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Are you looking for ways how to stop impulse buying?
Impulse shopping happens to all of us sometimes, but when we find ourselves seemingly helpless to stop making impulse purchases, then we know we might need some strategies on how to avoid the temptation of spending money.
I’ve been there myself and still do have urges to shop impulsively. As a gamer who mostly plays online games, I’ve frequently felt the urge to buy add-ons to my games – really, anything to give me an edge.
Sometimes that short-term high you get from buying something gets the better of you. Then you feel awful, or at least unfulfilled, afterward.
The best thing you can do is learn from your behaviors. If you know you’re an impulse buyer, then there’s things you can do to help avoid those situations in the future.
Let’s talk more about this topic and how to stop the urge to spend money when you know you’re one to make impulse purchases.
Table of Contents
What is Impulse Buying?
Impulse buying is simply when you buy something that you didn’t initially plan to buy, usually on a whim or spur of the moment. When you’re checking out at the grocery store, and you see all the candy, gum, or mints at the checkout aisle, and you quickly add a pack or candy bar to your cart, you’ve just impulse bought something.
Impulse spending can be on bigger items, too. An impulse buy can also be when you’re doing some online shopping on Amazon, and you add an item to your cart, and Amazon shows you other recommended products based on what you just added to your cart, and you add one or more of those items, too.
Others will impulse buy when they’re simply window shopping. You might just be looking at cool things out there and see something that catches your eyes and immediately click Purchase.
Signs of Impulsive Spending
Impulse spending can be expensive and cause you to feel upset with yourself after making the purchase. After an impulse buy, you may feel that you regretted the purchase. How many times have you bought something only to think an hour or a few days later that you really didn’t need to buy what you did?
Here are some signs that you may be impulse buying too much:
You Need Instant Satisfaction
Shopping and acquiring new things often gives us an immediate high – a good feeling that we just obtained something new. This need for instant satisfaction might stem from a bad day or simply not feeling our best.
The thing is, once the purchase is over, it’s possible we may feel guilty as we’ve now swiped our credit card and added to our debt.
It’s okay to buy ourselves nice things – for real, don’t feel bad about having nice things that you can afford. It’s just when we’re buying things for that instant need of satisfaction that you may find the purchase has the opposite effect after a short period of time.
You Feel Like You Deserve to Spend Money Right Now
Sometimes you do deserve to spend money, and I would never tell you otherwise. However, when you are hurting your future financial situation by telling yourself you deserve to spend money on every item that intrigues you for a moment, I would ask you to think about the long-term cost of your impulse spending.
Think about your financial goals. Are you hoping to get out of debt one day, buy a nice house and/or car, or do you want to be able to travel the world? While the key way to get to your financial goals is to make more money, sometimes making more money isn’t possible, or it’s simply not the right time, and in that case, saving money is the way to go. You deserve to reach your financial goals, and perhaps that’s a better mantra to live by.
Crush Debt for Good
Get out of debt and stop impulse spending, so that you won't get into credit card debt again.
You Want to “Keep Up With the Joneses”
I relate to this sign of impulse spending the most. In my 20s and early 30s, I was really fixated on looking like everyone else. I wanted to spend money on shiny things – things I definitely didn’t need because I wanted to look cool and make everyone think I had money.
This was, ultimately, unwise of me.
There’s nothing wrong with spending money on nice things, but I didn’t have a lot of money invested, and I was instead going into credit card debt to keep up an image of doing comparatively as well or better than others.
Avoid the impulse to be like everyone else. Most people put on a face for all of us to see, and we believe that their whole life is what they’re displaying. Think about social media for a moment and all the wonderful pictures you see and how happy a person may appear. The lens we see through social media is just a small fraction of what the person really experiences and oftentimes can be misleading.
Keeping up with the Joneses can be quite similar. We feel the need to keep up with people, but really, we can be just as happy just being ourselves and doing things we enjoy. You don’t need to be like everyone else at all. You can save money and be proud of securing your financial future.
You Impulse Buy When You’re Stressed
My wife can relate to this. Sometimes you’re stressed out. You may have had a bad day at work, or your kids might be acting out. You may have gotten into an argument with your best friend, or the ongoing news is becoming too much to deal with.
Whatever it is, you may turn to impulse buying to help you feel better.
As mentioned above, buying something may help with your initial feelings of stress, however, you may feel even more stressed after it hits you that you’ve spent more money than you can afford. Instead of spending money when you’re stressed, find activities that can help you feel better. This can include watching TV, playing games, exercising, talking with friends and family, having comfort food, working on a hobby, and reading a book.
What Causes Impulse Buying?
Many causes lead to impulse buying. Marketers and advertisers understand the psychology behind what makes us want to buy products from their companies. When you want to resist spending money, it helps to understand the process yourself so that you’re more aware of their tactics to encourage you to spend money impulsively.
Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)
Have you ever seen an ad that reads, “Buy now while supplies last!” or “Only 3 left in stock!”? This line of advertising is to trigger your FOMO response and make you want to buy. Some marketers will even put these messages up when they’re not even true. Ever buy a t-shirt from an online t-shirt store? The shirts may say there’s only a few left, but in reality, most t-shirts at t-shirt shops are printed-on-demand, meaning there’s pretty much an unlimited supply.
Stores also regularly restock their products, and using your FOMO against you is their way of getting more sales.
Instead, ask yourself if you really need what’s being sold. When you realize you’re just hit with some FOMO, you may stop yourself from impulse buying. It’s easier said than done, of course, but understanding what’s causing you to feel a certain way can help you find ways to not act.
Check out this article about FOMO and how you can resist it.
You Think You’re Saving Money
Seeing a sale immediately tells us that we’re saving money by purchasing now and not later when something isn’t on sale. But this is also a tactic to convince people to impulse buy. You may see Buy 2 Get One Free (BOGO) and think, “Great, I can get three if I just buy one more,” instead of simply buying one of something (or none at all).
Another example is when you go to a store and see an item is 25% off, and you feel the need to buy it because “it’s such an amazing deal!” The thing is, these are all ploys to get you to spend in the heat of the moment. Again, there’s nothing wrong with planning out purchases to buy nice things, but impulse spending can get you into tricky financial situations, such as credit card debt.
Buying New Things Can Be Addicting
Let’s face it – it feels great to buy something new. We get caught up in new things, such as items or experiences. When you shop, your brain releases endorphins that make you feel good. It’s very possible to get hooked on this feeling.
How to Stop Spending Money Impulsively
Let’s talk about how to stop impulse buying. This is something you might not be able to stop forever, but you can certainly curb your spending by putting some of these methods into practice.
1. Use the 30-day Rule
The 30-day rule is my favorite way to not buy something that I’m thinking of buying on impulse. The idea behind the 30-day rule is to create a waiting period of weeks or a month between when you initially think you want to buy something and when you actually purchase it.
By forcing yourself to wait 30 days or more, you take the impulse out of the decision and give yourself time to really think about whether you want to buy something or not.
This is a great way to deal with emotional spending as well. If you frequently buy when you’re riding on your emotions, forcing yourself to wait 30 days will completely remove the emotion from the situation.
If you come back after 30 days and still want to buy the product, then I believe you’ve given yourself ample time to think it over.
2. Don’t go to Places with Lots of Stores, Like a Mall
If you have a hard time controlling yourself, it might be best to avoid going to the mall or other locations where shopping is common. It’s best to avoid triggers that lead us into harmful behaviors, and if you have trouble with impulse buying, a mall might be one of those places to steer clear of.
This can be applied to any location where you’re likely to spend more money than you intend. Think about common websites where you may buy more than you initially planned. We’ll talk about in the next section what you can do for these websites to help curb your impulse spending.
3. Delete Your Credit Card and Debit Card Information from All Websites
Having your payment information, such as credit card, debit card, and/or PayPal account, saved on a website gives you easy access to purchase on impulse. If you find that you frequently buy things before you realize how much you just spent, delete your information to these sites.
By deleting your information, you’ll have to enter your payment info each time you go to purchase something. This grants you a lot of time to not get your wallet or nor pull your credit card, for example, out to enter the numbers.
By creating this physical barrier of having to get your wallet and a time buffer where you have to find your card and type in the numbers, you may have more luck preventing yourself from splurging on things you don’t need.
4. Enjoy What You Already Own
When I’m about to buy a new game, I often say to myself, “What existing game haven’t I played in a few months or a year that I could fire up again?” This simple question has saved me hundreds if not more dollars since I end up replaying a game again versus spending up to $60 on a brand new one.
This can be applied to many things that you are tempted to buy. Before buying something, consider what you already own that can bring the same level of enjoyment.
5. Cancel Newsletters to Avoid Shopping Triggers
In the blogging world, courses are something a lot of people buy too many of. We sign up for boatloads of mailing lists and buy whatever we think will help us. In the “real world,” mailing lists come from retail stores, vacation hubs, restaurants, and more.
If you frequently spend too much money, especially impulsively, then unsubscribe from these newsletters. Out of sight, out of mind. If you’re not being bombarded by advertisements in your inbox, you’re less likely to buy something you may regret later.
6. Remind Yourself of Previous Purchases That You’ve Regretted
Sometimes a little guilt goes a long way. It’s great to spend money on things that make us happy, and we should be reminded of planned purchases that do so. However, if you have previously spent money where the end result ended up making you feel worse, then try tapping into that feeling and remember that this purchase will lead down that road.
You definitely shouldn’t beat yourself up over a purchase or repeated purchases that you’ve regretted. Instead, you can try to learn from the past so that you’re less likely to spend impulsively in the future.
7. Use a List Whenever You Go Shopping
A common place to buy on impulse is when you go grocery shopping. You may be walking down the aisle and say, “Hey, I could totally go for this chocolate cake,” because you’re hungry and need something to make you feel good. But by sticking to a list, you’ll be less likely to make impulsive decisions, and you’ll save yourself money in the long run.
PS: Chocolate cake is amazing, and if you want some, place it on your list before going to the grocery store. Learn how to save money on grocery shopping here.
Likewise, if you go shopping for clothes or a similar place you spend money, always try to come up with a list before leaving home. Don’t allow yourself to deviate from the list. Reward yourself when you get home and reinforce good behaviors.
8. Find Things That are Free to Have Fun and Reward Yourself
I just mentioned rewarding yourself. A great way to reinforce positive behaviors is to reward yourself for keeping good habits and eliminating bad habits. This means sometimes you can let yourself splurge a little. It’s up to you how you can treat yourself, whether it be food (ice cream?), buying some new clothes, or treating yourself to something you truly enjoy.
9. Think of the Big Picture
Zoom out for a moment and think about what spending all of this money is really doing to you. When you spend money every which way, you’re hurting your financial future. This means you or your spouse may have to work more years before retirement, or you may fall short helping your kids go to college.
These little transactions all add up. I definitely don’t want to guilt you into feeling bad as that isn’t productive, however, understanding how important it is to curb impulse spending will make life a lot easier in the long run.
10. Don’t Shop When You’re Having a Tough Day
Emotional spending can cause you to light your wallet on fire essentially. Buying things when you’re in a bad mood to help you feel better may seem like it helps short term, but what it’s doing is making you rely on spending cash instead of coping with whatever it is that’s bothering you. Instead, finding free things to do to help you get through your tough day is more productive. This includes, as mentioned earlier, reading, writing, playing a game, exercising, going for a walk, and more.
Here are some more examples on how to curb emotional spending.
Crush Debt for Good
Get out of debt and stop impulse spending, so that you won't get into credit card debt again.
Wrapping It Up
As I wrote this post, I felt like I was trying to balance helping you curb your impulse spending without making you feel guilty if you want to spend money on things you love.
In the end, mapping out goals for your financial future may be the best way to stop impulse buying because you’ll see how much more financially secure you’ll be after you’ve gotten your impulses under control.
I am definitely a recovering impulsive spender, as is my wife, and I would love to hear about the struggles you have or had in the comments below.
Until next time!