Financial Fundamentals Blog

The Dangers of Impulse Spending: 5 Tips To Help You Save More Money



Americans make up to 156 impulsive purchases per year, according to one report — and that’s only the impulse buys they’re aware of.


Many retailers and other businesses are reliant on impulse purchases to push their sales and revenues even higher. This is why businesses and their advertisers are eager to leverage the feeling of scarcity — also known as the “fear of missing out (FOMO)” — to spur on purchases that consumers might not make in the absence of pressure.


With these forces conspiring against your budgeting and money management, it’s important to be proactive to protect yourself against your own bad habits. Read on for five tips to avoid impulse buying and the regret that can follow.


1. Check your emotions when shopping.

While fear, excitement and anxiety can all propel consumers into impulse purchases, these emotions are not your friend. And if you don’t know the emotions that are driving your shopping behavior, you could quickly spend yourself into a world of hurt.


Practice being aware of the emotions behind your purchase, and you might be able to set those emotions aside when making decisions. Even if those emotions still exist, your awareness can help you recognize their influence and catch yourself before you make a purchase you may later regret.


2. Try to walk away from an item you want to buy — and see if you still want to buy it later.

One effective way to overcome the pull of FOMO is to not let yourself purchase something the first time you see it unless it’s an essential item. When faced with the impulse to make a purchase, practice self-control. Consider walking out of the store, stepping away from your computer, or taking other actions to create time and separation from the purchase.


If you still want to make the purchase hours or even days later, you can have more confidence that your impulses aren’t getting the best of you. In some cases, you may still be eager to make a luxury or other nonessential purchase even though you’ve waited.


Even in these situations, though, you can allow yourself a little indulgence while being mindful of the other purchases this practice helped you avoid.


3. Avoid unplanned purchases.

If you go into a store with the intent of buying certain items, tell yourself to make only those planned purchases and avoid any impulse buys based on what you pass in the aisles.


While there are rare exceptions — for example, it’s easy to realize you forget to add an item to your grocery list — unplanned purchases should be monitored closely. Want to buy that board game you found in the department store? Make a note of the item and plan on purchasing it during your next visit if you’re still interested.


4. Challenge yourself to wait for discounts and other promotions.

Eager to buy a new item? See if you can hold out and score a discount by watching for sales and other promotions. 


This strategy can lower the cost of your purchase and protect you from buying on impulse. In some cases, you may lose interest in that item altogether. But even if you’re dead set on making a purchase, bargain hunting is a more cost-effective way to get the things you want while stretching your dollars.


This approach may be even more beneficial when applied to big-ticket items such as furniture, entertainment and technology. 


5. Consult your budget and/or expense tracking tools before you make a purchase.

Before you make a purchase, use your money management skills to see how the purchase will fit into your budget. 


Will it put you over your spending limit? Will you have enough space in that budget category to get you through the month? If the purchase fits neatly into your budget, you can move forward with confidence in your decision. If it’s going to put a strain on your finances or put you in a position where you’re likely to blow your budget for that category, you may want to hold off.


Impulse purchases can quickly wreck your budget and your financial planning. Even if you consider yourself a successful budgeter, controlling those impulses could make a big difference in how you manage your money and your own shopping behavior.


Looking for more tools and resources to prevent impulse buying? Your local credit union offers budgeting, expense tracking and other personal finance tools to help you take control of your spending. Discover the benefits of membership. Open a checking account today.


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