We've all done it. We've all walked into a store planning to buy one thing, but then a cute sweater catches your eye, and the next thing you know, you're walking out with a cartload of items, none of which are the one thing you came in to get.
Ok, maybe it isn't always that dramatic, but the point is we all make impulse purchases.
Today I'm talking about how to stop impulse buying.
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What is Impulse Buying?
Before we dive into how to stop impulse buying, let's take a step back. What is impulse buying?
In short, it's anything you didn't walk in the store intending to buy. It could be something fun, potentially expensive, like a new purse, but sometimes it's pretty mundane. In 2020, the top impulse buy for Americans was cleaning supplies, probably because the pandemic had everyone a little germophobic.
The problem with impulse buying is that the cost of impulsive purchases adds up, and those “little” purchases can cost you thousands over the course of a year.
So, without further ado, let's dive into how to stop impulse buying.
1) Give Yourself Money to Spend
The first way to stop impulse buying is to give yourself money to spend.
One of my top values is fun. I don't believe in restricting and denying yourself all the time, and this might sound like I'm contradicting myself, but I'm not going to tell you that you can never make an impulsive purchase.
I don't believe in denying yourself all fun, but you need to make sure you can afford it.
We recommend is sticking to a 50/30/20 budget. In this budget, you spend 50% of your monthly income on needs, 30% on wants, and ideally you're saving 20%.
So, if you have room in your budget, then you can afford to make an impulse purchase. Some people even give it a line in their budget. Within the wants category of 30%, they give themselves, say, a hundred dollars to spend on whatever they want that month.
But keep in mind that just because you can afford it doesn't mean that you should buy it. Minimalism is all about intentionality, only buying things that add value to your life, which brings me to my next point…
2) Decide if the Purchase Adds Value to Your Life
The next way to stop impulse shopping is to figure out if this purchase will add value to your life.
Before I buy anything, I ask myself five questions to decide if it's worth buying.
- Is it in line with my financial goals?
- Does this align with my values and priorities?
- Do I need it?
- How long am I going to use it?
- Can I borrow this or buy it used?
3) Avoid Temptation
I have a friend with a pretty serious problem. Every time she goes to Target, her cart turns into a magnet. Clothes, home decor, oversized coffee mugs with motivational quotes just fly off the shelves and into her cart. Next thing she knows, what was meant to be a quick trip for shampoo and conditioner turns into a full-on shopping spree.
She's figured out that walking through Target is extremely difficult for her, and I can't blame her. Target makes me buy things I would never otherwise want, but my friend figured out a solution. Instead of walking through the store, which has been carefully mapped out to tempt shoppers to spend as much as possible, she now shops online, and then she just goes and picks up her order.
So, if there's a store that tempts you to spend more than you planned, don't go to that store. Order online or find another less-tempting store.
4) Carry Cash Instead of Credit Cards
Fourth way to stop impulse shopping is to carry cash and leave the credit cards at home.
Studies showed that it is psychologically more painful for people to pay with cash instead of credit cards, because you actually see the money that you're handing over. It discourages you from spending too much.
Plus, if you only bring the amount of money you plan to spend, it's impossible to impulse buy. This is something I do when I'm going out with friends. If I'm going out to get a drink, I'll just put $20 in my wallet so I can't spend any more than $20.
5) Delete Credit Card Information From Your Computers
One of the most effective ways to break a bad habit is making it difficult to do that thing. By deleting your credit card info from your computer, it'll make it more difficult to make a mindless online purchase because you actually have to get up from what you're doing, find your credit card, and plug in the numbers into your computer before you can buy anything.
The simple action of standing up and finding your credit card gives yourself some time to think about the purchase and makes you less likely to buy something that doesn't have long-term value.
6) Fast from Social Media and Unsubscribe from Email Lists
Social media algorithms are getting way too smart, especially when it comes to advertisements. Maybe every time you log into Instagram, you get ads for CBD products or local boutiques. Personally, I'm always seeing ads for the minimalist sweater.
If your newsfeed is filled with influencers touting expensive clothing and beauty products, it might be time to take a little break, at least until you've gotten your spending and saving under control.
Similarly, if your inbox is filled with sales and marketing emails, you might want to unsubscribe so that you aren't dealing with that influx of ideas for how to spend your money.
7) Wait 24 Hours Before Buying
If you see something you want to buy, don't immediately put it in your cart. Take some time to think it over. When it's not directly in front of you, it may lose its appeal. Plus, it gives your emotions a chance to cool down so you can decide if it's something you actually want in your life.
And don't fall for sales that tell you you have to buy something on the spot. If it's worth buying, it's worth paying a little bit more for. Even if you have to pay a higher price later, give yourself a break.
8) Find Alternative Feel-Good Activities to Shopping
There's a biological reason for impulse shopping or “retail therapy,” if you will. Shopping and the anticipation of getting something new activates dopamine in your brain, which is a feel-good hormone. You're fighting your biology when you try not to shop; it might help to find some alternative feel-good activities.
Sometimes the best remedy for impulse shopping is to address the underlying issue: to feel good. So, what is the other thing besides shopping that you can do to feel good? What activities make you feel happy and relaxed? For me, it's taking a bath, going on a run, and sipping tea on the front stoop.
If you are serious about taking control of your finances and you want to implement habits that will stop you from impulse shopping for good so that you can finally relax and spend your money without feeling stressed or guilty, then check out our free training, Think Like an Investor.