Overcome Impulse Buying

I’ve been reading a lot on impulse buying lately and heard about it again in church yesterday.  This is a challenging area for me and I know for many so I thought I would share my thoughts around it.

Unless I’m missing something, I think there are two reasons why we visit stores.  We either go into a store with the intent of buying something (because we have a predefined need or a want), or just to browse around for a source of entertainment.

For example, most people don’t go into grocery stores to browse. They go into the store to buy something they need.  Some people like to go into electronic stores to look at the latest gadgets even though they don’t have any intentions of purchasing a gadget.  They are there to browse.Impulse Buying

Unplanned purchases, otherwise known as impulse buying

Both situations are quite different and both situations require pre – thought or planning otherwise, the “need” or the “browse” visit could turn into unplanned purchases, otherwise known as impulse buying.  Impulse buying is the result of a product appealing to our emotions.  And when emotions are involved versus logical thinking, you can probably bet you’re gonna spend some money.

Wikipedia has a pretty good description of impulse buying.

Impulse buying disrupts the normal decision making models in consumers’ brains. The logical sequence of the consumers’ actions is replaced with an irrational moment of self gratification. Impulse items appeal to the emotional side of consumers. Some items bought on impulse are not considered functional or necessary in the consumers’ lives.

Stores strategically design product sales and advertisements to tap into our emotions.  Tap into the emotions of the wisest of personal finance gurus and they’ll be quite susceptible to making an unplanned purchase.

Avoid impulse buying

The secret sauce to avoiding an impulse buy is to bring your brain back into the situation and refocus on the decision you’re about to make as well as its impact on your budget.  There are a lot of helpful tips to avoid impulse buying (see other articles below).  However, there are two key tips that I particularly think are helpful in avoiding these types of purchases.  They help make sure logical thinking and planning are a part of the picture.   But ultimately, I think you have to find what works best for you.

1.  Don’t enter into a store without a plan.

If you’re going to buy something, make sure you know what you’re going to buy and stick with it.  If you have a lot of items to buy, such as groceries, make sure you’re taking a list.  Grocery stores are great sources for impulse buying.   Side note:  Is it an impulse to buy when you get to the store, see ketchup on the aisle, realize it’s not on your list and buy it?  I say get the ketchup you need, but avoid want versus need items

At the same time, if you want to go to the electronic store to browse for entertainment, fine. But know that your plan is to browse and even if the latest gadget is on sale at its all time low price, it’s not in your plan to make a purchase.  I could say avoid these stores all together if you don’t have the cash, but real life is that we all find our way in these stores one time or another, so have the plan when you go.

2.  Wait it out.

If you feel the want or need for a purchase, especially a large cost item, give it some time.  Usually, waiting it out 24 hours helps.  Some say wait a week or month, but just find what works for you.  Think logically and know that it’s not worth blowing your budget, or using a credit card without a means to repay.  Sure, this type of discipline requires practice, but you can quickly learn when your emotions have been tapped into if you can begin to recognize the feeling.

Have you ever purchased something and then got it home to find you weren’t excited about it any longer?  Did you look at it and ask yourself why you purchased it?  It happens to all of us.  Recognize the feeling of excitement you had when encountering the item or at the point of purchase and think through the purchase, how you will pay and what portion of your budget will be used.  Bring logic back into the situation.

Final thoughts

Writing this article is great for me too.  Just this past weekend, I found myself making a few unplanned purchases at Target (great place for unplanned purchases).  Although they were not budget busters, these little things add up from time to time and can certainly slow progress of debt reduction, savings or other goals.

The truth is that we’re all enticed by items dangled before us each day.  Having wants is natural, but timing your wants with wise, thoughtful decisions is managing money wisely for everyday life.

What tips work for you when avoiding impulse buying?

By the way, here are a couple of related articles I recently read by other personal finance bloggers that I think also offer some great advice and tips.  I would recommend checking them out too when you have a chance.  You’ll find some of my comments on the posts as well.

Photo by timparkinson.

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.

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