Last week one of my short YouTube video topics was my “wants” list. I’ve been using this concept for a short while to help me stop my bad habit of impulsive shopping.
One bad habit I’ve had for as long as I can remember is impulse shopping. If I see something in the store on sale I will buy it, even if I don’t have an immediate use for it. I will sometimes think of something I want and add it to my Amazon cart and checkout in under 3 minutes. The time from when I first think “I want that” to actually owning it is far, far to short. That has led to lots of overspending due to impulse buys.
These purchases are usually unrelated to what I actually need to buy and they often come with regret that sets in later when I see my credit card bill or check my bank account. Stores make it incredibly easy to do this both in stores and online so I’ve been working on ways to combat this habit and keep more of my hard-earned money.
Unfortunately buying things feels good and stores are designed to get us to buy things. That means we have to create processes and habits to combat this. Here are a few of the ways I’m stopping the impulse spending habit:
Create A Wants List
I have a list of all the things I really want to buy. If it’s not a need, it goes onto the wants list. If it’s something I’d like to buy on Amazon, it goes on a wish list. Nothing that is a “want” can be purchased immediately, but instead it must go onto a want list.
Then when I decide it is time to splurge because I’ve accomplished a financial goal, I consult the wants list and purchase something off the list! It’s guilt free spending because it is something I’ve wanted and thought about instead of impulsively buying on a whim.
Often I’ve found myself removing things from the list after 30 days or so. This is especially true of things I’ve found while browsing Amazon. In the moment they seemed like a great idea but after reflection I usually decide I don’t actually like the item as much as I did when I first encountered it.
Create A 24 Hour Rule
Creating a time rule around spending can greatly prevent impulse spending. If you see something you want in a store, tell yourself you can come back and buy it in 24 hours if you still really want it. Or if you are shopping online, put the item in your cart and come back the next day to finish checking out. If you completely forget about the item, which often happens to me, then you really don’t need it!
The 24 hour rule even works for things on sale since sales often last more than 1 day. If you are worried a store will run out of the item you can always have them hold it for 24 hours which gives you the chance to really think about buying it.
If an item you want is still desperately desired after 24 hours, go ahead and buy it if it’s within budget!
Think About Why You Really Want It
This is something I personally didn’t like doing in the past because the answer usually wasn’t something I wanted to deal with in the moment – self-medicating with shopping was more easier. Shopping is an emotional process and often we use it to deal with other emotions.
If you understand why you want to buy something you can better figure out whether the item actually should be bought or is just something you are using to pacify yourself. Forcing yourself to think abut why you want to buy something forces you to see if you really want the item of if you are trying to meet a completely different emotional need. Instead of shopping, you might need to work on a completely different activity.
Recognize Your Buying Triggers
If you are an impulse shopper, do you know why you do it? If you look at your behavior for the past month you can probably see some patterns and recognize your buying triggers. Do you impulsively shop when you are sad? Angry? Bored? Do ads on Facebook or sale flyers trigger you to go buy things you weren’t planning?
Learning what triggers your impulse shopping can help you avoid those situations in the future. For example you can use an ad blocker on social media sites or look for healthy ways to deal with emotions instead of shopping. Understanding what triggers your shopping is key to helping you stop it.
Budget & Track Your Spending
Budgeting my money and tracking my spending has helped incredibly reduce my impulse spending. Having a budget at the beginning of the month helps you know where your money needs to go and tracking it keeps you on track.
If you have never tracked your spending before, then this process can be eye opening. Tracking what you spend can illuminate how much money was spent impulsively on items that weren’t necessary – or you don’t even remember buying!
Stay Out Of Stores
The more often you are in a store the more chances there are to spend impulsively. Stores are not a place to waste time or use as a hobby. It’s best to skip using shopping as a hobby and instead find ways to stay out of stores.
Personally I’ve stopped going to stores during my lunch break when I had a habit of spending impulsively. Without surrounding myself with the temptations of things I might want to buy, I am spending much less. If you find yourself spending too much money and time in stores, seek out new places you can enjoy that don’t involve retail.
Use Cash Instead Of Credit Cards
Recently I decided to get gazelle intense about paying off debt so I stopped using credit cards.
Credit cards can be great when used carefully and paid off meticulously, but they can make impulse spending much easier. For me personally it is too easy to spend impulsively when I’m shopping with credit cards. Even when I’m paying off the cards every month I tend to spend too much using the card.
Paying with cash forces you to confront your impulse spending. When you are feeling the urge to spend unnecessarily, counting out the cash makes you slow down and think about the purchase. You also have to know you have the money to pay for the item before checking out. Buying has much more importance and you realize the impact instantly instead of at the end of the month when the credit card bill arrives. Since I started using cash I have drastically reduced my own impulsive spending.
Remember Your Financial Goals
One way to stop impulse spending it to keep your financial goals in mind before you waste money in stores. Reminding yourself that small impulse purchases add up to a lot of money that can prevent you from achieving these goals.
Personally I like to keep my financial goals where I can see them, with a list of my financial goals for the year in my planner and on the wall at home where I can see them. The reminder is helpful to keep them fresh so I’m more likely to meet those goals instead of impulsively use the money for other frivolous items.
Stop Impulse Spending For Good
These are just a few of the ways you can stop impulse buying. I’m still in the process of breaking my own impulsive spending habits but I know that these methods work. I’ve already curbed a ton of my impulsive spending and am happily sticking to my budget!