How to Stop Impulse Buying

If you desire to be financially free in the New Year, get a hang over impulse buying as it’s one way to get into debt fast!

What is Impulse Buying?

Impulse buying is simply buying things you didn’t plan for. Impulse buyers see and like a product and without thinking twice, order it. This way, they end up with a product they really don’t need or unfit for the task at hand. It’s really a bad habit which must be nipped in the bud to prevent unnecessary debt and burden.

One thing that however bothers me about impulse buying is how people find it so easy to dispense with cash (over items they really don’t need) when it can sometimes be difficult to make money. You and I agree that most times, a lot of thought goes into the money-making process but the big question is: why doesn’t a lot of thought go into the money-spending process? I guess only impulse buyers can answer that question but I must confess I’ve fallen into the impulse buying trap before but now, I’m more careful because it’s not an experience I’d like to relieve! Ever again!

Indications that You’re an Impulse Buyer

  • Your spouse or partner complains about your spending habit
  • You have more than enough shoes and clothes in your wardrobe
  • You order every new gadget just after introduction into the market
  • You buy things just because you saw them on display in a store
  • Every month, your credit card bill is higher than you thought you accumulated

I could go on and on but the truth is, if these signs are manifesting in your life, you are an impulse buyer or spender who indulges in retail therapy. This habit is deadly as it could prevent you from saving for vital things like a new car, a house, a vacation or retirement.

Effects of Impulse Buying on Relationships

I’ve personally seen marriages on the brink of collapse because of impulse spending as this habit does not only put a strain on your finances but your relationships. In such cases, you find a partner trying to save money while the other spends the money on unnecessary things. This leads to friction between a couple and only a change of habit (on the part of the offending party) can lead to a resolution.

Effects of Impulse Buying on Finances

Obviously, impulse buying would lead to stress and anxiety, arising from debt and financial concerns. It would prevent you from saving for worthwhile ventures such as a house, a new car, retirement, or even a vacation.

How to Overcome Impulse Buying or Spending

To overcome the habit of impulse buying, implement the tips below. They worked for me, I’m sure they will work for you too.

  • Tip No 1

Learn to separate your needs from your wants. Needs are the basic necessities of life; they are those things we cannot do without like shelter, clothes, food, water, etc while wants are the extras that we can do without but which we all crave for, like new cars, vacations in exotic places, etc. To make it easy for you, let me just suggest that each time you want to make a purchase, ask yourself if you really need the item or just want it or if there’s a cheaper alternative elsewhere. Other questions you can ask yourself include:

“Do I have something similar or can I borrow it somewhere? What would happen if I do not buy it? Why am I buying this? Is it to feel good because I’m feeling depressed or because I really need it?”

Asking these questions can prevent you from buying stuff you really don’t need.

  • Tip No 2

Set short and long-term financial goals and draw up a monthly budget based on your goals. Put your budget down on paper and adhere strictly to it (even though I know it’s hard to do, practically) but self-discipline and will power can get you through this. Once you get into the hang of things, resist spending money on items that really don’t matter in the long run.

  • Tip No 3

When you go shopping, make a list and take only enough cash to pay for what you have planned to buy. Refuse to buy items that are not on your list and leave your credit cards at home. Remember to buy from stores with a good return policy so that if you buy a product you think you don’t need, you can return it and have your money refunded. Shopping during sales periods can also make impulse buying tempting. If you can, avoid it totally as most times you end up picking items you really do not need.

  • Tip No 4

If you see an item you think you really need, give yourself some days (the number of days can range from a week to a month) to decide if it is really something you need or something you can easily do without. By following this simple solution, you will be able to avoid unnecessary purchases. 

  • Tip No 5

Remove the peer pressure if you feel pressured when with friends. Establish healthy financial boundaries and stick to it no matter what. Never buy items to impress friends. In fact, if I were you, I’d quit moving about with shopaholics because birds of the same feather flock together.

  • Tip No 6

You can decide to set aside a certain amount of money every month that you can spend any how you want, either on new clothing, technology, etc. But after you spend the money, you’d have to wait for another month. This enables you give some room to yourself and avoid feeling like a penny-pinching miser.

  • Tip No 7

Plan your daily itinerary and implement it to the letter. Say no to side trips. Don’t go near the grocery if you didn’t plan to. Don’t go near shopping malls if you have nothing to purchase. In fact, don’t even window shop because you’ll be sorely tempted and God help you if you’re able to resist! You might consider buying stuffs from online retails stores like amazon but have a clear idea of what you want to buy, add it to your cart and proceed to checkout. No playing around on the site because such sites make it easy to buy. For some impulse buyers, shopping on amazon might be better than going to a shop to try on a new shoe as they might be tempted to get another shoe they didn’t plan for but which they like.

Summary and Action Takeaway

Like any habit, impulse buying will take a while to vanish from your life but you must make concerted efforts towards stamping it out of your life. You definitely can be free from this habit, if you work at it enough!

For further reading, I highly suggest you get 'To Buy or Not to Buy' by Dr April Benson. In 288 pages, she lays a practical framework for overcoming the compulsive buying habit.

To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop
Amazon Price: $18.95 $8.46 Buy Now
(price as of Apr 30, 2015)
Adjudged by many as an excellent compulsive buying manual, this book goes digs deep into the patterns that shape our impulsive buying habits and suggest ways to overcome. It's a good buy any day. I highly recommend it.