What Is the 30-Day Rule and How Does It Help You Save Money?

FT Contributor  | 

If you struggle with spending your hard-earned cash impulsively, you may want to consider a sweet and simple solution to the problem called the 30-day rule. The 30-day rule is a popular new method of decision-making that aims at helping you take control of your finances and stick to your budget. This is done by stepping back and looking at each decision you make more objectively and curtailing impulse purchases.

Most people these days know how hard it can be to save money. Costs are always increasing and stagnant wages are an epidemic. The constant pressure on the average person’s finances can make it difficult to afford to pay rent, let alone set aside savings on a regular basis.

While there are plenty of excuses for our collective financial concerns, though, there are other, individual factors that should be considered as well. For instance, many people struggle with that age-old desire to impulse buy. It doesn’t matter if you’re facing down a Kit Kat bar in the checkout aisle or a new Porsche at the dealership — the desire for instant gratification can be fierce.

30-Day Rule Basics

Here are the basic steps involved in utilizing the 30-day rule and keeping impulse buys in check.

Step 1 – Stop

When you see something you like, pause before making any decisions regarding a purchase. This is just as applicable for smaller things like a shirt or a book as it is for larger expenses like a new computer or a car.

Regardless of the situation, whatever it is you’re thinking of buying, stop before making a purchase. Don’t worry, we’re not saying to simply not buy it. You’re just not going to buy it yet.

Step 2 – Write It Down

Next, make a note of the following:

  • The item being considered.
  • How much it costs.
  • The store where you found it.
  • The date.

You can make the note on a piece of paper, type it into a Google Doc, or even simply send a text to yourself. Just make sure it’s recorded in an easily accessible place.

Step 3 – Wait

This next step is the hard part. Wait for 30 days. While this can be difficult, remember that you haven’t decided anything yet regarding the item in question. You’re simply denying that natural impulse for instant gratification.

During this time it can be wise to consider things like whether you need the item or not and what value it can bring to your life. Look up reviews and comparison shop, too. Is it cheaper elsewhere? Are there alternative options available? Make sure to do your homework.

Step 4 – Make a Decision

Finally, we have the critical fourth step: make a decision. After 30 days have passed, revisit the item in question. Have you forgotten about it? If so, don’t buy it! Has your desire for it been replaced by an alternative option? If so, go for the alternative.

If, on the other hand, you find that you’ve been wanting it more as the month has gone on, that’s the indicator that it is, indeed, a good thing to purchase. Head to the store and buy the item — assuming, of course, that it’s been within your budget to do so all along.

These four steps are, in a nutshell, the 30-day rule.

Benefits of the 30-Day Rule

It is one thing to create a personal budget, and another thing to actually curb spending and live within your means. The 30-day rule is obviously a powerful tool to curb the desire to impulse spend. However, it also has many other positive benefits, including:

  • Giving you more control over your finances.
  • Developing disciplined behavior when it comes to your spending habits.
  • Allowing you to save money.

That last one is worth a bit of extra attention, too. While avoiding the negative behavior of impulse purchases is a good start, the 30-day rule can also be one of the best ways to save money, too.

However, that doesn’t happen simply by not making purchases. After all, you could turn around and spend that money somewhere else. Figuring out how to save money using this method requires a little extra leg work.

How to Save Money With the 30-Day Rule

Rather than simply avoiding spending, it’s recommended that each time you implement the 30-day rule, you take the time to proactively put that money aside. This way, whenever you decide not to make a purchase, you can move the money that you otherwise would have spent right into your savings.

While that covers the basic saving concept, there are a few other ways to help utilize the 30-day rule to actually save money, as well.

Create a Separate Savings Account

Creating a savings account dedicated to your 30-day rule money is an excellent way to keep your “30-day savings” separated from your normal budget.

Make It a Challenge

Did you know that it can take an average of 66 days for a new habit to stick? That means the 30-day rule will naturally get you halfway there. Using the method can be an excellent way to challenge yourself to form new spending routines with the goal of ultimately turning them into long-term financial habits.

Keep a Journal

While there are numerous ways to store information these days, setting up a “30-day rule journal” can be a great way to keep all of the information about your purchasing decisions stored in one centralized location.

Create a Pros and Cons List

Finally, whether you’re typing information into your phone, scribbling it on a note, or recording it in your luxurious new 30-day rule journal, you may also want to consider tacking a pro and con list on to the end of the data. It’s a great way to break down the reality of your wants versus your needs and can be an excellent decision-making tool.

Using the 30-Day Rule

As already mentioned, there are many different benefits to using the 30-day rule. It allows you to gain control over your finances, avoids impulse spending, and increases your savings all at the same time.

If you decide that the 30-day rule is worth trying out, as is the case with all financial disciplines, it’s important that you firmly commit to it at least for the short term. Take a few months to try the practice out and see how it works for you. Chances are, you’ll find your spending decrease and your savings increase before you know it.


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