You know how it is when you happen across that killer deal that is just so good you just can’t pass it up? I mean, it’s 75% off! And what if you never see this item at that price, ever again!? All rational thinking goes out the window and some alter ego takes over, convincing you this deal is scarce and you.must.get.it.now. This is a classic set-up for impulse buying.
Something happened this past summer that made me really sit up and pay attention to my spending. I had actually been spending less without even trying. Like a heap less.
In July, Personal Capital sent me an update, saying “you’ve spent $977 less than last month”. Really? And I noticed we were able to pay for our summer travel expenses without taking as much as planned out of the savings we had set aside. But why? I hadn’t intentionally tried to spend less, it just happened.
After looking over our expenses, I found I had spent very little on expenses such as clothing, personal and household items, and home improvement. Here is the caveat – during the time my spending dropped, life was really busy. Between the blog, kids, travel and family plans, I had very little spare time. And that meant less time to stroll through the clearance section at Target and hunt for treasures at thrift stores and garage sales (bummer).
I have to let you in on a secret: I don’t like to go shopping. Shopping does not provide me with an ounce of entertainment value. But I do love to save money. Which, I’ve discovered, has lead to countless impulse buys. Yet, if I’m buying things just because they’re cheap, but don’t really need them, I’m not really saving money.
With this on my mind and the holidays right around the corner, I decided to dig a little deeper and find the best methods for curbing impulse buys.
How to curb impulse buys
1. Stop going to the store
Don’t go “shopping” as a form of entertainment. Avoid the mall like the plague and stay out of the big box stores unless you actually need something.
When you go to the store and actually touch an item, pick it up, and examine it, you subconsciously form a connection with it. It can start to feel like your own, even though you haven’t even purchased it yet. This makes impulse buying more likely.
What about online shopping? Shopping in your pj’s from the comfort of your favorite recliner can lead to untold impulse buys. It’s easy to get sucked into a deal online and to simply click “buy” and it’s at your house in 2 days (Hello, Amazon!).
Staying out of the stores (and off of Amazon) helped me spend less. Since I wasn’t out running errands and picking up kids as much this summer, I only ran to the store when I had a need and list (usually only groceries), which leads me to the next point.
2. Make a list (and stick to it)
Make a deal with yourself that, if it’s not on the list, you will not buy it! Get in, get your listed items, and get out as quickly as humanly possible.
This works really well for me since I’m always running about 5 minutes late and I stop to get groceries on my way to pick up my daughter. I force myself to shop quickly so I’m not late. (Shopping for “deals” at the grocery store is one of my shopping pitfalls. A quick in and out helps me avoid this.)
3. Delay the urge.
When you really have the urge to buy something, write it down and come back to it later. Make a rule that if it’s not truly an immediate “need”, you will wait a designated amount of time (say, a week). By the time you come back to it, if you do at all, the urge is likely to have passed.
Also, pay attention when the urge to buy hits. Write it down. When you track the urges, you may start to see a pattern emerge. Maybe you want to shop when you are stressed about work or the kids, or maybe when you’re procrastinating on a project or are just bored. Once you start to recognize the triggers, shopping becomes easier to control.
Keep busy with other things when you feel the urge to buy. When my spending dropped over the summer, I was staying busy with projects, kids and travel, so I never felt the desire to go find my next “steal” at the thrift store.
4. Don’t buy to save
It’s human nature to want to save money. And it’s hard to resist a great deal when we think we will be saving money in the long run, but you should avoid making purchases simply because items are cheaper than normal retail price. Read on…
5. Don’t buy “Just in case” items
Have you ever seen an item on sale and thought, “maybe I’ll need it sometime”? If you didn’t plan to make the purchase and are tempted to buy it because you may have some future need for it, skip it, at least for now. Think you’ll just return it if you don’t use it? Will you…really? If you really need it in the future, you can buy it then.
6. Be accountable
If impulse buying is a real problem for you, make yourself accountable to a trusted friend/family member. Whether it’s your partner or a close friend, find someone you can report your buying desires and spending too. It’s best to have someone you can trust, but who will also be honest with you when you make a mistake.
My husband and I typically discuss any purchases over $50 ahead of time. We’re not seeking permission, just discussing the potential purchase. It helps us both work out whether or not the money should be spent. Since we have joint financial goals, it makes these decisions easy, which leads to the next point.
7. Focus on financial goals
Keep your savings and debt payoff goals in mind whenever you are tempted to spend on non-needs. When you spend, you need to connect that spending with the consequences of not having that money to save.
If you buy that pair of jeans, it will put you behind on your debt repayment goal (plus, think about how many hours you have to work to buy those jeans!).
8. Don’t buy to keep up with the Joneses
If you ever see a friend with something new, feel a pang of jealousy and think maybe you may want that new, shiny thing too, think again. Sure, you could have that new, shiny thing, but do you need it? Choose to live your life according to your own values and goals. Make the choice not to spend money that could be otherwise saved for an incredible future.
Questions to ask yourself with all purchases:
Did I plan to buy this? Do I really need this? If so, what do I need it for? What else could this money be used for?
If you didn’t plan to buy it, it’s an impulse buy. Put it back. You’ll thank yourself later.
Do you make any impulse buys? What are your triggers? How do you keep from making them?
Here are some tools that I use myself that you may find helpful:
Want to painlessly save more each month (without even lifting a finger!)? Try out Digit. I really thought I was saving all I possibly could. Digit proved me wrong. See my review and updates on how much I’ve saved here.
Personal Capital tracks your expenses for you for free! Have all your accounts in one place and utilize their free expense tracking tool! I use their free net worth and expense tracking tools. Sign up for a FREE Personal Capital account.
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