your retirement if you haven’t paid it.


  13. kirstin @ kojodesigns on March 1, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    What a great post. I think that impulse buying is such a trap!
    And I love your note about talking to your kids about developing good habits in delayed gratification- what a great reminder. Thanks!


  14. Kecia
    on March 1, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    I used to be a horrible impulse buyer…and my husband and I still have some of the debt to prove it. I don’t spend as much now, and we actually do some of the things you mentioned: a big one being leaving the credit cards at home. Unless I know for a fact that I am going to have to put something on credit, the cards stay in our desk drawer. No need to tempt myself if I have them on hand and see a sale!
    Kecia recently posted..Social Media Boost Giveaway 3/1-3/5


  15. Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals on March 1, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    I guess I’m one of those rare individuals who is really good with her credit cards. I don’t know if it’s a result of my father’s financial lessons (he’s a tax professional) or seeing my friends make horrible decisions that affected their credit for ages… but I’m actually more impulsive when I have cash in my wallet than plastic!
    Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals recently posted..Spring Break


  16. Easy2Save on March 1, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    This is a great post with good tips! We have one credit card that we use like a checking acct. paying it off monthly. I also have one department store card with Kohl’s that I use for extra savings of 30% I also pay this one off as I use it. We did have debt some years ago and it took some time for us to learn that we need to live within our real budget.
    Easy2Save recently posted..Join Style Society Today


  17. Millie on March 1, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Not using credit cards was hard for me at first. I’d never had much of an issue with them but did have a little debt. When we decided to get rid of it completely it took a few weeks to get accustomed to it. But once we started getting zero balances there was no going back. I do have one card I use for online stuff put it is paid off each month. Freezing the cards really does work :-)
    Millie recently posted..7 More Ways to Increase Food Storage- Real Food Style


  18. Laurie on March 1, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    I really am into this right now. My husband and I just did a get out of debt seminar at our church and found out if we follow the program we will be out of debt completely (including our mortgage) in 8 years. WOW!! We are so going for this! Go get em. I think alot of people can benefit from your knowledge so keep posting all those great ideas. God Bless.


  19. Yannie on March 1, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    That’s why I don’t want to get a credit card because I might over spend. But then according to my sister it’s a need here in Canada. When you purchase a thing they will look at your credit history. Just like when I applied for my iPhone 4S, I wasn’t approved because I don’t have credit history. Instead I got my iphone through my sister.


  20. Marian on March 1, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    I use cash to purchase an item. But sometimes I’m tempted to get a credit card especially buying online. Good thin I have paypal account.
    Marian recently posted..Being Resourceful


  21. LaVonne
    on March 1, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Thanks for these tips. They are important in this economy especially. I am thankful that my husband and I live frugal and stick to a budget.
    LaVonne recently posted..Mistakes in Moving from Blogger to WordPress


  22. Suzy Myers on March 2, 2012 at 12:02 am

    Thank you so much for posting this! It was very thought provoking. Both of my children have ADHD and both of them love to spend money. All this time, I really didn’t think about it being connected! Since they are both adults, I will be sure to mention your website. It seems to be chock full of valuable advice!



  23. Katrina - Edelweiss Patterns on March 2, 2012 at 1:56 am

    Good advice! To be honest I have successfully avoided credit cards at all so far, but this is definitely a good reminder to keep away from them at all costs. Literally freezing them is hilarious! When I was a child my mom would have us cut up the old credit cards into dozens of tiny pieces and scatter them in various garbage cans throughout the house.


  24. Johnnie on March 2, 2012 at 5:25 am

    Oh boy, can I relate to this! Thanks for sharing, and for reminding me of the consequences of living for instant gratification. Bad credit cards, bad!!


  25. Sean Hurley on March 2, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Money is debt. It is created only through the acquisition of debt.
    Fractional reserve banking, research it.
    As insidious as that fact is in and of itself it is nothing in comparison to the fundamental truths of not only money but of the entire abstraction of exchanging labour for purchasing power.
    Well for this type of economic model to flourish requires infinite growth, or cyclical consumption. Cyclical consumption on a finite planet is not sustainable, and growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.
    We also end up with a stratified society, this results in the need for a stratified range of products that allows for those of even the lowest socio economic classes to partake in continual consumption.
    This is nothing short of aberrant resource waste.
    There is another way.
    Sean Hurley recently posted..Conformity and The Rich Man


  26. Lea H @ Nourishing Treasures on March 2, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Great advice! I think a budget is really helpful, too.
    Lea H @ Nourishing Treasures recently posted..Living Well Blog Hop #31


  27. Brenda on March 2, 2012 at 10:32 am

    I know I tend to spend more if I have a credit card or debit card with me. I just leave them at home now. I take cash with me and I have noticed that I buy a lot less. I have also been able to save more money this way.


  28. Brenda on March 2, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I know for me leaving my debit card and credit card at home helps me spend less. I have actually been able to save more this way too!


  29. Michelle on March 2, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Leaving my cards at home helps IMMENSELY! We just took Financial Peace University. We aren’t doing the best, but at least we have a plan now!
    Michelle recently posted..Alternative Insurance


  30. Starlene on March 2, 2012 at 11:35 am

    The tip to not take the cards with you is a great one. I think another tip that is necessary in this day and age of being on the Internet is to go into all your accounts and delete out the card information. It’s so amazingly easy to go to Amazon and just buy, buy, buy with one click! It might be easier to call all the credit card holders and ask for a new card, that way the card listed at the various online places will become null and void. I am glad you found a way to get over your impulsive behaviors with credit cards, that would be so scary!


  31. Amber--JadeLouise Designs on March 2, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    This is a wonderful post! thank you!

    My biggest success with not using the credit card is just as you said, Not taking it with me. If I don’t have the card with me, I can’t use it when I’m at the register. The only card I carry with me is our debit card and driver’s license. So I know I can’t spend money we don’t already have.

    Since doing this, it has made an amazing difference in our finances, and we will very soon be out of all debt (with the exception of student loans from college)!
    Amber–JadeLouise Designs recently posted..


  32. Jeanette on March 2, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    I worked in a collection agency for 8 years, and I cannot tell you how invaluable your tips are. There are thousands of folks in debt in the US who think of credit as free money. Your tips will definitely be useful for those who don’t know how to stop!


  33. Becky Fisher
    on March 2, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Thank you for this post — it took a great deal of courage to blog about something so personal. I find myself to be impulsive sometimes, too. It wasn’t as much a problem before online shopping!
    Becky Fisher recently posted..Do you want to enjoy sex MORE?


  34. Carrie on March 2, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    I love your sticky note idea. Often, a little reminder is all I need and then I am reinspired to forego whatever it is I want for our longterm goals.


  35. Dawn Storey
    on March 2, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    I can relate to much of what you said in this post – I wish I’d been able to learn this back in my 20s! Thanks for being so open and honest, and coming up with real, practical ideas to help people who are struggling in this area. Great thoughts!
    Dawn Storey recently posted..A taste of the big time


  36. jenivieve
    on March 2, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Gah, I wish I would have read this post at 19 lol. I am now in credit counseling and finally making headway paying for things, God knows what, I bought 10 years ago. Sigh. I hope this helps save someone!!!!
    jenivieve recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: Hide N Seek


  37. Jamie on March 2, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    I, too, can relate to what you were saying. My husband and I have dealt with lots of debt and currently use a debit card or cash only. Thanks for being honest with your situation and the very responsible recommendations!


  38. Tonya Peele
    on March 2, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    I really appreciate your honesty and willingness to share your experiences in an effort to help others avoid serious financial mistakes. I find your blog post timely as my husband and I each paid off personal credit cards today! We have one more to go, but cutting up 2 cards today was so freeing. Cash is the way to go for us from now on! Thanks for doing what you do.


  39. Brett
    on March 3, 2012 at 9:54 am

    we don’t have a debit card. atm, yes. debit? no. the bank thinks we are crazy! but it helps- if we don’t have cash we dont buy it


  40. Amanda
    on March 3, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I inherited my horrible spending habits from my parents. It’s taken me almost 20 years to make any sort of progress at all. Fortunately, my kids seem to be doing much better. They like to save up their money to buy big Lego sets. :-)
    Amanda recently posted..How To Get Started Writing Book Reviews


  41. Keep It Thimble on March 3, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Great idea about the post-it note on the card. I think I am going to try that today!


  42. becky on March 3, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Thanks for this post.

    I think we are all a little impulsive at times. I could have been well on my way to major credit card debt as well if I hadn’t realized that what I wanted for myself in the long run was more important than that new pair of jeans.

    I will continue to read your posts since I am terrible with money and really need some lessons!


  43. Tabitha (a.k.a. Penny)
    on March 3, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    LOVE the idea of putting your goal on a post it and sticking it to your card. We have not used credit cards in four years but I think I might do this with my debit card. Thank you.
    Tabitha (a.k.a. Penny) recently posted..


  44. Susie My SoCal Life on March 3, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    my first “real” job was customer service for a credit card and I heard all the “horror” stories of people trying to buy homes, cars etc and how their bad credit hurt them. I am happy and lucky to have always managed to keep my credit perfect. I think seeing it at such a young age shaped me for the better.



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