- Personal Finance
How to Stop Impulse Buying
Impulse Shopping Drains the Budget
Its not even the middle of the month, and you've blown through most of your budget. How did that happen again? Sure, things are getting more expensive and maybe you didn't plan on taking your cat to the vet, but one of the biggest monetary drains for most of us is impulse shopping. That is, purchasing items that you don't need, didn't know that you wanted and for which you didn't budget.
You can learn how to stop impulse buying, however.
With a little forethought, practice and planning, you can stick to your shopping list, purchase only items that you need and find a lot more money in your monthly budget.
Trust me, you will be amazed at how much you can save when you trim down to the essentials. And you won't feel deprived, either. In fact, sticking to a budget is invigorating and builds confidence. Think about putting aside a few extra dollars each week for a special purchase in the future. Every time you successfully thwart an instant gratification urge, you come that much closer to being able to afford something that you really want!
Let's go over some tips to help you stop impulse buying so you can enjoy your hard-earned money on more important purchases.
Stop Impulse Buying at the Grocery Store
We'll start with the grocery store because that is one of the easiest places to stop impulse buying and yet - because we go there several times a week - the unplanned purchases can quickly add up.
To get a better handle on your budget and trim excess costs, follow these tips before you go grocery shopping:
1. Make a list before you go to the store. A grocery list should include items that you need for at least 2-3 days for planned menu items. Don't buy too many perishables, or they may end up as food waste.
2. Stick to the outer perimeter of the grocery store. Most items you'll need will be in the produce, dairy, bread and meat aisles. The center of the store includes expensive, processed food that probably is not on your list.
3. Before checking out, edit your cart. Take a look at the items you've selected and plan to remove at least 3 non-essentials before you hit the check-out line. If you can cut down even further, good for you!
4. Don't justify extra purchases with coupons or sale items. Who cares if the scalloped potatoes are 1/2 price? You probably don't need to stock your pantry with them in June. Likewise for junk food that is often placed near the ends of aisles with enticing sale prices. Stick to your list and you'll save money and extra weight gain.
5. Shop when you are rested and within 1-2 hours of a meal. If you are hungry, not only will you add more food to your cart, but you are more likely to go for otherwise "off limits" items like a candy bar or ice cream. Fuel up before you go shopping and you'll strengthen your resolve.
6. Prepare a weekly budget for grocery shopping and stick to it. Plan a realistic budget for your essential purchases for 1 week, including fresh fruit and vegetables, meat/seafood, frozen items and canned goods. Don't forget coffee, milk and bread. You might want to consult old grocery receipts to prepare your weekly budget. If you spend it all by Thursday, then you might want to restrict yourself from heading to the grocery store again before Sunday. Making a plan will help reduce the potential of impulse buying.
What is Impulse Buying?
Stop Impulse Buying at the Mall
Heading to the shopping mall can be a nightmare for people trying to save money and/or stick to a budget. Let's face it - retail stores are set up to get you to linger and spend your cash!
Yet, if you have items on your list or gift shopping for friends or relatives to do, you may need to make a plan before heading into the battlefield!
1. Stick to the stores that carry the items for which you are shopping. Don't browse other outlets, or you may find yourself purchasing things you may regret later.
2. Give yourself a time limit per store, or per entire shopping trip. I give myself 10 minutes per store. If the lines are too long, then I will literally walk out to prevent lingering and adding items to my cart. You can also time your entire trip to the mall to be no longer than 60-90 minutes. That will help you stay on task and not get sucked into the shopping experience for pleasure.
3. Do your research first. If you are looking for a specific item, search online to get a rough idea of what it should cost. More than 5% over that price and I'd say its time to head home.
4. Remember that you are not shopping for yourself. Many of us use shopping as a reward. This is not the time or place for that! Instead of purchasing something on impulse, think about picking up a coffee on the way home or even taking a nap later in the day to compensate for your hard work shopping.
Compulsive Shopping is a Serious Addiction
Stop Impulse Buying Online
Shopping online is both easier and more difficult when it comes to stopping impulse buying.
On one hand, you can avoid the mood lighting, music and pushy salespeople that are present at retail outlets. Not to mention encouraging friends who may be shopping with you and telling you that you CAN afford it!
On the other hand, shopping online can make it more difficult to stick to a budget because the stores are open 24/7 and often offer enticing coupon codes and free shipping. Here's how to manage those temptations:
1. Don't shop just because you are bored. Looking for some entertainment? If you are stuck at your computer, why not head to youtube.com, or surf interesting stories at stumbleupon.com. Chances are that if you navigate to a retail site, you'll find something you want to buy that is probably not within your monthly budget.
2. Take yourself off email lists. This is top on my list! I get emails every 2-3 days from Pottery Barn, Gymboree, FootZone and Oprah.com. You can still browse their offerings through print media, or simply by navigating to their sites when you are looking for a gift or something specific. Trust me when I say you will save at least $50 this year simply by removing yourself from all email marketing lists.
3. Avoid Getting Lured by the "Great Deal." Online auction sites like eBay and community sales websites like Craigslist can be especially enticing when you are considering what a great deal or discount you may be getting on coveted items. But remember - every dollar you spend is one less in your pocket. If you are really excited about a potential deal, wait at least 24 hours (if possible) and then decide if its still something you cannot live without.
Are you a Shopaholic?
Why Do People Engage in Impulse Buying?
In order to stop impulse buying most effectively, we need to address the reasons behind it. They vary from individual to individual, but can usually be classified in one of the following:
- Insecurity - buying things makes us feel more confident and secure, even if we are using plastic for the purchases
- Depression - shopping results in a rush of endorphins, much like eating chocolate or exercising, which temporarily addresses sadness or stress
- Inability to Delay Gratification - more deeply rooted psychological issues (addictions such as alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders) can be replaced by shopping addiction if professional help is not sought
- Narcissism - Is it all about you? That's not necessarily a good thing. People that are overly focused on themselves have a tendency to overshop, as well.
If you are concerned about your impulse buying or are wondering whether you have a shopping addiction, talk to your doctor. Medication is not usually the first response, but cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in which you talk to a therapist about underlying issues can often be very helpful.