Sometimes we make purchases we want, but we don’t need, like last-minute baseball tickets or new shoes. These impulse buys are made on a whim, spurred by manic emotions or feelings triggered by marketing. Fortunately, with self-discipline and open conversations, you can stop impulsive spending.
Impulse buying is extremely common, according to CreditCards.com, which estimates five out of six U.S. consumers make these quick purchases. And these purchases can quickly total to thousands each year.
Some of the most common impulse buys include food and groceries like candy at the register. Other common products bought on a whim include clothing, household items, takeout food, and shoes. But impulse buying habits have significant downsides.
“Impulse purchasing in the traditional sense can put a dent in your personal finances, but there is a way to turn the tables. You can buy impulsively and get the rush of getting a great deal, but do it sensibly by buying things you’ll need later on,” said Slickdeals CEO Josh Meyers in a statement.
How to Stop Impulse Buying
Here are five actionable tips to stop spending money impulsively.
1) Ask Six Questions
Before you make an impulse buy, ask yourself these six questions, says April Benson, PhD and author of “To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop.”
- Why am I here?
- How do I feel?
- Do I need this?
- What if I wait?
- How will I pay for it?
- Where will I put it?
“If they can answer these six questions satisfactorily to themselves, then it is probably not an impulse purchase,” Benson told CNBC. Shoppers should pause and writing down where money is spent, she advised. Assign a score, place time limits online and remove credit card information from sites such as Amazon to disable automatic purchases.
2) Delete Retail Email Lists
Retailers email promotions every day. Mandi Woodruff, executive editor at Lending Tree, suggests unsubscribing from these lists “that are all too easy to get sucked into.” These emails may contain a coveted promo code so Woodruff recommends downloading web browser tools such as Ebates where shoppers can find cash-back offers or online promo codes.
3) Pay With Cash
The convenience of credit cards can quickly get shoppers in trouble. So try to buy things in cash, which helps you remain conscious of the amount you are spending. Mousumi Bose Godbole, professor of marketing at Fairfield University, says physical cash payments (not a debit card), place a physical barrier between the shopper and the item to purchase.
4) Utilize a 24-Hour Rule
Time can be on your side. By keeping an item in the electronic shopping cart or asking a store to hold it for 24 hours, Neal Stern, certified public accountant and member of the American Institute of CPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, says shoppers will have time to think about their purchases. And the impulse usually subsides.
5) Review Recently Used Possessions
Whether looking at recently worn clothes or a Kindle, assessing recently-used possessions can stop the urge to make future impulse buys. Utpal Dholakia, professor of marketing at Rice University, told Moneyish this mental review cut the study’s participants’ willingness to buy new items by about 14 percent as compared to a control group.
Dholakia says this trick can be used for both online shopping and physical stores, as well as for functional possessions including a hair dryer, lawn mower, or tools. These actually work better as they may have just been used and can calm shopping urges and desires to buy.
The Dangers of Impulse Buying
Impulse buying can really put a dent in your finances. And if you are spending more money than you are bringing in, you may turn to your savings as a source of funding. However, it’s important to use savings for only for emergencies, not for impulse purchases.
When you make spontaneous purchases, you may miss out on other deals because you didn’t comparison shop. Research on pricing pays off.
Impulse buying can also push you into debt. The average American household has $6,080 in revolving credit card debt, with 14.99% interest and an average minimum payment of $20, according to Nerd Wallet. It can take more than a decade to pay that off. The additional expense of unplanned purchases only builds that debt.
Keep your purchases in the best interest your long-term finances. Impulse buying can feel good in the short-term, but 44.5 percent of buyers say they feel regret after making a quick purchase, according to a Finder.com survey. Next time you get the sudden urge to buy, take a deep breath and follow our tips.