Amidst the barrage of constant television advertising, regular email blasts, and the lure of shopping centre sales, it’s no surprise we have become a generation of impulse buyers.
Yet our bank balances call out in despair as they hit rock bottom: how can we stop impulse buying?
There’s no single cure for impulse buying, which at its most extreme form is actually a mental illness. Regular impulse buying is simply a side effect of our consumer-driven culture. Everyone is telling us to buy, and we’re simply following the road and the party line: new is always better.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Want vs Need
We’ve all heard this one before, but the idea of want and need is so central in reducing or stopping impulse purchases that it really can’t be discounted. When you want to buy something, take a moment to consider want and need. You might want something, but do you really need it?
You can take this one step further by looking at want and need for different levels of pricing. For example, if you need to buy a computer for work, does it have to be the most expensive model?
2. Listed Life
You can take want and need one step further here by making a solid list of what you definitely need (new underwear, work clothes, groceries, vehicles) and what you just want to buy (expensive clothes, toys for kids, luxury items). Keep that list with you when you’re shopping, and only buy the things that appear on the need side of the list.
You can still splurge every now and again on the want list, but set a clear budget for your spending so you don’t go overboard.
3. Measure it out.
One way to stop impulse buying is to give yourself a cooling off period after you see something that you think you want to buy. Reformed shopaholics swear by the concept of waiting a day for every $100 of the purchase cost.
So if something is $100, you wait one day, while if it’s $1500 you would wait 15 days. This is obviously a method that only works for large impulse buying. For smaller purchases, you’ll need another method.
4. Avoid silly sales.
There aren’t too many people who can honestly say they don’t love a sale. The things you want, at cheaper prices that you’ve ever seen.
Nothing wrong with that. The only issue is that sales tend to make people a little silly. When we see products advertised as cheaper, even if we aren’t particularly familiar with the earlier listed price, we feel more inclined to buy it. The simple fact that it’s cheaper (and for a limited time) makes us feel like we have to buy it. So to avoid impulse buying, avoid sales. Or, attend sales but with a clear list of what you need to buy, avoiding useless wants all together.
5. Clean the inbox.
How many emails do you get delivered to your inbox on a weekly or monthly basis advertising sales? If you’ve ever shopped online in the past, we bet there’s quite a few. The first step to stop impulse purchases, particularly if you have a weakness for online shopping, is to unsubscribe from all of these newsletters. Basically, if you don’t know about a sale, you won’t feel inclined to impulse buy something just because it happens to be on sale.
6. The Stranger Test
Another method that many shopaholics swear by for reducing impulse buying is called the Stranger Test. Imagine that a stranger walked up to you in the street and offered you the cash money for the item you’re thinking about buying, or the item itself. What would you choose?
If you would prefer to have the value of the cash over the item you’re thinking about buying, then it stands to reason you probably don’t need to buy it.
7. Hourly Rate
One way to figure out the true value of an item you want to buy is to work out how much of your life will go into earning the item. Take the cost of the item and work out how many hours it would take for you to make that money on your current hourly rate.
Then, imagine that you worked that many hours and instead of getting paid in cash you got that item. Would you feel like that time had been worthwhile? If you aren’t willing to trade the hours of your life for the item, which is essentially what you’re doing when you spend money on it, you don’t need it.
8. Be aware of your mood.
For some people, shopping can be a real mood booster. If you’re one of those people, you’re likely to be an impulse buyer because you want to shop in order to feel better about yourself.
This means that if you don’t want to make impulse purchases, you need to be careful about when you shop. If you’ve had a terrible day and you’re feeling down, don’t head out to the mall. Instead, take some time for yourself to do positive things that don’t cost money. Read a book, watch a movie and get back to yourself. That way, when you go shopping, your personal value won’t be connected to the things you buy.
9. Watch your friends.
Among your friends, are there some people that always encourage you to buy? What about friends that have more money at their disposal than you do? These people might be friends, but they often do more harm than good when it comes to curbing impulse purchases. If your weaknesssif your friend’s bad advice, or wanting to ‘Keep Up With The Joneses’, then it’s probably better to avoid those situations with them.
Instead of catching up for a shopping trip, have lunch or a coffee and stay away from the sales!
10. Pay in cash.
Paying on card is so easy, especially now that most shops have Tap and Go technology. But paying on card also means that we don’t get an idea of how much money we’re spending until we see that sinking bank balance.
If you’re trying to stop impulse purchases, it’s worth considering paying for them in cash. This obviously won’t work for a car or big TV, but for some of the smaller stuff, the idea of physically handing over that much cash can really help to curb your bad buying habits.
At the end of the day, impulse purchases just aren’t conducive to a solid budget and a good personal relationship with your finances.
So think hard about what you buy, and avoid the stress that comes with buyer’s regret.