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Ideas for Controlling Your Impulse Purchases

Updated on August 17, 2010

Every time you walk into a store, that store is hoping that you will make an impulse purchase. Their business is to get you to spend money and everything about that store is designed to get you to purchase something. But how many times do you go into a store either not planning on buying anything, not knowing what you will be buying, or just to kill time? The majority of the time, the stores win at these games. Impulse pucharses have blown many a budget and put many people into debt. Granted some more than others. I know people who have bought cars impulsively, but also many that spend $5-$10 here and there. Even the little amounts add up, so how can you control impulse purchases?

First, try to avoid shopping for no reason. Don't go to the mall just to kill time. You will inevitably either buy something you hadn't planned on, or at the very least find several things you think you need and start planning how to buy them. You should avoid going to places that sell things if you have no reason to be there.

Second, figure out your weaknesses and avoid them. Is there a Starbucks on your way to work that calls your name every morning? Find a different route, or leave a bit later so that there is no time to stop. The computer store that sends you emails about the latest deals? Unsubscribe so that you won't be hearing about all the latest and greatest stuff they think you need. If you do actually need something, you can seek them out on your own terms.

Third, keep an ongoing list of the items you need and the items you want. Prioritize them however you see fit. This will help keep your budget on track and keep you from buying all sorts of things that you didn't want just a few minutes ago. If you find you have extra to spend or want to splurge on something, take a look at your list. Chances are buying something off a well thought out list will make you happier in the long run, rather than something you happened upon at the mall.

Fourth, set up a system where you think things through before purchasing. There are many ways to do this. You can have a dollar limit, or a time limit, or both. Many couples set up a system that if something is more than a set amount they have to talk to the other person first. Keep in mind this is usually just for unplanned purchases. Some people will make themselves wait a certain number of days based on how expensive the item is. The more expensive it is the longer they have to wait and think about it before they can buy it. Both of these systems work exceptionally well I have found.

Every day we are bombarded with ads, sales and stores - all trying to get our money. Being aware of where you spend your money and the way advertisements affect you will help you control your impulses. Tracking your spending will help with this. Once you realize how impulse purchases affect you and your budget, follow these tips to get control. Good luck!


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    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Also, while casinos are not retail stores, they are interested in you spending you hard earned cash. They use color (always some red in the carpet, if not a lot!), music and fragrances pumped through their vents to keep people in a gambling mood. Studies have been done, and certain scents will relax people into spending more time at a slot machine or gaming table!

    • wesleycox profile image


      9 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      I hear that the colors on the walls, the design and layout of a store and even the music they play is all designed to make people buy more. Good points in this one.

    • dohn121 profile image


      9 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      You have some great advice here. I once learned that the way in which a McDonald's opens up is that they keep a tally on a prospective location and so count the number of cars that drive by. If on average, at least 100 cars drive past a certain point per hour, the location gets favorable consideration as a candidate. I thought of this after reading about the Starbucks analogy. Thank you for sharing.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Jennifer, these are all good ideas!


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