How to Save Money » Frugal Living

10 Ways to Avoid Overspending on Extras

How many times have you returned from a store knowing you overspent? Maybe you went to buy socks and came home with a whole outfit. Or you were lured into buying something you really didn’t need. Retailers specialize in enticing consumers, so we have to be intentional to avoid overspending.

Avoid Overspending

1. Shop With a List

Shopping without a plan is never a good idea. No matter what type of shopping you are doing, make a list and stick to it.

Your list should determine where you go. For example, if you are shopping for groceries, stay away from the clothing section. Don’t be tempted to break the budget on impulse purchases.

2. Shop With Cash

Sometimes the best ideas are the easiest ones. Avoid overspending by only carrying cash. Promise yourself that when your allotted money is gone, you won’t shop any further.

3. Consider Cheaper Options 

Shift your thinking if buying new is always your first idea. There are many other money-saving options. It takes time to make this shift, but once you have a bit of success you will be motivated to keep shopping “creatively.”

I recently shopped for a laptop bag. I searched Kijiji, but none were under $20. I found the perfect Swiss Gear bag at Value Village.

swiss gear bag

It was marked “laptop bag” at $14.99 but also “backpack” at $5.99. I asked the cashier if she would honour the lower price, and it was the perfect solution.

4. Use the 24 Hour Rule

If you see something that is not on your list, challenge yourself to not buy it on this trip. Experts recommend putting it back for at least 24 hours. Chances are you may feel differently about the purchase by then. And the “cooling off” period will ensure you make an even-keeled decision.

The 24-Hour rule is designed to be inconvenient. Having to return to the mall for that item you left behind will help you decide if it’s really worth it.

5. Walk Out of the Store First

I often use this strategy. I make a mental note of a few things that catch my eye while shopping. I don’t write them down, because they can’t be that important if I can’t even remember them.

Before leaving, I seriously evaluate the 2 or 3 items I was considering. I avoid impulse purchases by shopping this way.

6. Set Up Accountability

accountability road sign illustration design

Accountability partners can help you avoid overspending. If you are in a relationship, make a rule that you will not spend more than _______ amount (some suggest $50) without consulting the other person. Or if you struggle with overspending, ask a friend to hold you accountable.

7. Spend Less Time in the Stores

In his book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, Paco Underhill writes, “The amount of time a shopper spends in a store…is perhaps the single most important factor in determining how much he or she will buy.” Get in and get out!

8. Ask for Employee Help Only if Necessary

Underhill also explains that, “the more shopper-employee contacts that take place, the greater the average sale.” So if we try on clothes AND talk to employees, we make even more purchases!

9. Avoid Your Kryptonite

avoid your kryptonite
Like superheroes, even frugal shoppers have weak spots. What tempts you to overspend? Dollar stores? Thrift stores? Online shops? List the top three stores that tempt you to blow your budget. Consider having a spending freeze from those stores for a season.

10. Find a New Hobby

Know yourself. Does window shopping make you want more and more? Do you come home from a shopping trip regretting purchases or sad that you can’t afford items you wish you could have? If so…definitely find a new hobby.

One of the best ways to stay on budget is to avoid overspending. Adding one extra item to each shopping trip will lead to hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the course of the year.

How are you able to avoid overspending?


  1. Amanda

    My kryptonite is clearance, or sales stacked with coupons. I think it’s the thrill of the discount. Especially whenI really know it’s a deep discount not just a gimmick sale. I really have to practice the cooling of period. Or at least leaving the store for a while on our city trips! The other day I said no to 75% off one of my favorite running tops. I have 2, it wasn’t my exact size, but i was just going to buy it anyway because the deal. I said no, it was a little painful but i was so proud of myself!

  2. Karen G

    Amanda: Well done showing self-control and knowing what your kryptonite is (mine is very similar). Every bit saved helps!

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