If you want to learn how to stop impulse buying and overspending, follow these tips to take back control of your money and shop more intentionally.
Have you ever gone to Target to buy something you needed, but you ended up leaving with a bunch of items that weren’t on your shopping list?
Be honest with yourself. We’ve all done this before. And while it’s probably okay to make the occasional impulse purchase, succumbing to the temptation too often can harm your finances.
Perhaps you’ve tried to stop shopping online in the past, but somehow, you still end up busting your budget every month. Those impulse purchases really add up when we’re not paying attention.
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What is impulse buying?
Impulse buying happens when you get the sudden urge to buy something without carefully thinking it through. This is usually driven by your emotions and happens in the “heat of the moment” without planning in advance.
It can be something small, such as buying a bag of chips at the grocery store that wasn’t on your shopping list.
Or it can be browsing online when you’re bored and buying an expensive handbag. If the purchase wasn’t planned for in your budget ahead of time, then it’s an impulse buy.
What are four signs of impulse buying?
- You shop to make yourself feel better (to relieve stress or boredom).
- You keep telling yourself that you “deserve it” or this deal is “too good” to pass up.
- You’re trying to keep up with the Joneses (seek external validation from others).
- You often return your impulse purchases or regret making these purchases.
Related Posts: 10 signs you have a shopping addiction
Why is impulse buying bad?
While “retail therapy” or the occasional spontaneous purchase might seem harmless, it demonstrates that you are not in control of your spending. Your emotions are.
This can run the risk of getting yourself into credit card debt or not being able to contribute to your money goals, such as building an emergency fund. This is the prime disadvantage of impulse buying.
What triggers impulse buying?
We impulse buy because it makes us feel good in the moment. I mean, who doens’t like to get new things? We get a hit of the brain chemical dopamine, which lights up the pleasure center of our brain. Our emotions play a huge role in not just what we buy, but WHY we buy.
Over time, we can get addicted to how shopping and impulse purchases makes us feel.
We learned this behavior at some point and now it’s become a coping mechanism to distract ourselves from feeling uncomfortable emotions, such as depression and stress. This spending habit can harm our finances in the long run.
The good news is that you don’t have to let this happen. You have the power to create new habits and learn how to shop with intention, which is something I teach in my free audio training.
Here are five strategies to help you stop overspending on impulse buys. Use these tips to help you become a more conscious spender, take back control of your money, and overcome impulse buying for good.
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1. Avoid the temptation
The best way to stop impulse buying is to avoid putting yourself in an environment that encourages you to make unplanned purchases. This might mean:
- Staying off social media or unfollowing accounts that sell things you want to buy.
- Blocking websites that encourage you to impulse buy.
- Unsubscribing from store emails.
- Avoid using Afterpay, Klarna, or other “buy now, pay later” options.
You wouldn’t be tempted to buy that shiny new object if you never saw it in the first place, right? If you don’t see it, you won’t want it. Out of sight, out of mind.
While it might seem harmless, “just browsing” when you’re feeling bored or sad can lead to purchases that you may later regret. Don’t set yourself up to fail like that. Find other fun things to do instead of shopping, such as journaling, going for a walk, meditating, cooking or baking, decluttering your closet, and so on.
Read Next: 45 things to do instead of shopping
2. Practice the power of pause
Taking a moment to pause before responding can make a huge impact, especially when you feel the urge to buy something that you probably don’t need, such as an impulse buy.
This can also help you become more aware of your spending triggers and how certain emotions, or environments influence your spending choices.
For more guidance on how to identify and manage your spending triggers, consider checking out my new e-book, The Intentional Spender.
It’s not always easy to control our emotions but remember that you always have the ability to pause.
Simply pausing and taking a step back for a few moments can make you think differently about the situation and help provide clarity. Below are a few of my favorite ways to delay a purchase:
- Ask yourself these questions before you buy something – This can help you fight the urge to impulse buy.
- Think about what’s motivating you to make an impulse purchase. Be honest with yourself – If nobody was allowed to see this item, would you still buy it?
- Force yourself to wait at least 24 hours before making a purchase. This gives you time to “cool off” and think carefully about whether you need to buy the item.
- Put the item on your Shopping Wishlist, then wait at least 30 days before buying it. After 30 days has passed, you may realize that you no longer want to get the item.
I usually find that when I’m craving more of something, it’s because I actually want less. If I want more hobby supplies, it’s because I’m bored of the current hobbies I have. If I want new clothes, it’s because I don’t like the clothes I already have. If I want new kitchen gadgets, it’s because I need to declutter and organize.
Taking time to pause and reflect can help ensure that your actions and spending habits align with your values and goals. This helps you to respond mindfully and shop with intention.
Read Next: How to stop buying clothes you never wear
3. Create a budget and stick to it
One of the reasons why we impulse buy is because we don’t know where our money is going. Having a budget can help you create a plan for your money.
Regardless of what budgeting method you follow, the key is to choose something that you can stick to. Making a budget doesn’t mean that you can just set it and forget it. It’s up to you to create a plan for your spending and then following through with that plan. Below are some tips that can help you stick to your budget:
- Give yourself permission to spend. Yes, this means after you’ve budgeted for your bills, savings, debt payments, and essential living costs, make sure to include some “fun money” in your budget. Depending on your situation, this could be $10 a month or $100 a month. Use this money to shop and spend it on whatever you want – it’s your guilt-free spending money.
- Use cash for discretionary purchases. Swiping your credit card may not feel like you’re spending “real money”, but it becomes real when you always have to pay it off later (sometimes with interest). Studies have shown that we spend more money when paying with credit card vs. cash. Using cash or your debit card for discretionary purchases can be a good way to prevent impulse buys. Consider trying to cash envelope method.
- Give every dollar a job. Whenever you get paid or receive unexpected money (such as a birthday money), always make sure to include it in your budget. This means giving each dollar a job. When you don’t have a plan for your money, it’s easy to spend it on unnecessary things.
For more guidance on creating a budget, I like to use this printable Budget Planner. It helped me to stop making impulse buys, break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck, and save over $100,000 in my twenties.
4. Make a list of impulse purchase regrets
We have all made those “What the heck was I thinking?!” purchases that we later regret. According to a recent survey, almost 80% of online shoppers have made an impulse buying decision while browsing the web.
When I was struggling with a shopping addiction, I made a list of all the items I bought on impulse in the past year and regretted. Initially I was reluctant to do this activity because it doesn’t feel good to admit or reflect on past mistakes, but it was a huge wake-up call for me.
I realized that buying trendy items I saw on social media were my BIGGEST regrets. I was essentially throwing money away because it felt good to spend in the “heat of the moment”, but then I realized that it’s not my style and I was influenced.
Now I carry this list with me as a helpful reminder whenever I go shopping to avoid impulse buys. I encourage you to try this. Each time to decide not to buy one of the items on your “impulse purchase regret” list, you’ll feel a sense of victory. With practice, it will get easier to say “no” to these items and become a more intentional spender.
5. Create a dedicated account for all non-essential spending
If you struggle with impulse buys, then you might find this tip helpful. Here you’ll create a dedicated second account with a debit card (or you can just use cash). Each payday, you’ll deposit a certain amount of money into this account. This account will be used ONLY for non-essential spending and any extras.
All bill payments and essential spending will come out of your primary account. Then avoid touching any money in this primary account. If you want to eat at a restaurant, grab coffee from your favorite café, go shopping, or have an evening out with friends, you’ll use the money from your second account to cover this spending.
Since you’ll be spending with cash instead of using credit cards, this will force you to prioritize and think through each purchase, which can prevent impulse buys.
Put a stop to impulse spending for good
Spending money and making spontenous purchases can be fun, especially if you’re a spender like me. But those good feelings never last. Eventually we return to our original baseline of happiness, which makes us want to pursue one pleasure after another. For many of us, shopping is an easy way to give us that quick pick-me-up we crave, even at the expense of our long-term goals.
If you want to learn more about your spending habits and how to take back control of your money for good, check out my new e-book, The Intentional Spender. I want you to arm yourself with the simple habits to shop intentionally and get good with money.