What is the 30-Day Rule? Manage Your Impulse Spending

By Todd Kunsman

Saving Money

Published on

Updated on

One of the challenges for many people when it comes to their finances is controlling how much they spend.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of impulse buying and feeling the rush of instant gratification.

But it can quickly deteriorate and cause you to rack up debt, have a difficult time saving money, and more.

However, there is a solution you can try that can help you break the bad buying habits called the 30-Day rule.

This strategy can be used to amplify your budget, help control your spending, and put your savings back on track.

Here’s what you need to know and how to get started.

What is the 30-Day Rule?

The 30-Day Rule works to reduce your impulse spending and simultaneously increase your savings or emergency fund. It allows you to reconsider those whimsical purchases we all make and eventually keep more of your hard-earned cash. 

Impulse buying can also throw off your budget and lead to a build-up of debt. Purchases that don’t fit into your overall financial plan can also make you feel like any savings progress is easily slipping away.

But the 30-Day Rule can help you get your spending and saving back on track. This is because it stretches the time you spend considering the purchase and places more value on the money you have in the bank.

A potential exchange of these hard-earned savings gets more thought so that you can stop feeling guilty over purchases you’ll regret. 

The Importance of the 30-Day Rule

The 30-Day Rule is important because it’s effective. The rule can change your attitude towards spending and saving, help you stick to a budget or even make progress on debt. It can weave into your overall financial plan and help control the urge to impulse buy.

True, you might not apply this rule to each and every shopping trip you take, but nobody is perfect. Any progress towards a savings goal is good progress, and this rule is one available tool to help get you there and become more fiscally responsible

The Difference Between the 30 Day Savings Rule

This is not to be confused with the 30-Day Savings Rule (although they work in harmony with one another).

The savings rule states that you’ll transfer the exact cost of the purchase into a savings account and leave it there for the next 30 days.

After one month has passed, you’ll either leave the money in savings or transfer it back to shop the item. Instead, this rule focuses more on the urge to spend and changing the behavioral pattern we’ve formed around it. 

In a practical sense, this mechanism might also help you reduce credit card usage and bring down debt. By waiting 30-Days to make a purchase, you’ll have entered a new pay cycle and won’t be trapped into buying through a credit card.

This can work towards increasing your credit score and making more use of a debit account. 

How Does The 30 Day Rule Work?

The rule helps to control and slow down your impulse spending by delaying the instant gratification you feel when spending money.

Let’s face it, we’ve all bought things and later realized the money was wasted. It’s even worse when money is tight.

Instead of taking it back to the shop, we’ve just had to live with the consequences. This rule aims to stop you making a purchase you’ll regret while also saving towards a bigger goal. 

The 30-Day Rule works by rewiring your financial habits and putting your priorities into context. As I’ve mentioned before, many better money habits might not be instantly attainable but require an intentional change over time.

In fact, it takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to form an automatic habit. When you follow this 30-Day Rule, your brain can learn to swap out the joy of shopping for the joy of delayed gratification; the feeling that you’ve really worked hard for the item. 

When you stretch out your impulse to spend for a 30-Day period, you’ll be able to prioritize the purchases  that you actually want to make. Instead of going cold turkey on spending, this behavior enables the careful consideration of the budget available.

You can also find more creative ways to treat yourself! This formation of a new habit around spending can place increased value on purchases, making them more meaningful and appreciated than ever.

Tips to Apply the 30-Day Impulse Spending Rule:

  • When you feel the need to make a purchase (whether it’s a whole new wardrobe or a larger purchase, like a vehicle), stop yourself. Walk away from the store and leave it there. 
  • Make a note of the item alongside its price and the date. Your goal is to think about the impact of the purchase (especially expensive ones) first, before rushing to make a choice.
  • Keep this note visible to yourself. You could stick it to the refrigerator on a post-it note or at the front of a notepad on your desk, just make sure it’s somewhere you’ll see it often. 
  • Over the next 30 days, consider whether you actually need the item, or how badly you want it. But DO NOT go out and buy it (yet!). This forces you to think a bit more about the costs, your budget, and the ROI of your purchase.
  • After the 30-Day period and you’ve thought about it, then make a decision. If the pros outweigh the cons and you still have the urge to splurge: go out and make your purchase. If not, leave the money in your account to contribute towards savings, investments, or your emergency fund. 

Pretty simple right?

I know 30-Days can be a long-time, so if it’s an emergency purchase that is a necessity for your quality of life then the 30-Day rule probably will not apply here.

Similarly with sales, discounts tend to have limited timeframes where you can make decision. Again, the 30-Day rule will not apply in this instance.

Ways to Stick With the 30-Day Rule 

Unfortunately, creating a financial plan or having the intention to change your spending habits doesn’t always lead to success. It’s not that easy! I hear you, so here are some ways to help stick to the 30-Day Rule: 

Have a goal and track your progress

In business, those who set goals and track progress report hitting their goal 96% of the time, which is almost double the success rate of businesses who don’t track at all.

This is reflected in personal savings too, so having a regular check-in to work out how well you are moving towards a no impulse-spending goal could be beneficial to the overall saving process.

Involve your friends or family

Everybody loves a challenge! Why not compete against family and friends to see who can save the most money in a month or stop spending? This way, you can keep each other accountable and turn the 30-Day rule into a game against impulse spending. 

Remember that a purchase every once in awhile is okay

The thing about this rule is that it doesn’t prevent shopping altogether. So once those 30-Days are complete, don’t feel guilty if you still want to buy after all.

It’s just a tool to help you get rid of those regretful purchases and put more value onto the items that you DO want and need. Plus, it serves to help boost your savings account along the way!

Give it some time to stick

Although I alluded to this a bit earlier, you might fail at your first 30-Day challenge. And that’s okay!

This should be a learning experience to either help you make smarter purchasing decisions, to stop impulse buying, or a combo of things.

Breaking bad habits is not always easy and takes time. So cut yourself some slack if you find it more challenging than you expected!

Try different budgeting techniques

What might be interesting or work for you, might be completely different for someone else.

For example, I always enjoyed simple spreadsheets and doing the math myself when doing my budget or any challenges, like the 30-Day rule. I found it kept me more focus and gave me a better understanding of my expenses.

Some might find the cash envelope system better for them, where physical envelopes with organized cash helps.

And others may look to various personal finance platforms and apps. Here a few that could help:

  • Personal Capital: see all your expenses in one place, manage your net worth, investments, budget, and more. And you can use it for free.
  • Savology: A new budgeting platform, Savology can make it easy to keep track of your expenses, spending, and savings.
  • Tiller Money: Automatic spreadsheets and templates created for you to help with your budgeting and savings needs. So if you like cool spreadsheets, Tiller is for you.
  • Mint: One of the more popular and recognizable names in the finance space is Mint. Keep track of all your finances in one place for free.