We’ve all been there – browsing through a shop’s shelf for groceries when suddenly you spot that perfect outfit. You’ve seen it on your favorite social media influencer, and it fits you perfectly. The price tag is also affordable; you just can’t help but create an emergency budget for it.
Modern-day marketing and eCommerce platforms make it almost impossible to avoid impulse buying. Everything from social media ads to advertisements to digital shopping platforms employ strategies to entice your shopping instincts. In fact, many businesses thrive because of their ability to incite impulse buying on consumers.
Impulse buying may seem harmless, however, it could have a serious impact on your financial future. Most people who struggle with impulse shopping tend to ignore their budget. In many cases, this ends up being a bad decision for several reasons.
Imagine splurging your savings on items you don't need just because they were on sale? Only to go into debt the next week because you borrowed to sort out an emergency. Pathetic, right?
That being said, If you struggle with purchasing items you don’t need, there are some simple ways you can break the cycle and spend your money wisely. Below are six tips to help you stop impulse buying and break your compulsion to buy things that aren’t in your best interest.
Read along to find out.
What is Impulse Buying?
Impulse buying, also known as unplanned buying, is generally regarded as an irrational purchase in response to external forces, such as a special offer, sale, or discount on the product. At times, impulse buying is triggered by an internal desire to own a product, eg., the desire to own the latest model of a product they already own.
For instance, The recent Apple Event which launched the new iPhone 14 models, recorded many iPhone users hoping to upgrade to the latest phones for fear of missing out.
In South Africa, more than 40% of adults between 18-45 years experience impulse buying from time to time. Moreover, most buyers' spending habits during popular holiday sales are inspired by impulse buying.
A Bank Rate Report also shows that most impulse buyers in the US exhibit post-purchase regrets - as a result of buying items, they may never need.
On the flip side, impulse buying can be a bad financial habit if not curtailed. Aside from the occasional regrets that come with it, it could cause a big dent in your financial future. Below are tried and trusted steps to help you nip this habit in the bud:
7 Actionable and Simple Steps to Stop Impulse Buying
If you struggle to stop impulse buying, you’re not alone. Fortunately, impulse buying can be stopped with conscious and consistent efforts like:
1. Track Your Spending Habits
The truth is many impulse buyers do not know they buy on impulse. Or perhaps they know but can't tell how much they spend on impulse. To know how far impulse buying has eaten into your finances, you need to track your spending. Find out how much you spend on different expenses, such as groceries, bills, dining out, and other miscellaneous items.
Impulse buying doesn't always happen with fancy outfits or jewelry. For some, it could be gift items, house decor, books, or even food.
If there is a certain category that you tend to overspend on, set up a barrier. For example, if you overspend on dining out, try limiting your spending to a fixed amount per day/week/ month, depending on your budget. To add an extra barrier, use a strict spending budget or create a spending freeze, that way, you have more control of your finances.
2. Know Your Triggers
Ideally, you should have a good idea of what triggers your impulse buying habits. If you don’t, it may hinder your plans to stop impulse buying. Some common triggers include discount sales, fear of missing out, product placements, exclusivity (buying something because it’s rare or limited edition), etc.
That said, find out what influences you to buy things you don't need and take actionable steps to suppress them. You can start by avoiding stores with tempting discounts. Or unsubscribe from discount deals, sales newsletters from online stores you can't resist, etc.
3. Set a Concrete Monthly Budget
Set a concrete budget for your daily, weekly, or monthly expenses and follow it judiciously. Make sure you account for all your expenses and priority payments.
If you have any money left over at the end of the month, put it into a savings or retirement account. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to resist impulse buying temptations when you have a strict budget to follow.
4. Set Up an Automatic Savings Account.
Let's assume that you already tracked your spending and created a budget for your monthly expenses, you can set up automatic savings to clamp down on unnecessary spending. This type of account will automatically save a part of each money you spend or part of any money that enters your account.
That way, you don't only beat impulse buying, but it also helps you build your savings. You can make saving a part of your daily or weekly routine so that it becomes second nature. This can help you stop impulse buying without having to make much effort.
5. Make A Shopping List And Stick To It.
If you really want to stop impulse buying, you need to be in control of your shopping habits.
One of the best ways to do this is by making a shopping list and sticking to it. You can make a list online, on your phone, or with pen and paper. Ensure to stick to the items you’ve budgeted for. And only shop with the budgeted amount of money - and maybe, a little extra in case of price changes.
Avoid skipping items you need for something you want- that is the first step to falling into an impulse-buying trap.
6. Always Pay With Cash.
Card payments make it far too easy for people to spend on impulse. Virtual cards have made it even more seamless for people to shop online anytime, any day. Unfortunately, this has increased the number of impulse purchases over the years.
To curtail impulse buying, it is advised to you do more offline shopping with cash payments. While it may be inconvenient at first, it is an easier way to check your spending habit. This way, you’ll have an accurate record of your spending and will be less likely to overspend.
7. Make a Commitment With Your Friend(s)
We all have that friend who seems to have an amazing knack for finding the most irresistible deals - these are the friends you shouldn't shop with.
Find a friend who is also trying to avoid impulse buying and commit to them to help each other stay on track. You can do this by agreeing only to buy absolutely essential things that the other person approves. This friend will serve as your accountability partner to help you break your spending habits.
However, you must be completely honest and committed in order to achieve desirable results.
Bonus Point: When everything else fails, delay your purchase for 24 hours. If you’re serious about not impulsively buying something, force yourself to wait for 24 hours before making the purchase. If you still want the item after a day, then, buy it. If you’ve forgotten about the item completely, it’s a sign that you didn’t actually need it in the first place.
In today’s world, it’s harder to resist the call of impulse buying. With so many shops selling a range of tempting treats, it can feel almost impossible to say no. It’s almost like a game of whack-a-mole - where as soon as you squash one impulse buying idea, another pops up elsewhere.
After all, who can resist discounted gadgets, new clothes, or other cheap luxuries?
Unfortunately, This might seem harmless at first glance, but impulse buying is more than just a bit of harmless fun. It can have a negative impact on your savings.
Impulse buying can be a real problem for people with low self-control and poor financial literacy, but there are ways to avoid it.
By setting up a concrete budget and sticking to it, paying with cash instead of a card, tracking your spending habits, making a commitment with friends, and delaying your purchase for 24 hours, you can greatly reduce the chance of impulsively buying something you don’t need.