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Question: what does impulse buying have in common with the road to hell?
Answer: they are both paved with good intentions!
Have you ever walked into Target with the intention to buy milk and diapers, only to walk out and realize you bought everything but milk and diapers?
If so you have fallen victim to the dreaded impulse buy!
No one wants to waste money and yet so often we find ourselves making excuses to buy stuff we don’t need.
Find out more about why people impulse buy and get ten highly effective tips to help you to shop like a minimalist, so you can stop spending money on stuff you don’t need.
What is an impulse buy?
An impulse buys happen anytime you buy something you weren’t intending to buy.
Impulse buys can happen anywhere and across all ages, genders, and cultures.
Common impulse purchase locations include:
- Online stores – in fact, impulse buys account for up to 40% of all e-commerce purchases
- At the grocery store
- In the checkout aisle
- On social media apps
- Add-on amenities and upsells (think higher-end mats for your new car or extended warranties for your electronics
What causes people to impulse buy?
Why do bad impulse buys happened to good people like yourself?
There are two main things that drive impulse spending:
- your emotions
- financial FOMO
Do you impulse buy because of your emotions?
If you’ve ever treated yourself to ice cream after a bad day or spontaneously bought yourself an expensive new outfit to celebrate a promotion, then you’ve experienced emotion-driven impulse buying firsthand.
Both negative and positive emotions can cause you to spend money you didn’t mean to spend and the money lessons you were taught as a child might play a factor as well in determining how easily a frugal lifestyle comes to you.
Emotions that can make you want to spend include:
- happiness and desire to “celebrate” or “reward yourself”
- sadness (such as after a breakup or bad day)
- nostalgia (think of favorite TV show or book-related merchandise)
- boredom (like phone apps that suck up your time)
- feeling stressed out and overwhelmed
- jealousy (I want what she has)
Do you impulse buy because of financial FOMO?
Have you ever spent money because you were afraid of missing out on something, whether it was an opportunity to do something or a “deal’ to save money?
If so, you have experienced financial FOMO, or fear of missing out!
Companies and brands love to play upon the scarcity mindset to get you back into their store to spend money, whether it’s online or at a brick-and-mortar location.
Things like $5 off coupons for your birthday or that “buy two get one free” deal on clothing (limited time only!) are just a few of the sneaky sales tactics that make you want to spend more money.
So what can you do about it?
How to stop impulse buying stuff you don’t need
Changing your money habits and reducing your emotional spending can help you save a lot more money each year.
Considering the average American spends $2,196 on impulse buys every year, that’s a lot more money in your pocket!
Retail therapy is not the cure to your woes; often, it causes more harm than good!
Here are ten tips to stop impulse buying and start saving.
“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”Dave Ramsey
1. Clarify your money goals
One of the best ways to stop impulse buying is to get clear on the long-term goals that you have for yourself or your money.
Having a clear goal, such as debt payoff or saving $25,000 for a downpayment on a new home, can help you want to save money.
Did you know that people who write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them?
Here are some steps to setting clear money goals:
- Have a budget
- Track your daily spending
- Keep a money journal
- Make a vision board
- Write a debt-payoff plan
2. Raise your awareness
Try to become more aware of the sneaky marketing and consumeristic messages around you.
Notice the people are surrounded by – are they enablers who encourage you to spend?
Or are you surrounded by people and messages that support your goals?
Start to question what the intention is behind the message; is that $5 birthday coupon really a deal or just a gateway to getting you into the store to spend money?
3. Identify your personal spending triggers (and avoid them)
Take an honest look at your past spending habits.
What are the categories of things that you spend money on, is it clothing, food, handbags, expensive home decor, etc?
What triggers these purchases for you?
It could be ads you see in stores or people bragging on social media about something they bought.
Or maybe it’s a feeling like “I deserve this” or “$1 is too cheap to resist”.
Remember, all these small and large purchases add up to big bucks!
If you are brand new to this concept, you might like to start a spending journal to keep track of your purchases and the conditions that make you want to spend, which will help strengthen your ability to say “no” in the future.
4. Shop for your authentic self
Have you ever purchased clothing in a “goal size” to encourage yourself to lose weight?
Or a bold, red lipstick from that Hollywood-It-Girl that makes her look oh-so-classy — but you don’t even like to wear lipstick?!
Yep, that’s the fantasy self trap!
As you shop, think about what you really need and not what society or anyone tells you you need to buy to be happy.
When you need to shop, focus on being intentional and shopping for your real, present, and most authentic self.
5. Audit before you shop
Nip impulse buying in the proverbial bud with a quick audit before you shop.
Before you head to the grocery store, check your fridge and pantry to know what you actually have in stock.
It also helps to check your wardrobe before you go clothing shopping so that:
- you don’t buy anything similar to something you already have
- you choose items that complement what you already own
6. Stick to your list
When shopping, always know exactly what you want to buy. If there is a specific item that you need right now for your home or kitchen and plan on buying it, then make sure not to stray from the list.
If an item doesn’t appear on your original list – even if it’s something inexpensive like batteries – don’t purchase it unless it’s something that you absolutely need.
Otherwise, move on to tip seven.
7. Wait to buy
Here’s a clever money hack to decide if that thing you want to buy is a true need versus a want.
Before you make a new purchase wait a period of time to check yourself and decide if you really need that thing.
It could be 24 hours, 7 days, or even 30 days – the choice is up to you!
After that, if you still want the item, then go ahead and buy it! If your desire for that purchase has changed that’s all right, too.
8. Do a spending freeze
Spending freezes are a great way to challenge yourself to save a lot of money FAST! Hey, everybody loves a challenge, right?
A spending freeze is when you challenge yourself to NOT SPEND any money on non-essential items in a set period of time.
Again, this can be anywhere from 7 days up to one year.
While spending freezes can be hard, they are also very rewarding.
You can flex your money muscles and get better at saying no to spending money, which will build up your confidence.
If you are a visual person, use a calendar to mark off the days as you go or download a free spending freeze printable from the many online resources and you are good to go!
9. Unsubscribe from temptations
Do you find yourself wanting to spend money if you watch a certain show or YouTube channel?
Or do you find those big sales landing in your email inbox absolutely irresistible?
It’s great if you’re strong enough to say no right off the bat, but in some cases, the best way not to spend money is to not put yourself in the position where you have to say no in the first place.
Unsubscribe from brands, email lists, and influencers that make you want to spend money or feel less than – it will be better for your wallet and your mental health!
10. Reward yourself
You might be surprised to hear that rewarding yourself can prevent impulse buying after all that conversation we’ve just had about how to not spend money.
Willpower alone is typically not enough to change behavior effectively in the long term.
However, positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool to help you build new and better money habits.
Find small ways to reward yourself when you make the conscious decision to not purchase anything.
A nice hot bath, a glass of wine, or some time curled up in your favorite reading chair with a good book can be enough to reward yourself (and keep those spending impulses at bay).
You can even build rewards into your budget, which is something my frugal minimalist family of four does!
We love eating good food and spending time together, so we try to eat out at a budget-friendly restaurant once a week.
Final thoughts on stopping impulse buys
It’s okay to spontaneously buy items once in a while. Hey, I got a chocolate cheesecake muffin to split with my husband just the other day myself!
But when impulse buying becomes a frequent thing or a band-aid to deal with life’s little ups and downs that’s when it becomes a problem.
I hope you enjoyed this list of ways to stop impulse shopping!
When was the last time you tried the “retail therapy cure” or engaged in emotional spending?
Let me know down in the comments section below!
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