We've all been there--whether it's in the checkout line at the supermarket with the five-pound of gummy bears that definitely wasn't on your shopping list sitting in your cart or clicking the 'checkout' button on an Amazon cart with that nifty gadget that caught your eye, we've all been victims of impulse spending before. Even if the price of those items that happened to just hop into your cart (digital or otherwise) isn't very high, they add up quickly. Take this, for example:
- Chocolate bar from the checkout aisle because you were hungry: $3
- T-shirt from your favorite movie franchise that you stumbled across while shopping for new socks: $10
- Cute mug set that Amazon recommended to you at 3 o'clock in the morning when you were having trouble sleeping: $20
- Pizza because you didn't feel like cooking supper last Wednesday, plus tip: $20
- Five-pack of chargers because you need a new one, the 'value pack' is cheaper per piece and extras are useful: $15
- The first season of your new favorite TV show: $15
- 'Revolutionary' kitchen gadget that's on a great sale: $25
- Total: $108
While this scenario is completely hypothetical, it's not far from the truth for lots of people. With just a few purchases, none of them very expensive, you've spent over a hundred dollars on things that weren't in your budget. Depending on where you live, that's several tanks of gas, a couple weeks' worth of groceries if you live by yourself, a good chunk of your rent payment... the list goes on and on. Impulse spending, while it might seem completely innocuous, can wreak havoc on an otherwise well-planned budget. So how can you avoid this? We've got some helpful tips to make it easy.
Don't save your credit card information on shopping websites
One of the easiest ways to limit impulse spending is to simply make it harder for yourself to spend money. If you have to physically get up, find your wallet, dig out your card, and punch in the number every single time that you want to purchase something online, believe me, you will stop to think more about what you're buying. Think about it: it's Friday night, you're in your pajamas, in bed, your pet is sleeping on your lap, and that rad t-shirt is screaming your name from the pages of Amazon. You probably wouldn't buy it if you weren't tired and riding on that end-of-the-workweek high, and if you have to get up out of your warm, comfortable bed to get your credit card, you're much less likely to buy it.
Take time to think about your purchases
Impulse shopping is so named because it's a spur-of-the-moment decision that not much thought goes in to. Take that time back to think about what you're buying--if you're in a store, put it back on the shelf, walk around for 10-15 minutes thinking about whether or not you actually need, and then make your decision. If you're shopping online, leave the item in your cart, close out of the website, and go do something else for half an hour. Taking the time to think about your impulse spending and purchases lets the rational part of your brain regain control and stick to your budget.
Don't go to the grocery store when you're hungry
Just don't. Enough said. You can thank me later.
Find an accountability buddy
Just talking out loud to someone else about your intended purchases can make a huge difference. Yes, that six-foot teddy bear might sound like a good idea to you, but can you reason to your best friend why you need a giant stuffed animal that will take up almost all of your bed and be a pain in the neck to move when your lease is up? If the answer is 'no,' then don't buy the bear. Most impulse purchases won't be that absurd, but having someone to remind you that you need to stick to your budget and avoid impulse spending can quickly bring you back to reality.
Make a list, and stick to it
Whether you're shopping online or in a store, make a list of the things you need, and stick to it come hell or high water. Go into it with the mindset of 'if it's not on the list, it's not going in the cart,' and don't cave under pressure. If necessary, avoid the aisles or websites that you know will be problematic (candy, Lego, the 'sale' page, you get the gist).
Unsubscribe from sale emails
This one is easy- cut back on impulse spending by getting rid of unnecessary opportunities to spend. Lots of stores offer promo emails advertising sales and specials. They are not your friends, and they are not your budget's friend. Unsubscribe, and save yourself (and your wallet) from the temptation of BOGO and flash sales.
Avoiding impulse purchases can take a bit of work at first, but once you get into the habit of avoiding situations in which you might buy something that you don't need, it'll become much, much easier. Remember, your budget is your friend. Don't hurt it with impulse purchases. For more tips, be sure to check out our website today!