You are relaxing in your home on a weekend. Having nothing planned for the day, you think “I’ll head to the mall to try and catch a movie or something”. You perk up and head out.

Before the day is over, you have spent a couple of thousand Rupees or more that you probably didn’t plan to. If this is a regular occurrence and you are constantly wondering where all the cash went, you probably have bad shopping habits.

Here are 6 shopping habits you need to avoid.

#1. Spending more than what you earn

The one habit you need to stop today is spending beyond what you earn. With rapid penetration of credit cards, spending beyond your earnings is ridiculously easy.

If you find yourself switching from your debit card to credit card every month to support your shopping habits (or taking multiple credit cards), then you might have a problem.

What to do?

Have strict limits on your discretionary spending. Use credit cards only for planned purchases that are necessary. Always save first and spend later.

#2. Buying based on your wants and not your needs

The latest smartphone boasts more mega pixels than the number of alphabets in the English language. But do you really need the latest and the greatest smartphone money can buy?

You will be surprised to know the amount of things you shop for based on what you “think” you need rather than what you “actually” need.

What to do?

Before making a purchase, ask yourself this, “Do I really need it or want it?” Go ahead only if you can give convincing reasons like “I can’t work if I don’t have this” or “Buying this will increase my productivity by at least 25%”. Oh, and self-assuring reasons like “This has the latest technology” or “My friends all have this” does not really count.

#3. Buying without a set budget

If you are like most young professionals, you probably buy first and think about how your money gets spent later.

You want a new dress; you buy it convincing yourself that it will make you look good. You want a new home theatre system; you buy it thinking it makes your downloaded movie watching experience rival IMAX. You want to eat at the new expensive Vietnamese restaurant; you dine there for the experience.

Budgeting or deciding how much you are going to spend on your needs and wants is, after all, such a boring exercise. Right?

That’s your one-way ticket to accumulating unnecessary debt and furthering your retirement date.

What to do?

Create a budget as soon as you have a spending budget in place (Your net income minus your regular savings like mutual funds, PPF, etc.)

Decide how much money you are going to spend on various expenses like dining out, rent, utilities, and so on. Also, look at your spending history and identify areas where you can cut costs.

For example, looking at your past expenses you realise that you spent 30-40% of your take home pay on eating out at fancy restaurants. Reduce it to a more affordable range to begin with and allocate only that much money to it.

Budgeting is not just for the Finance Minister. It’s your first step to financial independence.

#4. Buying when influenced by emotions or bodily needs such as hunger

Your boss screamed at you today. The girl you like passed a nasty comment about your lifestyle choices. What do you do? Most people like to go for some “retail therapy”.

Have you ever noticed that you end up buying a lot of snacks and fast food that you can consume as soon as you reach home or, maybe even while driving back, if you were hungry when you went shopping?

Shopping to “feel good” is somewhat very common. If it weren’t for our ego, most luxury brands wouldn’t even exist.

What to do?

Look out for warning signals that push you to go for “retail therapy”. When distressed, do yoga or work out. When you are hungry, eat something healthy. Shop only when you are not upset or don’t have other pressing issues in mind.

#5. Deciding what to buy after visiting a mall or website

Are you among the thousands who decide what to buy after reaching the supermarket, mall or, after browsing through an e-commerce site?

Not pre-deciding what to buy will lead you to buy more of what you don’t really need. Websites and shopping malls are optimized to drive your attention to make purchases that you probably would never have made otherwise.

How many times has a trip to the mall ended up with you eating out, even when you didn’t plan for it? How many times have you browsed through an e-commerce website, only to end up buying something you didn’t even want in the first place?

What to do?

Plan your expenses before you head out to shop. Start making shopping lists if you don’t already. If it is not on the list, it shouldn’t be in the cart. Maybe ditch the supermarket and visit your friendly old neighbourhood store?

#6. Using credit card for impulse purchases

The expensive watch you wanted is on sale. But you don’t have the cash right now and the offer will end in a couple of hours. What do you do?

Use your credit card. After all, you don’t need to have cash to use a credit card.

Credit cards make you feel richer. You use them everywhere; book movie tickets, swipe at restaurants, or use online to pay for the latest gadget.

Spending more than what you actually earn is now easier than ever.

What to do?

If you are heading out to shop, plan your purchases and stick to your debit cards or cash. Carry only a restricted amount of cash so you don’t overspend.

Treat your credit cards as a tool of last resort or as planned purchasing instruments.