Impulse buying happens to the best of us and many times you might not even realize it.
Whether you’re just starting to learn how to save money or you’re a seasoned saver, I’m sure you’ve all been in a situation where you bought something that was totally unplanned (I know I have).
Maybe there was a sale that was too good to pass up or something caught your eye as you were waiting to check out.
However, there’s no time like the present to get this costly habit under control. Because you’re probably spending a lot more than you think.
According to a study by Marketing Support, Inc. and Leo J. Shapiro and Associates, about one-in-three consumers make a sizeable impulse buy every week, with a median purchase of $30. That’s an additional expense of $1,560 a year that you probably didn’t account for in your budget. That doesn’t even include all the small stuff you buy.
But fear not! These 7 actionable steps will help you save a fortune as you learn how to dramatically reduce your impulse purchases.
Unsubscribe to emails
I don’t know about you but my emails are always flooded with coupons and awesome sales from my favorite retailers. Which comes in handy when I’m in the market for something and am trying to find the best deals.
However, the huge downside to subscribing to all of these emails is that you receive deal notifications even when you’re not “looking” to buy anything.
You’re more likely to get tempted in buying something that you didn’t even know you wanted or needed if these emails are constantly in your face.
When you are looking to really get ahold of your finances, it’s just best to unsubscribe to all of these emails. You don’t have to say goodbye forever, just until you have your finances in order and get your impulse buying under control.
Don’t go browsing without a purpose
Browsing (online or instore) may seem harmless and free, but I promise you it’s not.
How many times have you gone into Target with 3 things on your list but end up walking out with 6 (or more if we’re being honest)?
When you’re browsing, you’re leaving the door wide open to the possibility of making an unplanned purchase.
It’s best not put yourself in that situation. Even with the best intentions, you could easily be swayed into buying something.
Put yourself on a shopping freeze
There’s no better way to help you quit impulse buying than removing yourself from the situation altogether.
Go on a 30-day shopping detox. This means no shopping outside of the absolute necessities like groceries and toilet paper.
If a lot of your impulse buying is at the grocery store, then ask your spouse, a friend, or family member to go to the store for you until you’re done with your detox.
If that isn’t an option for you, it’s okay! Just remember to keep your blinders on and stick to your list of absolute necessities.
Plan for it
Putting a complete halt to all of your purchases forever is just unrealistic.
But also giving into every temptation will leave you broke and/or in debt. A happy medium is to plan for your purchases in advance.
This way you can give yourself enough time to really think about your wants and needs while saving up for the things that really matter to you.
So anytime you want to make an impulse buy, resist! Instead, write it down.
Keeping a running list of everything you want will help you see exactly what you’re saving for. Then you can prioritize and plan when you can actually afford it.
Another benefit of writing everything down is that you’ll be able to review that list in the future. Who knows, you might not even want some of those things after the itch is gone, which is more money back in your pocket.
Remember, if an item never made your list, then it’s not important enough to buy.
Use cash only
If you’re really trying to stick to your budget then put that credit card away and stick to cash.
Credit cards make it way too easy to buy anything and everything with one swipe of a card.
When you use cash, there are a couple of things that will help you reduce impulse buys.
First, it’s harder to let go of cash than it is to swipe a piece of plastic. It just makes you feel differently when you see actual money leaving your hands.
Second, when you budget and carry only that amount of cash, you don’t have excess money laying around for you to buy something you didn’t plan for.
Also, once the money is spent, you don’t have the option to spend any more.
Calculate the number of hours it will cost
Have you ever calculated the cost of the things you buy impulsively or really anything that you buy? I’m not talking about the amount of money you spent to buy it, but the number of hours you’ve worked to buy that thing.
For example, if you make $15/hour and something costs $45, you worked 3 hours ($45/$15 = 3hrs) of your life to buy that item.
When you start calculating the time that it takes to buy that item, your impulse to buy may go away.
You’ll start looking at your money as hours of your life you’ve spent to make that hard earned cash. You’ll start to ask yourself, is it worth 3 hrs of my life to buy this shirt?
Remind yourself of your goals – Ask yourself these questions
It’s so easy to give in to your impulses and buy something when you shouldn’t. That’s why it's extremely important to regularly remind yourself of your goals.
Make sure you write down your financial goals and put it somewhere you will see it.
Put it on your phone so whenever you’re out and about to make an impulse purchase, you can look at your goals. This will help deter you from making that not so needed purchase.
Make sure to ask yourself these questions before you buy anything.
- What are my financial goals?
- Will this help me get closer to my goal?
- Is this purchase more important than retiring, saving for a house, and/or getting out of debt?
- Can I live without it? (And the answer is yes! You’ve been living without it this long, you can wait a little longer.)
When you take the time to ask yourself these questions, you’ll find it easier to walk away. You may even be disappointed, but know that each time you say no to impulse buying, you are getting closer to your goals.
Every time you see something that you normally would have bought impulsively, take that money and put it into a separate checking account. You will be shocked how much money will accumulate in your account.
Use that money to start your emergency fund or pay off debt. That will feel so much better than accumulating more unnecessary stuff.