Financial Fundamentals Blog

Impulse buying: What it is and how to stop it

We’ve all fallen for the temporary excitement of an impulse buy. Something catches your eye at the store or while you’re scrolling online and the next thing you know, it’s in your cart or on its way to your house.


Impulse buying is normal. American spend an average of $183 every month on impulse buys. That’s about $6 a day, and adds up to an extra $2,196 spent every year. But imagine if you saved that money or put that money towards things that you really needed. Curbing your impulse spending can be very beneficial financially.


To help you curb your impulse buying, and to help you identify why you fall victim to impulse purchases, we’ve compiled some informative tips to help you eliminate your impulse spending.


What is an impulse buy?

An impulse buy is anytime you purchase something you weren’t planning to. It can be as small as buying a candy bar in the checkout lane or purchasing a pair of shoes that caught your eye while you walked around the mall. Bottom line, if it’s not planned in your budget, it’s an impulse.


Why do we struggle with impulse buying?

There are many reasons that we tend to make impulse purchases, but the top three reasons are emotions, past experiences and the notion that we’re getting a good deal.


Emotions play a huge part in what we buy. Typically, we tend to impulse buy things that make us feel good; or things that have an emotional value. Scientists tell us that this happens because such items help us feel better about ourselves and temporarily dampen our unhappy thoughts and self-doubt.


Everyone wants to experience pleasure, and shopping can be fun as you imagine owning the products in a store. Once that pleasure is experienced, people are more likely to buy the products they see so the feeling of pleasure continues.


People also want to learn and experience things for themselves. The idea of vicarious ownership is another reason why people tend to buy on impulse. Plus, if everyone else is buying something that has just hit the shelves, you are likely to want to follow suit. People want to have similar positive experiences that their friends are having, which often leads them to make purchases that they would not otherwise make.


Moreover, people don’t want to miss out on a sale, even if they don’t need the item. For some people, it can be hard to walk away from a 75% off sign, so they grab the item whether they really like it or not to take advantage of a good deal.


How to stop impulse buying

Avoiding impulse buys won’t always be easy, but we’ve compiled a list to help you avoid the temptation to overspend.

  • Make a budget and stick to it.
  • Give yourself permission to spend. While budgets are important, it’s beneficial to give yourself a little wiggle room. Create a line item within your budget, and set aside a reasonable and affordable amount.
  • Wait (at least 24 hours) before making your purchase. Give yourself some time to think it over and see if it’s something you actually want or will use.
  • Shop with a plan in mind. If you’re shopping for something you need, figure out how much you want to spend before you even start. With a plan in place, you’ll be less likely to overspend.
  • Don’t shop when you are emotional. Don’t let your emotions control your spending habits. If you’re upset or emotionally charged, remove the possibility for an impulse buy by staying out of stores or shopping online.
  • Bring someone with you. Accountability goes a long way. Share your plan and ask them to help keep you on track.
  • Find free ways to reward yourself. Take a walk. Call a friend or family member. Do something to acknowledge your feelings without spending money.
  • Avoid online shopping.
  • Limit how you use credit cards. Credit cards can encourage overspending because you’re not paying for the item upfront.
  • Remember your goals! Think about your goals – maybe a house or new car – and remember that impulse purchases can prevent you from reaching them.

Who is most likely to impulse buy?

 Research suggests that there may be a distinct personality bias such that extroverted people are more likely to impulse buy. Conscientious people and those who have a high need for control over their environment seem far less likely to impulse buy.


Also, people who are susceptible to stress or have impulse control issues are more likely to impulse buy as a means of managing their stress. For others, impulse buying may be an attempt at coping with a variety of feelings.


Whatever the reason, being aware of your triggers and setting goals can help you keep your impulse spending in check.



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