How to Curb Impulse Spending

How to Curb Impulse Spending

17 July 2023

By now the notion of “retail therapy” has become a modern cliché.

We’ve all been there: Whether it’s grabbing that bag of jellybeans on the way out of the grocery store, or buying a dress and shoes (but it’s on sale!) on a whim.

Now for any men reading this, I can see you nodding along, thinking, my wife does this all the time! But hold your horses. The stereotype of women as impulsive in their purchase decisions is an inaccurate one. A new survey found that impulse buying isn’t unique to men or women. Studies show that men are just as likely as women to make impulse buys – and spend more when they do.

Let’s be honest here – impulse buying is kind of fun – at least in the moment. But don’t separate the pleasure of buying from the pain of paying. Here’s the kicker: Giving into an impulse buy won’t help you achieve your financial goals – whether that’s getting out of debt, paying off your mortgage, or investing for your future.

Impulse buying can lead to guilt, regret and shame, thereby not only impacting our budgets, but our mental wellbeing as well. Turns out an impulse purchase can make you feel great only if you can afford it.

Impulse buying is triggered by both internal as well as environmental factors. Internal triggers can include loneliness, depression, anxiety, boredom or stress. Often, impulse buys are a distraction from uncomfortable feelings. External or environmental factors include targeted advertising, in-store displays, and discounts or sales. These are designed to create a sense of urgency that encourages impulse buying. The good news is regardless of the reasons for spending – or the gender of the spender – it is possible to kick the habit.

So, if you’re struggling with your finances and want to curb impulse spending, we have a few strategies on how to get your financial house in order:

  • Make a budget and stick to it. If an item is not budgeted for, don’t spend the money. Yup, it’s as simple and as hard as that. Have a little “fun money” fund, if possible, to shop guilt free. Also, keep a spending diary. Just as you might track everything you eat when you’re on a diet, write down all your purchases to give you insight on how you’re spending your money.
  • Leave the plastic at home. Research shows that using cash will make you spend less.
  • Determine whether it is a want or need. Give yourself a waiting period before purchasing an item. Whether it’s two hours or thirty days, waiting to make any purchase gives you more time to rationally consider it.
  • Beware of retail tricks. Stores are set up to make people spend as much money as possible. Sale signs create a sense of urgency around unnecessary purchases. There will always be more sales and similar items will be available if a desired item does sell out.
  • Remember, it is possible to return most items if you have buyers’ remorse.

When impulsive spending becomes a compulsion, conquering it on your own can be very difficult and professional help may be required.


DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.

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