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Avoid Opening Your Wallet On...

Saturday. Turns out, Americans spend 30 percent more on Saturday than the average weekday, according to a Gallup poll. The bump gets even bigger on weekends after a payday, which suggests this increase isn't just the result of more time to shop. Researchers behind the poll say this "paycheck effect" may be a reflection of consumers' overconfidence when they have more cash on hand.

boutique clothing store

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Don't Fall for Snobbiness

Remember when Julia Roberts' character in Pretty Woman goes shopping in Beverly Hills and is told by a snooty saleswoman, "I don't think we have anything for you. You're obviously in the wrong place?" Researchers have recently found that this sort of rude behavior actually makes people spend more (even if Vivian walked out without buying a thing). In a 2014 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, they explain the "Pretty Woman" effect, in which snobby attitudes can make customers feel like they want to be part of the "in" crowd, and buy the perfume, bag or dress that the salesperson can't ever picture them owning.

brown bag lunch

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Reconsider Your Lunch

In 2014, food-delivery service GrubHub conducted a study around gender differences when it comes to placing food orders, and while we were correct in our hunch that guys were ordering more chicken Parmesan than we were (53 percent more, actually), we didn't realize women spend more on each order (apparently lattes, edamame and avocado rolls—some of our top orders—can really add up). And what was even more surprising, was that women tend to call (or click) their meals in more often than men do on weekdays, and women are 30 percent more likely than men to order food from work addresses—once again reminding us why brown-bagging it makes sense, and not just for health reasons.

Grocery list

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Carry a Master List

You know the drill: Make a list before hitting the grocery store or department store aisles so you'll be less likely to buy impulsively and more likely to come home with things you actually need.

But, what about those visits that are more spontaneous? When a friend drags you to her favorite outlet or an afternoon stroll ends in a new neighborhood boutique, you'll find a master wish list might save you from yourself.

"I keep a shopping list on my smartphone," says Lauren Lyons Cole, a certified financial planner. A few times a year, she goes through cupboards and closets from attic to garage and notes what she needs. "I'm only allowed to buy the stuff that's on my list."

Although a small notepad and pen would do the job, a smartphone means access to apps such as Google Shopping, which not only can store your master list, but also can scan barcodes for price comparisons, reviews and more.

Think of a master list as the ever-present instructions for scavenger hunting items you most covet to be found at the very best price.

Money journal

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Start a Joy-Based Ledger

"We have tried ad nauseam...for the past decade to get people to readjust spending by focusing on the raw numbers," says Manisha Thakor, founder and CEO of MoneyZen, a boutique financial-advisory firm serving women and families. She says simply looking at a budget in theory should fix the problem, but it hasn't.

Her solution: "Challenge yourself to be more mindful and conscious of what kind of return on joy you're getting from every dollar you spend."

This requires not only writing down how much money they cost you, but how much joy they brought you. Highlight only those items in your notebook (or smartphone), and then take a look at what's not highlighted. That's where you start thinking about making conscious, mindful adjustments to your spending, Thakor says. In other words, that's where you should start cutting back.


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Follow the Rule of 5

Some people—the free-spirited or Type B, the list-phobes, the detail-averse—hate budgets. For them, Lauren Lyons Cole suggests the Rule of 5.

Start with your monthly income and subtract your bills, retirement funds, children's college-fund or other saving-plan contributions. Divide this amount by 5. Put one-fifth in a separate account for annual spending (holiday gifts, weekend getaways, etc.) The remaining four-fifths are your pocket money for the month—think of each portion as your weekly allowance.

"When it's gone, it's gone," Lyons Cole says.

By taking money off the table at the start, you're setting yourself up for success no matter what distractions or urges crop up along the way.