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How to handle Black Friday when you have no impulse control

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Sooo, black friday is coming up. Which is nice, if you actually have some impulse control and can handle the hype. If you have ADHD, however, and your brain isn’t quite sure how this impulse control thing is supposed to work, Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) can mean spending a lot of money on things you don’t actually need (or want, for that matter).

Personally, I have my fair share of experience with ill-advised impulse buys. I bet we all do. For me, impulse buys are usually clothing and shoes (that I never wear, because no matter how pretty those high heeled red pumps are, they don’t come in my weird half-size and also my knees are a mess… they live in the basement now). For other people in my family, impulse buys are more gadgets (my mom has a nice collection of kitchen utensils she doesn’t actually use all that much). So, I know what I’m talking about. In recent years, and with the help of medication, I’ve learned to gain a bit more control over what I buy, though. My last truly pointless impulse buy was probably the little solar LED lampion I was going to hang on our balcony but have never once used over the summer. And it was under 10€. When it comes to spending money on stuff I don’t use, I count that as a win.

So what is the trick? How do I avoid getting drawn into the “Ohhh, but it’s a bargain!!!” mindset? Honestly, there is no trick. It’s really hard. But here’s how I do it:

  • I try to be aware of my lack of impulse control:

    This might sound a bit confusing, but really, it’s quite simple. I know I’m not great at not buying stuff I might, possibly, hypothetically need, some day, for an unclear purpose. Plus, look how cute!
    So I started to consciously identify situations where this becomes a problem. This is the most important thing, actually, because everything else depends on my being aware that right now, my brain is a kindergartener, at the grocery store checkout, throwing a tantrum over the chocolates that were put next to the register to produce exactely this result (actually, to make me buy the stuff to prevent that result, but still). Do you look down on parents who give in and buy the screaming four-year-old some candy to shut them up? Well, then don’t do the same thing for your brain. I find it really helpful in situations like this to just consciously think about myself as an adult, who can handle this. Don’t let your brain get carried away. Just say no and try to ignore the screaming.

  • I keep temptation to a minimum:

    If I know I don’t need anything, and, more importantly, can’t or don’t want to spend any money, I avoid looking at stuff that might set off a brain tantrum. I don’t open email advertisments and try to stay off websites and away from stores that hold sales (and who in their right mind would want to go to a store on Black Friday anyway? With an ADHD brain?????). For me, that means I try to keep off Amazon this week.

  • I make sure I’m as much in control as possible:

    This means, if I was to go to a store on Black Friday, I’d have the amount I could spend with me in cash or in some other form that wouldn’t allow me to go over budget. (I should probably tell you that, in Germany, Black Friday isn’t as much a thing as in the US, so things are a lot more relaxed over here.)
    The most important thing to do, though, is to steer clear of things you don’t need. For example, I could use some Pitt Artist Brush Pens. These things are on the priceyer side of the pen spectrum, so if I could get a deal on them on Amazon this week, I’d love that. This is a sensible purchase. It would save me money, and as I use my bullet journal to manage my ADHD, I’m sure to need new pens every now and then anyway. But that means I use the filters Amazon supplies. I don’t look at all deals, I only check the stationary section. That way, I’ll see anything I would actually want to buy, but avoid looking at all the stuff that might look good to my brain, but is completely pointless in real life (I use my laptop almost exclusively at my desk, so no matter how cute that case is, I just don’t need it. Now shut up, brain.)
    If you’re having serious trouble with this, make sure that you have a list of what things you actually need ready before entering a website or store, and have somebody else check your purchases against your list, before you complete them. That way, no money gets spent on useless stuff.

That’s really all. For me, a big part of coping with my lack of impulse control is really just being aware this is a problem and handling my brain accordingly. In general, I find it easiest to deal with my brain by not dealing with it. Sounds strange? What I mean is this: Mostly, when it comes to impulse control, I know perfectly well what I should be doing. It’s just hard, because my brain tries to bargain and get me to do something else. Something with more interesting, that gets my some instant gratification. So whenever a situation like this comes up, I just do the thing I know I should. I don’t think about it much, I don’t start an argument with myself, I just do it. This works pretty well for most situations (for example, my brain wanted to take a nap on the couch, but I started writing this post instead), so if you’re having trouble keeping the impulse to buy stuff at bay, stop thinking about it, close the browser and go eat some chocolate. That always works.

Picture by Kaboompics // Karolina