Impulse Shopping

The Trouble With Impulse Buying

Impulse buying (also known as impulse shopping) is a very serious problem for many people. Some people who struggle with this issue would even characterize their shopping habits as an addiction that is slowly (or quickly) driving them into serious debt. People engage in this behavior for many different reasons. (Some people shop this way in a misguided attempt to fill up some kind of emotional hole in their lives, for example.) But no matter why people engage in this self-destructive behavior, they need to learn how to stop it, and this article provides a step by step plan to accomplish this goal. 

The first step is the simplest, but it can give you strength and the confidence boost you need to just say no in other, potentially riskier shopping situations. Here it is: When you are approaching the checkout counter in grocery stores or discount stores, focus all of your attention on the clerk, the register, and on anything else except for the displayed items near the counter. Think of all of the magazines, candy and other little knick-knacks as bait that have been put out by the store owners to suck you into making a small (but still needless and impulsive) purchase. If you can train yourself to avoid impulse shopping in these situations, you can learn how to avoid it in other, higher stakes situations as well.

The second step is stop making excuses for episodes of impulse shopping. Own the impulsive behavior, in other words, and do not try to justify or rationalize it. Mature adults must hold themselves accountable for everything that they do, and this includes their shopping behavior. 

Step three is to shop consciously and deliberately every single time you venture into a store. Don’t allow yourself to zone out while shopping, and be sure to keep yourself on a very short leash. Every item that goes into your cart must serve a specific purpose in your life. If you can live without it, do not buy it. The more control you learn to exercise over your own shopping behavior, the more disciplined you will become over time, and the less likely you will be to buy needless items on a whim or impulse. You will also be amazed by how great you feel about yourself once you finally get a handle on your impulse buying. 

The fourth step is to seek professional help if necessary. If you have tried to stop engaging in this self-destructive behavior on your own but have not had any success, don’t be shy about seeking help from a trained and licensed therapist, ideally one who has experience working with people who are struggling to overcome impulsive behaviors. Some people who shop impulsively or compulsively find themselves going into tremendous debt, much in the way a compulsive gambler might do.

If you are ever prescribed a temporary course of steroids for the treatment of poison ivy (or any other ailment), you may want to stay away from stores for the duration of your steroid treatment, especially if you already tend to buy items you don’t need on a whim. One of the lesser known side effects of steroids is that they can make you quite manic, and when people are in a manic state, they tend to engage in impulse buying (along with other self-destructive behaviors). 

Speaking of the relationship between mania and impulse shopping, if you have bipolar disorder or any manic tendencies at all, it is very important to seek treatment, and also to continue taking your medications even during (make that especially during) your manic episodes. Some people with bipoloar disorder (or manic tendencies) become tempted to stop taking their medications during their manic episodes because they like how alive the mania makes them feel, but this is an extraodinarily dangerous practice. And in the context of this particular article about how to avoid impulse shopping, it is important to be aware that mania can lead to extremely serious episodes of impulse buying that can actually cause individuals to go into major debt.