How to cut mindless spending: Real tips from real people

Mindless spending can sneak up on you when you’re browsing social media or online shopping during moments downtime. Here are a few tips from those who’ve been there themselves, that might help give you pause before buying an unnecessary purchase.

Tags: Best practices, Savings
Published: March 24, 2021

We’ve all been there: mindlessly online shopping with the intention of “just looking” and then buying an item (or several) that we don’t really need. Maybe you’ve found yourself browsing social media and suddenly a few items you saw on your Instagram feed make their way into a shopping cart.  These purchases might seem harmless, but they can lead to a bad habit of spending money you’d otherwise use for something more important. “Mindless spending” happens when you buy something without considering whether you truly need it.

Mindless money spending can be a tricky habit to break, but it’s important to keep in mind as you work to achieve both short- and long-term financial goals. Mindlessly spending money can lead to a pileup of unnecessary purchases at home and it can send you into credit card debt or interfere you’re your ability to pay for baseline expenses. The good news is, you can become a mindful money spender by practicing a few of these simple tricks.


How to spend money: Start small

When it comes to spending mindfully, it’s the little things that add up the most. Start off by disabling one-click buying anywhere you shop online, and don’t save credit card information and shipping and/or billing addresses anywhere you can avoid it. If you tend to shop online or go to the store when you’re bored, find another activity you enjoy to distract yourself. After a few minutes of being occupied, you might forget about spending that money altogether.


Reader tip: “I started a budget binder and took out cash for my “fun spending.” I use that as a saving tactic to save up for the bigger things I want. It’s helped a lot, because I can save for something big and budget at the same time.” – See Y.

Reader tip: “I have some money set aside each paycheck for fun money, I try to stay within that limit.” – Cassandra J.


How to spend money: Give it time

When you’re shopping for things that aren’t necessities, a good rule of thumb is to wait 24 hours before buying. When you revisit the item the next day, you might realize you don’t want it as much as you thought. You can extend the window of wait time if 24 hours isn’t enough — when you shop online, put items in a “save for later” section. If you forget about it within a few days, you probably don’t need it. Better yet, limit your trips to your favorite online shop to once a week. On the days you aren’t shopping, make a list of the things you “need,” and cross items off throughout week as you consider whether it’s truly a need or a want.


Reader tip: “Before buying something online, I leave it in my cart for a full 24 hours. Sometimes I realize over that time that I really don’t need it after all.”  -- Michael S.

Reader tip: “When I consider making any purchase outside of necessities, I break down how many hours I would have to work in order to have the money to make it. Then I take a step back and ask myself if that purchase is really worth it.” – Terra N.


How to spend money: Stay alert on social

One minute you’re scrolling through social media, the next you’re shopping for the items those targeted ads sent your way. Or, you catch yourself being heavily “influenced” by items social media influencers are touting about. It can be hard to resist clicking on ads and posts that can almost read your mind, so make it a rule to avoid clicking on them at all — the same goes for promotional emails. If you see something that catches your eye, save or screenshot the post. If you’re still thinking about it in a few weeks, take another look. Don’t forget to read reviews and watch for a sale.


Reader tip: “To stop myself being tempted to buy something from an email, I’ll unsubscribe from shopping emails several times a year to reduce the amount of clutter in my inbox. If I don’t know a store is having a sale, I’m much less tempted to buy. – Jennifer S.

Reader tip: “I watch a lot of product reviews on Instagram, especially clothes/beauty items. I save those posts into different collections, and when I think I have a need for one of the products, I will revisit the review in my collection and make the decision then.” – Karen G.

Reader tip: “If I see an influencer with a certain type of shoe, jewelry item or handbag. I don’t buy exactly what they have. I’ll search for that type of item and buy a cheap one. I also get influenced by furniture that’s trendy right now (mid century modern, burnt orange accents, greenery), but I still try to find something cheap on Facebook Marketplace rather than buying brand new.” – Justine P.

Reader tip: “When I consider making any purchase outside of necessities, I break down how many hours I would have to work in order to have the money to make it. Then I take a step back and ask myself if that purchase is really worth it.” – Terra N.

How to spend money: Lean on your banking app

As you break from mindless money spending, make a habit of reviewing your bank balance before you buy something. It’s not just about seeing how much you have in your checking account — looking at your savings and credit card bill might put more frivolous purchases into perspective. If you use the U.S. Bank mobile app, you can make time-bound savings goals and check on them in real time. If you need extra help resisting the temptation to shop, you can work with a banker at your branch location to put a limit on your card, or work with a goals coach 1-on-1 to develop a plan that works well for you.

No matter what your goals are, cutting back on mindless spending can help you accomplish them sooner. Remember that saving money is about being consistent and using your plan to inform your decisions how to spend money along the way.


There’s always more to learn when it comes to spending and saving. Continue reading to learn nine simple ways to save (and cut back on unnecessary spending).