10 Ways to Stop Impulse Buying

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If you frequently browse social media, you probably see many people showing off things they buy and painting a picture of a happy life because of these purchases. This can make you feel like you need to buy things too, and this cycle is sometimes coined “trying to keep up with the Joneses.”

Impulse spending is a troublesome problem in America, and it's estimated that Americans spend an average of $450 per month buying on impulse. This is according to a 2018 survey done by Slickdeals.

In this article, we'll discuss what impulse buying is, what happens when you impulse spend too much, and several steps you can take to stop future impulse buying. The reward for getting your impulse spending under control isn't just a financial one, as there are emotional aspects to impulse spending as well.

Let's get started.

What Is Impulse Buying?

Impulse buying is generally a result of emotional distress caused by things such as anxiety, depression, and sometimes boredom. According to Alexandra Emery, a licensed psychologist at Grit City Psychology in Seattle, “Impulse buying gives us a little spike of dopamine, which is rewarding and motivating.”

Triggers for impulse buying can also include fear of missing out, such as when you see something on a huge sale and then purchase it because you feel it's a great deal and you won't have the opportunity again in the future. 

Other people have shopping addictions and use impulse buying to deal with other issues that are going on in their lives.

Whatever the reason may be, impulse buying is harmful to your financial well-being. You can often sink into credit card debt, go through your savings, or cost yourself future comfort by not investing that money for down the road.

What Happens When You Impulse Spend Too Much?

When you impulse spend too much, you leave yourself with less and less money each month. This might lead you to be unable to cover a bill or fall behind on credit card payments. Your credit card balance might increase each month despite paying as much of it as you can.

You might end up living paycheck to paycheck. If your impulse spending goes on for years, you might have nothing set aside for an emergency or for your future. 

Left unchecked, impulse buying can be toxic for your financial well-being, so let's go over how you can stop spending on impulse.

How to Stop Impulse Buying

Now that you're aware of the issues of impulse buying, let's go over some tips on how to stop.

1. Wait Before You Make a Purchase

Whenever you have the urge to buy something, force yourself to wait. At first, make yourself wait 24 hours. If you still find that you're impulse spending too much, up your waiting period to seven days.

This is sometimes called The 7 Day Rule, which means whenever you have the urge to buy something, you sleep on it for 7 days. If you still want to spend your money on whatever it you wanted 7 days ago, then consider how this purchase will positively affect you going forward before making the final decision to buy or not to buy.

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When you place a delay on yourself before making any purchases, you remove the impulse and give yourself time to think out whether or not the purchase really makes sense.

2. Delete Your Credit Card Information From Online Stores

It's relatively easy to sign on to an online store and quickly purchase something. This is more so true if your credit card information is saved on the websites you frequently shop. 

Make it more difficult for yourself to impulse spend by deleting your credit card information from every website you shop at and never storing credit card information going forward.

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This will create a timesink in which every time you want to buy something, you'll be forced to find your wallet, take out your credit card, and enter the information before you can buy. During this process, you will have multiple opportunities to stop yourself from making the purchase.

3. Don't Go Places Where You're Tempted to Impulse Spend

Places like the mall can tempt you to spend money, especially if you're around others who also like to shop. Aside from malls, avoid stores that offer Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) as it's very easy to make a purchase and assume you'll easily pay for it down the road.

Instead, find healthier places to spend your time. This might include going to a coffee shop instead of a restaurant, walking in nature instead of walking in a mall, or having friends over to watch a movie instead of going out to the movies.

4. Don't Carry Your Credit Cards and Limit Carried Cash

If you do have to go to a place where you'll be tempted to impulse spend, consider leaving your credit cards at home and limiting how much cash you carry. When you carry less money and leave your credit cards at home, you make spending a lot of money much more difficult. 

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Likewise, people who use credit cards are known to spend 83% more than people who use cash, so you'll likely save more money by purposefully not bringing your credit cards with you when you go out.

5. Use a List When You Go Shopping

Aside from limiting how you spend your money, creating a list can also help you spend less because you'll be planning out what to buy before you go into a place where you might be tempted to impulse purchase things. 

Not having a list can lead to impulse buying because you're more likely to see something that you didn't initially intend to buy and grab it anyway. But, with a list, you can be strict with yourself and specifically only buy things that were planned purchases in advance.

6. Plan Out Your Fun Money

Of course, it's okay to have fun money, and we all need to spend on ourselves every now and then. The trick to not impulse spend and splurge money that we can't afford to lose is to plan out spending some fun money periodically. 

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That means allocating some of your budget to spending on things that make you happy. By setting a specific maximum dollar amount for your fun money, you're less likely to go over the limit. You'll also want to keep yourself accountable to this limit, perhaps by rewarding yourself somehow each month that you stay under your fun money limit.

7. Avoid and Unsubscribe From Mailing Lists from Retailers

Retailers are notorious for sending newsletters sometimes daily or even multiple times per day to get you to buy from them. If you are receiving newsletters from any retailers, find the unsubscribe link, generally in small text at the bottom of each email, and unsubscribe.

Marketers are good at writing sales copy to get you to buy from them. They will use all sorts of tactics from how they write the newsletter, to flash sales, to combo deals to get more money from you.

Protect your wallet and unsubscribe from these newsletters and if you're ever asked for your email address at a store, decline to share.

8. Don't Shop When You're Having a Rough Day

Some people who impulse spend do it more when they're having a rough day. You might feel sad, anxious, or unmotivated, and to alleviate these feelings, you decide to buy yourself something.

Purchasing something in this state might make you feel better for a short while, but after that short period passes, you'll generally feel right back where you were, if not worse, since you'll now know that you've spent money that might have been better used elsewhere.

When you're having a rough day, avoid shopping. Instead, find something else to do. Call a friend or family member, or consider journaling, watching TV, playing games, or reading a book. 

9. Don't Beat Yourself Up For Past Splurges

No matter what, don't beat yourself up from the past. No one is perfect, and you may slip up now and then and make an impulsive purchase. Instead of focusing on perfection, focus on improving little by little.

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Each day, make it a point to get better at fighting your impulses by being mindful about when you're feeling them come on. 

10. Get Support

Never be afraid to ask for help. Find support systems among your friends and family, or if needed, a therapist or financial counselor. Be accepting of yourself and use your support systems to help you through days when you're more susceptible to slip up.

Wrapping It Up

Impulse spending is an expensive behavior that costs Americans money and can damage their financial well-being. But with the tips covered in this article, you'll be able to curb your impulses and be less likely to spend money unintentionally.

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