Are you an impulse buyer?
You’re at the store, you’re wandering the aisle and suddenly you see a great deal. (Cute socks! A new kind of cookie! Dog toys!) Without even thinking, it goes (poof!) right in the cart.
Or maybe, after a tough day, you hop online because you just want to buy something to make yourself feel better. You might even think, “I deserve this!”
Pretty much anyone can be sucked into an impulse buy. Been there! If your impulse buying behavior is getting you down or affecting your budget, great news! YOU CAN get a handle on your impulsive spending.
I’ll tell you how…
We live in an instant gratification culture, where products are readily available and it doesn’t take much effort to buy something. Unfortunately, too much impulsive buying can derail your budgeting goals and steer you away from financial progress.
Next time, before you buy without thinking, I want you to take a step back and ask yourself a few questions. Will I still want this tomorrow or next week? Is it something I just forgot to put on my list but can’t make it another week without, like milk, bread or eggs? Is it something I’ll never be able to find again? Is it within my budget?
You’re essentially determining if the item is a NEED or just a want…just one skill you’ll learn on your way to combating your impulsive spending.
So if you’re trying to rein in your impulse spending, here are 10 tips that actually work.
1. Set a SMART Goal
Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely goals are successful goals. (SMART goals, get it?) Some of you might be able to say, “That’s it! I’m going to quit impulsive spending!” However, if you’re reading this post, I’m guessing the cold turkey method didn’t work for you. That’s okay!
Instead, set a smaller goal like, “I won’t buy anything that’s not on my list at the store today.” Then, stick to it. One trip to the store is specific, it’s a measurable occurrence, it’s totally doable, it’s realistic, and it’s time-specific. (And once you’ve made it through your shopping trip, you’ll know if you’re successful!)
2. Know Your Budget
To stick to certain spending parameters, you have to know what they are. Without a budget, you’re just blindly hoping you don’t overspend. Even if you set a loose budget, it’s easy to go over when the impulse to buy happens. If you need help getting started budgeting, check out my 90 Day Budget Boot Camp for Beginners!
Don’t set yourself up for failure. If you know your impulse buying behavior is going to take some time to quell, include a little wiggle room in your budget to allow for a $10 “fun item” on occasion. It’s much easier than swearing off spending altogether. Baby steps. Because when that $10 purchase is planned, you’ll still be coming out on budget.
3. Stick to Your List
One of the best tricks to curb the urge to impulse spend? Write a list and stick to it. Tell yourself you can only buy what’s on the list. If it didn’t make the list, it doesn’t go in the cart.
Does this mean everything on the list has to be 100% practical? Well, yes and no. Of course, focus on your family’s needs as you write your list, but set yourself up for success by planning to buy what you’d normally be tempted to grab as an impulse buy. Want ice cream? When you go to the grocery store, put it on the list and it’s no longer an impulse buy!
4. Bring Only Cash
This is a scary (but effective!) tip. When you go to the store, take only the cash you need for the items you plan to purchase. Don’t take your debit card, credit card, or any other backup payment method (like a checkbook).
Yes, it can lead to an embarrassing moment at the checkout if you realize you have to put something back, but if you use your phone’s calculator as you go, you can usually avoid going over your target budget. This method is tough, but it works—you can’t spend what you don’t have. On the same note, don’t store your credit card information or your PayPal login on your computer or phone. If you need to search for that information, the whim will often pass.
5. Freeze Your Credit Card
Literally, put your credit card in the freezer in an empty ice cream container or plastic bin. Freeze the card in a solid block of ice. When you want to purchase something, you must wait until the ice melts before you gain access to your card. This gives you plenty of time to ponder if you’re impulse spending or buying something you really need. It’s a literal spending freeze.
This method is easier than cutting up the card, which you might need in case of a true emergency. Another idea is to ask a trusted friend or your spouse to hide your card. Again, this means your credit card is available if something really dire happens, but you’ll still be able to curb your spending when you’re tempted by a sale at Walmart.
6. Implement a Mandatory Wait Period
For online shopping in particular, this method is very effective. Any time you want to make a purchase, tell yourself you’ll wait at least a week before you buy. Implementing a waiting period can seem harsh, but it really works. If you’re really worried you’ll forget about it, put it on your calendar.
Don’t be suckered in by sale offers or hot deals either—most retailers run deals on a cycle. If it’s 30% off this week, chances are it will be 25% off next week, so don’t worry about missing that “amazing” bargain. Check the fine print on the sale and don’t worry if there’s “only 1 left in stock.” More will come along. In brick and mortar stores, you can always ask if they’ll hold it for you for 24 or 48 hours. If it’s really worth it, you’ll make the trip back.
7. Unsubscribe from Sales Alerts
Retailers are smart. That’s why inbox offers like, “Only 3 remaining!” or “24 hour only sale” scream BUY ME NOW! Scarcity creates a feeling of urgency.
Be brave and unsubscribe from retailers bent on cultivating your impulse buying behavior. If you can’t resist a sale, give yourself a break from being bombarded by them. If there’s something you need, you can always do a web search and find a great deal in the future.
8. Avoid the Clearance Aisle
Just like unsubscribing from sales alerts, avoiding those tempting clearance racks, aisles and endcaps will help you keep your impulses in check. These areas often offer great deals, BUT if you’re working on killing your impulsive buying urges, they’re just too much to resist.
Once you’ve had a bit more practice at sticking to your list and budget, you can return to the clearance aisle. Keep in mind, sometimes items on clearance are more expensive than they were on sale. Many retailers mark clearance down 10-15% on the first round, yet sale prices are often 20-40% off. It’s those sneaky yellow and orange tags! Don’t be roped in!
9. Enlist an Accountabili-Buddy
Get a trusted friend to help you stick to your goals. If you’re really struggling, enlisting the help of a friend who has a vested interest in your success can really help. Pick someone who you know won’t judge you or make you feel bad, but who will also help you stick to your goal by ensuring you see the big picture.
This can be tough because you might feel embarrassed admitting you’re having a rough time, but chances are your friends are probably hoping to cut back a little, too. Sometimes just knowing you’ll have to fess up to another person can help you stick to your guns.
10. Reward Yourself
It’s okay to reward yourself! Don’t treat yourself to a shopping spree, of course, but habits are built on rewards. We all like to get a little something for our efforts. Find ways to treat yourself that don’t cost a thing, like an afternoon spent reading, a fun DIY pedicure, or a cold glass of iced tea sipped on your porch.
Build in little “carrots” along the way and really savor your rewards. If you’re saving up for something big, put a picture of your end goal up on your mirror or bulletin board to help you remember what you’re really aiming for. Keep your eye on the prize so you won’t be tempted to waste your money on little things instead.