20 Tips to Stop Impulse Buying & Get Spending Under Control

Impulse buying is typically buying something that isn’t within budget or a part of a monthly spending plan.  It’s a purchase that isn’t necessary.  It’s a product or service that taps into the customer’s emotions.  Personally, I feel strongly against impulse buying because it’s one of the largest causes of consumer debt each year.

There are a number of ways to stop impulse buying if it’s causing problems for you each month.  Take a look at this list of 20 different ideas to stop impulse buying.  See if you can apply all or any combination of these to your situation to change this behavior.

20 Tips to Stop Impulse Buying and Get Spending Under Control

1.  Keep impulse buying cash with you

Okay, if you’re set on spending a little money every time you go to the store take a little bit of blow money or cash with you and use it for impulsive buying.  The only rule is you can’t buy something that costs more than the total of your cash.Impulse Buying

2.  Take some time to think about your purchases

Taking 24 hours, or a few days (or even a week) will most often help you determine if it’s truly a need.

3.  Keep your financial goals in mind

Ultimately, you want to get out of debt, right?  You may want to build wealth by investing, right?  Well, you can’t do those things if you’re spending all of your money.  What are your current goals?  Keep them in mind the next time you want to spend more than you have.

4.  Determine if it’s a want or a need

Asking yourself if you’re purchasing a want or need is helpful to curtail spending.  Try to limit most of your spending to need related items.  Could you really not get by without the item this month? 

5.  Recognize some impulse buying is not all bad

It’s fair to recognize you may come across the best deal of the century.  So, if you can buy 1 box of diapers and get 4 for free go ahead and spend if it’s within your budget.  Just recognize that the advertiser’s job is to make every deal seem like it’s the deal of the century.

6.  Shop with a list or a plan

Having a game plan is important.  Try to only focus on the items that are on your list.  Great deal or deal of the century you say?  At least give it some thought while you’re in the store.  Don’t immediately place the item in your cart.  Stick with your list!

7.  Avoid dangerous hobbies (such as shopping)

Enjoy going to the mall just to go to the mall?  This is actually a dangerous hobby if you tend to spend more than you have.  It’s proven the more people are in front of items or in stores, the more they will spend.

8.  Shop with cash versus credit cards

Perhaps you know where you tend to overspend or impulse buy.  Leave your credit card at home when visiting these stores.  Only carry cash and follow rule #1 above.

9.  Recognize store strategy

Stores strategically place items where your eyes go.  The best example is the check out register.  Every item at the check out is a convenience type item.  The store is hoping to sell you the last minute item not on your list before you walk out the door.  Don’t get trapped by the convenience items.

10.  Be careful what you surf

The internet has become its own place to shop.  Many of the best deals are found in the internet today.  Recognize surfing your favorite stores online can be just like walking around in the mall.  The more you’re exposed the higher the changes you’ll make a purchase.

11.  Be careful what you watch on TV

Just like the internet TV is a shopping mall full of advertisements and info commercials.  I recently heard someone say that John Travolta watches info commercials for amusement, but after watching long enough he wants to the buy the product.  I think that’s probably true for most people.  The longer a product is dangled in front of us the more likely we are to want to purchase it.

12.  Send someone else to shop

Do you tend to overspend at the grocery store or when in particular stores?  If so, let someone else do the shopping for you so that you’re not tempted.

13.  Shop with an accountability partner

Tell your friend or spouse you need help with avoiding the temptation to buy while in the store.  Ask them to hold you accountable to not making a random purchase.

14.  Shop backwards

The deeper into the store you go the more likely you are to be enticed by more products.  Try starting in the back of the store and shopping forward.

15.  Don’t go to a store to just hang out

It’s easy to use the mall or stores as a source of entertainment.  Again, the more time spend in stores the more likely you are to buy something, Try to look for other sources of entertainment with less temptation.

16.  Recognize your feelings after the purchase

Most people recognize when they’ve made an unwise purchase decision and feel a sense of anxiety or frustration afterwards.  Consider this feeling when about to make the purchase.  If you go to a thought of what it may be like afterwards (do I really need this?) then it may help in avoiding the spending.

17.  Unsubscribe to mailing lists

Companies love when you sign up to receive their catalog by mail or special offers by email.  These are ways to entice you to spend online or in the store.

18.  Recognize the spending habit by tracking your spending

Probably the best way to determine if you have a problem or not is to review where you’re spending your money every month.  Good tracking of where you spend money and on what will tell you where your spending priorities are.

19.  Buy only to replace items

We often think we need a new TV or other item, but the truth is that the item we have at home works just fine.  Even if the latest gadget is at a rock bottom price, it’s not a good deal if you already have something at home that serves the same purpose.

20.  Establish a want list

Want lists are great to avoid the impulsive purchase.  By having a want list you’ve already established the items that can potentially entice you to spend.  Putting them on the list allows you to think about how important they really are and prioritize them for future purchase.

How do you feel about impulse buying and how do you work to avoid it?

About Jason Price

Jason Price is a family man saved by grace, passionate about faithful financial stewardship (1 Cor 4:2 NIV), soccer and the Pacific sun.

  • Ken

    Love the list! I’m currently doing #18 ..tracking spending ..we’ve gotten too free spirited lately so I’m documenting all that we spend. Great job!
    .-= Ken´s last blog ..Weekend Roundup =-.

    • http://www.onemoneydesign.com Jason Price

      Ken, I know when I go back and review spending after tracking it closely, it is quite telling. Let me know how it goes for you and good luck!

  • FinancialBondage.org

    Also keep in mind, the retail stores are setup in such a way to make us impulse buy on things we don’t need and didn’t plan on buying. They will actually put items in certain places near the checkout lines and watch the video cameras of how people react to that item being there. If they don’t get the reaction they want (more sales), then they move the display and try another location.

    • http://www.onemoneydesign.com Jason Price

      Right. That’s what I was thinking when I mentioned store strategy in #9, but didn’t think about how far some stores will go to see what works, etc. Do they really study the videos? Wow.

  • http://frugalzeitgeist.com Forest

    I used to be a terrible impulse buyer but more recently I have knocked it on the head. The biggest thing I do is stay away from stores and just question every purchase…. works for me :)
    .-= Forest´s last blog ..Is Minimalism a worthwhile form of activism? =-.

    • http://www.onemoneydesign.com Jason Price

      Forest, it’s definitely good to stay out of stores if this creates more temptation for you. Thanks for sharing your tip.

  • hptdyber

    I only shop once a month and only at Costco. When I do go to the local grocery store, I buy the same few items and get out. This saves me a ton of money. No malls, and I track my purchases in a monthly spreadsheet and trying to become debt free, per Dave R.

  • http://onecentatatime.com/ SB @ One Cent At A Time

    This is my post on techniques to control impulse buying. See if it helps, I adopt this technique always and living debt free life


  • E. Morales

    This is a good article, a couple of the items listed are no-brainers, but it is reassuring to know this. Impluse buying is driven by tv ads, branding and what our friends and family think. Our society drives us to believe that the more we have or if we control certain things, we are worth more, which is not the truth. The truth of the matter is, many of these items are mostly wants, not needs. Think about it. Do you really need that IPhone? Or that extra large plasma tv? Or even that X-Box? The answer is most likely no, but we still spend because it is so enticing. The trick is, try to do without, don’t make much of a big deal what others think and concentrate your savings on other matters. Remember, needs are priority over wants.

  • http://www.spwca.co.uk/ Harold – CA @SPWCA

    I think this kind of impulse buying happens mostly among Youth, who are enticed by latest gadgets! But one should remember that It’s far too easy to buy — and impulse spending can wreck your budget.