Impulse shopping: it’s a sure fire way to max out the credit cards and fill your home with stuff that you never knew you wanted, let alone needed.
Most of us do it on occasion, but people who regularly impulse purchase are especially vulnerable around the end of year holiday season.
Whether it’s shopping for gifts for the family, or shopping for yourself, avoiding impulsive buys will not only save you money, but it will also help you to avoid cluttering up the home with extra things that you’ll probably rarely ever use (and that you might not even have space for!).
If you think you’re going to be at high risk of impulse shopping this season, there are some measures you can take to stop yourself in your tracks.
Some of them might seem extreme, but you’ll probably thank yourself once the new year comes around and you’re left with more money in your bank account, a lower credit card balance, and less clutter to trip over around the house.
You can help resist the urge to purchase things on impulse by making a few minor changes and adjustments.
1. Avoid emotional shopping
Shopping when stressed out, upset, anxious or when you’re suffering from any other negative emotions is a recipe for unnecessary spending.
“Retail therapy” has become a big buzz word, and many people fall into the trap of trying to make themselves feel better by buying “stuff”. Marketing campaigns are even built around this. Convincing you that “you’re worth it” in order to get you to spend as a way to make yourself feel better.
However this often has the reverse effect, with a short feeling of elation after the purchase followed by regret and even more stress at the money you’ve spent!
Instead of shopping when you’re feeling down and out, take a walk or do something else to take your mind off things – and hide your credit card if you think you can’t resist.
2. Come back tomorrow
Did you add something to an online shopping cart?
Take a deep breath, walk away from the computer or put your phone down, and let it simmer.
This strategy does of course take some inner self control to do, but you only have to tell yourself that you will come back to the shopping cart tomorrow and re-evaluate whether you really want to proceed with the purchase.
It’s amazing how perception can change the next day, after the initial burst of impulse buying has led you to click “add to cart” when you later realize that you really didn’t need that item after all!
3. Freeze the credit card
If you think you’re going to really struggle to maintain self control, then putting a freeze on your credit cards is possible.
Sure, this probably won’t stop all of your finances being accessible (clearly you’ll still need money for necessities), but if you have a particular credit card you use online then putting a freeze on it through your bank is a 100% effective way of not being able to use that particular form of finance. If it’s a high interest card, this will make a positive difference to your bottom line.
As long as you don’t have a stash of cash elsewhere that can take its place. And if you do: give it to a trusted family member to hide if you don’t trust yourself not to spend it on stuff you don’t need.
4. Avoid the computer or smartphone late at night
This applies even more so if you’ve had a drink or two. Drinking and browsing Amazon, eBay or any other online store at night is likely to lead to spending that you might hardly even remember the next morning!
That Wish List looks so much more possible and enticing when you’re online late at night in a relaxed state, or when you’ve had a glass or two of your favorite beverage.
This is the time that you certainly don’t want to be tempting yourself with online purchases; so stick to Instagramming and watching cat videos on Youtube in the wee hours, and give the late night online shopping a very wide berth.
5. Go shopping with a trusted friend
If you do need to go shopping for necessities, the temptations for purchasing non-necessities can become overwhelming. Everywhere you look, you are being shouted at with advertising and subtle messages to buy.
Taking a trusted friend (or family member) along on shopping trips means someone who has self control. Someone who is not an impulse buyer. You can call this person the Voice of Reason.
They are the one who asks “do you really need that” when you’re eyeing off that over-priced sparkly item that you can’t afford and don’t need, even though it’s oh so tempting. This voice of reason is someone you can thank when you’re next credit card bill comes in.
On the other side of this coin is the recommendation that you avoid shopping with people who are known impulse buyers themselves. They are likely to try and persuade you to buy more stuff than you would even if you were on your own! This is a way for them to get their shopping “fix” without spending their own money. Don’t fall for it!
Avoid shopping with the wrong people at all costs.
By taking on some of all of these measures you can help to beat the urge that you have to spend money that you don’t have, on things that you don’t need to buy.
Over time you can learn to control impulse spending more instinctively as you become used to resisting retail temptations and keeping your bank accounts and credit card balance at a healthy and manageable level. After a while, this will seem considerably more satisfying than any material item you can buy; and you can start to plan for investing for the long term and saving for your future.