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Is Impulse Shopping an Issue?
3 Simple Steps to Stop It

Spending | 2021-11-26

How often do you catch yourself tossing an extra item in your bag at the store? It wasn’t on your list, it isn’t an imperative menu item or ingredient, and it wasn’t the purpose of this shopping trip, yet you’re inflating your bill because you want it now. Along these same lines, do you often find yourself venturing into a store, restaurant, or coffee shop that wasn’t part of the planned errands for the day? You convince yourself that you’re “just looking”, even though you know you’ll probably end up buying something. Maybe you didn’t plan well for how long you’d be out and now you’re slightly hungry, so the sweet smell of the bakery lures you easily. These are impulse buys. Unplanned, unbudgeted, and most definitely not “needs”, these types of purchases provide a rush of adrenaline and excitement only to be followed by the guilt of overspending. You have savings goals, you budget so that you can meet those goals, but these random impulse purchases constantly wreck your plans.

If you’re tired of your savings being derailed, try these three simple fixes:

#1 - Cut Temptation

The most simple way to reduce the possibility of impulse purchases is to avoid being in a tempting situation. So, avoid shopping centers, remove your card from shopping websites you frequent, and physically put away your credit card. The act of disallowing yourself to carry a credit card with you can head off any unplanned purchases because, without a way to pay for the extra item(s), you can’t buy them.

#2 - Plan Well

Sometimes it helps to really take a step back and reset your perspective on your financial picture. Set aside some time to evaluate your goals, their timeline, and your budgeted expenses versus their actual cost.

Make lists of wants versus actual needs and then re-write the lists in order of priority. Consider your income, look at the calendar and plan out which needs you’ll pay for in which month, in the long and short term. Decide if any wants can be afforded in the near future and if you can still meet your savings goals.

#3 - Shop With a List and Carry Only Cash

Plan your shopping trips using the sale advertisements to compare prices online or from the newspaper before heading to the store. If you think you need something, check the shelves and cabinets at home to confirm whether you really are out. You don’t need to buy an item if it’s commonly available and you still have one or two at home. The biggest tip? Prepare a shopping list ahead of time and only buy items that are on the list for cash.

Decide What You Prefer

Everyone’s experienced the guilt or shame that comes from purchasing something they don’t need with money they shouldn’t have spent after the thrill of the deal wears off. By implementing these three strategies, you’ll no longer subject yourself to being trapped in this vicious cycle of impulse purchases and roller-coaster-like emotions.

Next time you feel tempted to buy something that was not planned, check if you’ve done these three steps and then try to evaluate your emotions around the desire. Are you having a bad day and you think buying this will make you feel better? Are you stressed so you’re wanting a comfort?

Take the answers to those questions and ask yourself how you’ll feel when you look at the overspent budget. Weigh which is worse - the bad day or the wrecked budget? Often, you’ll decide that you can handle the bad day better than you can handle derailed financial plans.