How to Control Your Spending with a “Do-Not-Buy” List

Posted by under Money Saving Tips, Personal Finance . Updated: December 3, 2019

Lists are great. It helps us become more organized, and writing down lists keeps us from constantly remembering things.

We create “To-Do” lists to help us remember important tasks. Meanwhile, a “To-Buy” list when going to the grocery, helps us remember all the important stuff we need to purchase.

Years ago, I wrote about the power of having a “Do-Not-Do” list, which is an effective tool that made me more productive and helped improve my quality of life.

As an extension to that strategy, I’ve also started a “Do-Not-Buy” list, which from experience, has given me more control over my spending; especially when it comes to avoiding impulse purchases.

What is a “Do-Not-Buy” list?

It is what it says… a list of things that you can’t buy.

You can’t buy them because:

  • You don’t need it (yet)
  • You can’t afford it (yet)
  • You believe it’s not worth it

This list is personal. It will be different for everyone. And when you’re creating your DNB list, it’s important to be clear with the reason why that’s on the list.

You don’t need it (yet).

When I’m at the mall, especially inside a department store, more often than not, you’ll find me browsing through t-shirts.

I like wearing t-shirts, not only because they’re more comfortable than a polo shirt, but also because I express my personal identity through the designs I choose. If you follow me on social media, you’ll see that most of my shirts reflect my beliefs (statement shirts), show my associations (org shirts), or say something about my lifestyle (souvenir shirts).

To control my t-shirt addiction, I’ve included it in my DNB list. The reason is because I currently have more than enough already. However, I do have a condition that I can buy a new t-shirt once every 3 months, unless it’s a souvenir shirt, particularly when I travel.

That’s why it’s under the “You don’t need it (yet)” category. Suffice to say, it gets taken off the DNB list every 3 months, and gets added the moment I buy a new t-shirt.

You can’t afford it (yet).

This category is self-explanatory. But as there are things you need and there are things you want, most of the items under this are those which I simply want.


For example, a laptop is something I use for work. Thus, when I’m close to needing a replacement, I will put it on my priority list of “things to buy”, which I’d refer to often. Because it helps remind me to start looking for good deals, and begin preparing my budget for it.

On the contrary, those under the “You can’t afford it (yet)” are stuff that I simply want, but still trying to save some extra money for. Currently, an example would be a new powerbank because I want one that’s smaller but has more mAH capacity. After an initial survey, I discovered that this costs around a few thousand pesos, which is beyond my monthly budget.

However, because it’s an unnecessary purchase, it gets less priority when I’m allocating extra cash that I received for the month. The benefit of doing this is that when I do eventually manage to save enough to buy one, I’m also confident that I don’t have any urgent and important stuff that I need to buy. Do you agree?

You believe it’s not worth it.

Lastly, the third category are things that I swore to myself I’ll never buy because, as it says, it’s not worth it.

A lot of the items on this list are stuff that I bought before and felt it was just a waste of cash. An example would be those knock-off or unbranded rubber shoes, which you often see in a tiangge or bazaar.

I used to buy them because they are dirt-cheap. But they don’t last very long, and it eventually costs me more in the long run when compared to buying a more expensive but high-quality brand.

Apart from knock-off rubber shoes, I also have luxury watches, expensive sunglasses, and bed sheets with less than 300 thread count included in this list.

It’s a personal list.

A “Do-Not-Buy” list is a personal list. My list will (and should) be different from yours because we all have our own set of priorities and wants in life.

What’s important is that you do have one. Or at least, create your own and see how it goes–if it really does help with controlling your spending or not.

Moreover, understand that this is a dynamic list. You are allowed to edit it as much as you think is necessary. Just remember to never make it too burdensome or oppressive that it makes you feel restricted from enjoying your hard-earned money.

A DNB list, more than anything, is a tool that helps you control your spending and steer away from unnecessary purchases. And by extension, it also helps you avoid experiencing buyer’s remorse.

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