Reigning in Impulse Purchases

Being impulsive is not always a bad thing. Indeed if it weren’t for my occasional impulsive decision then I’d never have moved in with my friend in Bournemouth, or my girlfriend later in London. I wouldn’t have gone to LA, run the marathon, entered X-Factor or done a handstand off a bridge. And for the most part all these things turned out well and were both character building and great stories if nothing else.

However that’s not to say that all kinds of impulsive behaviour should be encouraged, and I can definitely admit to one or two impulsive decisions that perhaps weren’t my smartest moves – most of which revolve around impulse purchases. The problem is, that when we make these impulse purchases we often end up acting on emotion and making split second decisions which in turn can result in us spending more money than we actually have to spend. So what can we do?

Things Working Against You

First of all, it’s only fair to absolve you of some of the blame here. Note that everything is working against you when it comes to making impulse purchases – because that’s exactly what shop owners and website owners want you to do. They know that if you go away and think about what you are buying, you will quite often end up realizing that it is indeed an impulse decision and thereby changing your mind as sense would dictate.

As such they will have many things in place to make you buy fast – such as ‘POS’ displays which are ‘Point of Sale’ displays placed right by the checkout to tempt you to add to your order when you already have your wallet out and are poised to make a purchase. This gets over the ‘barrier’ to purchase that is laziness or just a desire not to spend anything.

Likewise the way that the marketers talk, and the way that there are so many ‘limited’ offers will all be designed to make you buy right away. Once you recognize this though, it makes it much easier to wait and think. Trust me – there will be more offers.

Take Time Out

The best and most effective way to help yourself avoid impulse buying is to take some time out to think about whether you really need the item. In other words – sleep on it. Chances are that if you really need or want it, you will still feel this way tomorrow. However if you were just caught up in the moment then you’ll find that when you wake up tomorrow you no longer really want it.

Of course taking this time out is what most people struggle with, and so you should consider using some methods to try and limit yourself in what you can spend. For instance if you are going shopping and only intend to buy one thing, then try not to take your debit or credit card. Instead take just the amount of cash you need to buy the item and perhaps a spare tenner in case you need to make a call or use a taxi. This way you will be forced to go home and buy the item later. Likewise if you’re shopping online you can give your card to someone who can look after it for you.

And if you’re the kind of person who can’t control their impulses purchases then quite simply make sure not to set up one click buying. Never sign into Amazon or the other sites and keep it so that you have to log in and enter your card details each time – this way you will often be too lazy to buy the item.

Make Lists

Sometimes we find ourselves wanting to buy something because we’re afraid we’ll ‘forget’ otherwise. This sounds crazy, but if you delve deep into your psyche that is part of the reasoning often. A great way to get around this problem is to avoid buying by instead making a note somewhere that you want something. You can even put this on a wish list so that your friends or family can buy it for you later.

Decide Why You Want It

When considering a purchase ask yourself why you want it and imagine how you will use it. Is it just going to stand on your mantelpiece and never get used? Are you going to watch it once and then forget it? In which case might it not be easier to rent or download the film? Think about the things that you already have to do this evening and you will be less in need of more purchases.

Likewise if you find you’re buying something just to add to a collection then this is also something you may be able to overcome – just think about what’s more important for your collection – is it quantity? Or quality? Wouldn’t you shelf be better served by having fewer items but that were perhaps more important to you?

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