Have you ever walked away from the checkout counter and immediately felt buyer’s remorse? Or maybe the realization takes a little longer to sink in, like when you get a notification that your item has been shipped. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new outfit, a tasty latte, or some new smart toy to sync with your phone — any item bought impulsively can leave your budget in tatters. If you’re picking up the pieces of your budget after another accidental shopping spree, you need a new coping strategy that will stop you from charging your card. All you need to do is HALT and sift out impulse purchases from your true needs.
HALT Is a Convenient Acronym
Standing for Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, and Tiredness, HALT is used by psychologists when treating people struggling with impulsive behavior. It assumes your impulsive shopping sprees usually have a cause rooted in these negative feelings, so it suggests you consider these feelings carefully before you buy something to satisfy these needs.
Sometimes the influence these negative emotions have on your wallet is obvious. After a long day at work, you’re too tired to spend time cooking, so your splurge on expensive takeout. Other times, the emotional trigger is more subtle. Let’s say you’re feeling self-conscious after hearing a friend just got engaged while you’re still desperately single. There’s a connection to that feeling of loneliness and buying those new sneakers; you’re trying to fill the void.
HALT forces you to do some light soul-searching in a way that questions the real reason why you want to buy what’s in your cart. Everyone is susceptible to their emotions, especially the negative ones. Let’s dive into these top four to see how they can influence your decision.
Hunger: Whether you’re hungry for the new A&W vegan burger or just hungry for validation, this need can cause you to spend more than you budgeted for on food, clothes, and other things that sate your cravings. In terms of physical hunger, you can tamp its influence over your wallet by preparing your meals in advance. When you have tasty food at the ready, you’ll be able to say “no” to the drive-thru.
Anger: When you’re angry things don’t go your way, it’s easy to turn to retail therapy to help make you feel better. It’s a solution that doesn’t last long. While you may feel momentary happiness about getting the new Pixel 3 XL in your hands, you won’t be as happy when you see your new cell phone bill adjusted for this upgrade. Try expressing your pent-up anger in other ways, like going to the gym, cleaning your house, or punching your pillow.
Loneliness: When you’re lonely, it’s easy to mistake material gains for companionship. Before you fill your cart with something that distracts you from your loneliness, try to reach out to someone in your life. Friends and family can be a great crutch when you’re feeling insecure and alone. And if you think you don’t have enough friends who can help, there are ways to meet new ones online or through your community.
Tiredness: Fatigue takes a toll on your savings. When you don’t have the energy to do things, you end up taking lazy short-cuts that cost you a great deal. The next time you feel like you’re too tired to do something for yourself, consider what in your life has to change for you to get the energy to tackle it. Whether it’s psychological help through therapy or simply going to bed earlier, there are ways to battle chronic fatigue.
Take These Lessons To The Mall
The next time you feel as though you absolutely need something, HALT and check in with yourself. Ask yourself what your true motivations are for picking up new clothes or a new gadget. Is it a genuine need like filling a spot in your professional wardrobe or replacing a broken phone, or is it something to make you feel better when you’re depressed?
Stick With It
While simple in theory, HALT can be harder to put into practice, especially if you aren’t used to such pointed introspection. Self-awareness is a skill that takes time to build, so it may be a while before you confidently identify your triggers and stop shopping.
You shouldn’t feel discouraged if you impulse-buy your way through H&M. It can still work as a teachable moment if you examine why you decided to spend so much on things you don’t need. You also don’t need to panic if your spending habits make it hard to cover your bills and other necessities. A cash advance works as a simple stopgap until you’re able to use the HALT method of changing your shopping habits. Online lenders like MoneyKey offer easy access to online loans that are more convenient than traditional personal loans, so you can avoid the hassle of contacting a bank for help. And in many cases, they’re faster too, as lenders like MoneyKey deliver cash loans online in just one business day.
The Bottom Line? Be Kind To Yourself
It’s easy to beat yourself up for bad spending habits that force you to take out online loans, but this behavior only feeds into the negative emotions that caused your impulsive shopping in the first place. The HALT method helps you break the control these negative feelings have over your bank account if you’re willing to get in touch with your emotions.
Whether you like it or not, your emotions control a lot of your decision making. Before you give in to the ones suggesting your spend more money, stop to think about why you feel the need to buy what’s in your cart. The HALT method exposes these “needs” for the wants they really are, so the next time you feel the urge to spend, HALT and ask why.