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Creating a strict list for the items you need to buy can often help you avoid impulse buys, and in turn help you stick to your budget and plan for future expenses. And while it's a tactic that has been successful for some, it doesn't necessarily work for everyone.

Some may decide to create a "do not buy" list. While it may seem counterintuitive, this approach can help you get rid of the items you don't need and are most prone to spend money on. In turn, it could serve as a "hit pause" button to take a step back before making that purchase.

Review Your Spending

So how can you figure out what should go on your "do not buy" list that could ultimately be everything from exotic pets to "As Seen on TV" products?

First, narrow it down. Make a list of products you may be tempted to buy but don't really need. If you're really tech-savvy, this may include having the "latest and greatest" tech products. If you're fashion-forward, perhaps it's spending a lot on designer labels.

You'll also want to check to see where you've been overspending. To start, track your purchases. This can be done by way of a spreadsheet, checking your bank and credit card statements, or by checking your transactions on a money management tool. What are some purchases you've made in the last six months that had you feeling buyer's remorse?

Assess Your Belongings

What items did you spend money on that you didn't end up using? The best time to assess this is during a purge. If you ended up giving away bags of unused clothes, then this may be your spending vice. Or maybe your kitchen shelves are piling up with appliances that are collecting dust. If that's the case, you'll want to curb kitchen item spends.

Don't forget to check your "virtual spending" too. Do you have a tendency to buy pricey online course bundles you don't have the time to take? Or perhaps you purchase mobile apps here and there and end up not even using them (a few bucks here and there add up quickly).

Create Rules for What Goes on Your List

Figure out the parameters for what should be on the "do not buy" list. For instance, it can be:

  • Items you bought in the last six months that you've only used once or not at all
  • Items you can't currently afford

Pinpoint the Root Cause

There are a myriad of reasons why you may be buying things you don't need. Spend time doing some reflection. What are your common spending triggers? Do you justify spending when it's a gift, or when you're spending on others? Or maybe you can't resist a really good sale. Are you buying to fit the lifestyle you wish you had or the person you'd like to be? Or perhaps you're trying to keep up with your peers?

Review Your "Do Not Buy" List

Because your needs change, what you're spending money on does as well. Look over your "do not buy" list a few times a year to see what can come off of it and what should be added. For instance, maybe you took a break from playing softball in a local league. If that's the case, then you probably don't need to be spending money on sporting equipment.

Make sure that your list is accessible. That could mean writing it on a piece of paper, folding it up, and keeping it in your wallet or purse. Or even creating a note in your smartphone that you can easily reference while at the mall or shopping for goods.

While a "to buy" list could help you stick to tasks when out shopping, a "do not buy" list can help you stick to spending on things you need and use, and help you take a step back when you're about to make a wasteful purchase.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

By selecting any external link on, you will leave the KeyBank website and jump to an unaffiliated third party website that may offer a different privacy policy and level of security. The third party is responsible for website content and system availability. KeyBank does not offer, endorse, recommend, or guarantee any product or service available on that entity's website.

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