How to Stop Impulse Shopping

There’s a reason it’s called “impulse buying.” It’s because we do it without thinking through the purchase or considering if we really need it. And retailers are counting on us not being able to resist the temptation to buy impulsively; that’s why they put so many lovely displays near the registers, for example. Come on, you didn’t think your favorite candy was always available right when you got in line by coincidence, did you?

Retailers feed our temptations, and we give in to them. But it can be a waste of money, and if we do it too often it can lead to debt. These tips will help you resist those impulse purchases so you can spend less and save more.

Step 1: Identify the Problem

As with any bad habit, the first step to breaking it is recognizing that it’s a problem. These questions can help you become more aware of if, when and why you buy impulsively:

  1. When are you more susceptible to impulse buys? When you’re sad or angry? When you’re with certain people?
  2. Do you have lots of items around your house that you thought you really needed but you’re now wondering what to do with them? Are they still in the original boxes or have the price tags still on them?
  3. Are your credit cards maxed out from purchases you didn’t really need?

If any of these sound like you, then you might have a problem with impulse shopping.

Tips to Avoid Impulse Shopping

Here are some easy ways to start kicking the habit:

Go alone. You know your friends will convince you that you need to buy something that looks great on you: “Oh that is perfect! You have to get it.” Sound familiar? You can limit this problem by going solo on your shopping trips.

Do your research. If you’re making a large purchase, instead of just going to the store to see what they offer, check out prices at several different stores and on different brands online. Keep an eye out for discounts at the outlet stores. Ask the store if they have any sales coming up soon.

Use cash. Credit cards make impulse buying too easy. If you use cash, you’re more likely to spend less because you want to hold on to it and keep it in your wallet. With cash, you spend just what you plan on instead of spending without realizing how much you spent with credit cards.
When going out, take only what you need for your shopping trip in cash. This way, you won’t be able to overspend and you’ll be more careful and aware of each purchase.

Find other things to do with your time. When you feel like going shopping but don’t really need anything, find something else to do. Read a book, go for a walk, or call a friend to meet you for coffee. This will help you to avoid spending money on things you’ll later regret.

Beware of sales. Sales are a great way for stores to get a few extra bucks from your wallet with impulse buys. A great deal can be tempting, but it’s probably a purchase you wouldn’t have made otherwise. Only shop a sale if you know it’s a good deal AND it’s something you need.

Set a limit. Set a limit for what you can spend on an impulse buy. Here’s an example: If it’s less than $10, you can allow yourself one impulse purchase per shopping trip. Otherwise, think about it overnight and make sure it’s something you need. That will give you a little space to think and decide if you really need it.

Control your money; don’t let it control you. Impulse shopping is a way of losing control over your money. Think about each purchase before opening your wallet. For more help, check out this monthly budget calculator. And if money is tight every month, consider a free credit counseling session. With a counselor, you can make a plan to pay all your debt in full so you can work toward your financial goals.

Emilie is the brains, the brawn, and the beauty behind Burke Does, inspiring millennial women to live financially, physically, and professionally fit lives. She writes about overcoming debt, while balancing trying to eat healthy, stay fit, and have a little fun along the way. Read more about her journey here.

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