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Twitter, Texts & Guilt: How to Curb Impulse Shopping

This article was updated on June 23, 2011.
What do you get when an architect and a designer discuss money over Indian food and some beers?

For Jason Halladay and wife Leah Solomon, the outcome was a new design to help Americans save money on the go. Last year, over samosas and curry, they shared a light-bulb moment that would become PiggyMojo - an online tool designed to, as Halladay tells me, "make not buying fun."

Here's how it works: You sign up for a free account online and tell PiggyMojo one of your savings goals: how much you want to save and by what date. Maybe it's a vacation, a new car, college tuition, etc.

Then, each time you avoid an impulse buy - skipping your usual $4 latte or the Us Weekly staring at you at the CVS counter - you inform the site, sending either a text message on your phone or a direct message on Twitter, and include the name and dollar amount of what you're not buying. PiggyMojo keeps track for you, counting each instance as a "save" and keeps a running tally on the site. If you're saving with a partner, PiggyMojo will also send notice of your non-buying success to him or her, followed by a "how about you?" nudge that elicits some healthy competition towards saving for a common goal.

Halladay says research has found that a family with an annual income of $45,000 spends roughly 20% of the income on impulse purchases. Why? Because "casual spending feels really good," he says. In fact, some scientists believe the urge to splurge is primal. It's a challenge, but one the Brooklyn, N.Y., couple is ambitiously tackling. "We want to make the experience of saving money feel good ... to make it emotionally satisfying," says Halliday.

The Web site is only in the beginning stages with about 1,200 users, but PiggyMojo was actually just awarded a $300,000 grant to work with Kinecta Alternative Financial Solutions in California to issue a prepaid card. Their under-banked clients will be able to use PiggyMojo 2.0 to turn their "virtual" savings into real savings on their prepaid card starting this fall. Soon after, Piggymojo has plans to launch a site allowing users to link their bank accounts and create actual savings by transferring money from their checking accounts to their savings accounts each time they avoid temptation and skip buying something frivolous.
And yes, they say there will be an app for that, too.

Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the new book Psych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at and on Twitter/farnoosh
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