How I Learned to Be Less Impulsive

Written by Brenda Spiering

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

I like to get things done – making decisions and moving forward quickly.

But life doesn't always roll along the way we expect. It's full of ups and downs, and some things take time to turn around. I've learned that rushing in can sometimes be exactly what I shouldn't do.

The Benefit of Stopping and Thinking

Sometimes it's patience and caution that pay off in the end. Being less impulsive is something I've gradually grown to realize can apply to many things in life. Here are a few examples of how my impulsive old ways didn't serve me as well as a more patient approach would have:

1. Buying on Credit Instead of Waiting to Buy With Cash

Tapping with my credit card is a convenient way to shop. At least that's true if I buy what I can afford and pay my credit card off in full each month. But what about those unexpected deals that can't be planned for?

A few years back, my desire to not miss out on a bargain meant I ended up carrying a fairly hefty balance on my credit card. It didn't seem like such a big deal – until I figured out what it was really costing me. Carrying $5,000 on a credit card that was charging me 20% interest, and on which I was paying only 3% of the balance each month, would take me a little over 18 years to pay off, and I'd end up paying $5,860 in interest charges.

I made sure to pay it off sooner, but there's no question that I'd have been better off waiting until I had the money to buy it, even if it meant paying full price.

2. Reacting to Market Ups and Downs

On March 9, 2020, the Dow fell 2,013.76 points. It was one of the worst single-day point drops in U.S. history. Time to sell, right? Wrong. I didn't go so far as to sell off all my investments, but I did retreat from the stock market. Fearful of what was to come, I parked all my savings for that year in low-interest GICs. The result was I missed out when the markets rebounded.

Next time, I'll keep my cool during times of market volatility.

3. Going for a Deal Without Knowing All the Facts

I had to walk away from travel plans last March when we were hit with COVID-19 related travel restrictions. I was lucky, since the airline agreed to refund the trip I'd purchased nine months earlier, but some of my friends who'd also booked lost out.

Before I rush to book the next enticing vacation I see online, I plan to slow down and read the fine print. Is the plane ticket refundable or can it be exchanged for a different date? Does the vacation package offer travel insurance? If so, what does it cover? Policies vary widely, so I've learned that it's wise to check the rules carefully before I buy.

4. Being Influenced by Home Renovation Shows

With all the home reno shows on TV, it can be tempting to rush out and make some changes to your home. I've done it.

I still have a few of the "upgrades" I splurged on, like floral bathroom tiles, and striped wallpaper going up the stairs. Today, I wish I hadn't done them, but it would cost too much money and take too much time for me to change them again. These two home projects taught me to consider whether home upgrades are strategic for the long term or better avoided.

Think About the Big Picture

It's tempting to make decisions on the fly. But I've learned that the best way to end up ahead is to slow down and think things through before acting. By taking time to consider the big picture – and the potential long-term impact of a decision – you may decide you're better off to wait. Your future self will likely thank you.

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