HOW TO STOP IMPULSE BUYING AND PURCHASE MORE INTENTIONALLY
Do you struggle with overspending and impulse buying? Are you a shopaholic and having difficulty curbing your shopping habits? Do you love the sales and can’t resist a bargain? Here are some tips on how to stop impulse buying and purchase more intentionally.
IMPULSE BUYING AND SHOPPING HABITS
I did it not long ago. I was feeling stressed about something and decided I’d feel better if I hit the shops for some retail therapy.
I found a top I liked and although it wasn’t expensive, I bought it without really thinking. It was an impulse buy that made me feel better in that moment. However, I regretted it when I got home so I returned it to the shop for a refund.
I share this story because it shows that even those of us who are used to making intentional decisions and mindful purchases get it wrong from time to time!
‘Wrong’ is probably the wrong word actually. It was a mistake and deep down I knew that but at the time, the impulse was strong and my heart ruled my head.
BUYING ON IMPULSE VS INTENTIONAL SHOPPING
I know why I bought that top on impulse.
I was feeling drained and deflated about work and needed a quick rush of endorphins to make me feel good. I was too tired to distract myself by doing something else, too brain-frazzled to think of an alternative and just needed a feel good hit right then.
I mistakenly thought that parting with my hard-earned cash and buying a pretty top would make me feel productive, confident and happy.
Instead, I chastised myself for making a silly purchase and not taking care of my money. I was cross that I’d hadn’t heeded the signals that my body and brain were giving off after a week of stress at work and that I wasn’t resourceful enough to find an alternative form of self-care than shopping on a whim.
That’s not to say that impulse buying is always wrong. I do plenty of things on a whim and they work out well, but this wasn’t one of those occasions.
REASONS WHY WE IMPULSE BUY
There are many reasons why we impulse buy. Maybe you recognise some of them yourself? I know I do! Here are some examples…
- Boredom and something to fill the time
- Frustration and a release of energy and emotion
- Stressed and needing relief
- Needing to be in control and deciding to make a purchase helps us regain it
- Feel sad so we search for quick gratification
- Comparison and we want what someone else has got
- Lack of planning so we dive straight in without knowing what we really want or need
- Feeling rushed and needing to make a snap decision
- Unclear about why we’re purchasing something
- Needing to snap up a bargain and get a good deal
- Fear of failure and coming away from the shops without getting something (anything)
These are just a few reasons. The psychology of spending money is complex. If you have more to add to the list, please let me know in the comments at the end of this article. I’d love to hear from you!
MINIMALISM, SHOPPING AND SPENDING MONEY
Before we look at ways to help you stop impulse buying, I wanted to quickly mention something. I am a minimalist, I love a simplified life and a clutter-free home but I also like shopping every now and then and do spend money when I’m able to.
Minimalism is definitely not about never going shopping, never buying anything just because you really like it or never spending money. Minimalism, instead, is about spending and buying intentionally.
Sometimes, we do just really like something and it would make us happy to buy that item we saw in the shops. Minimalists do buy things like that, it’s just that there’s usually a mental calculation in our heads as to whether the joy of purchasing and owning it is better than the financial cost of buying it and the energy and time cost of looking after it.
And, there are plenty of times when I’ve bought something on a whim and it’s worked out well and other times when it’s not worked as well. I put it down to learning, experience and that I’m just human and sometimes my heart rules my head. That’s ok and I still call myself a minimalist!
HOW TO STOP IMPULSE BUYING AND PURCHASE MORE INTENTIONALLY
Here are some ideas to help you stop buying on impulse, wasting money and instead shop more mindfully.
1. Avoid the shops to prevent impulse buys
It’s difficult to buy something on a whim when you’re not near a shop to make that purchase. So, if you’re feeling like you want to spend your money don’t go near the shops and stay away from online shopping sites.
I know this is easier said than done when your emotions are running high and you’re probably not thinking clearly.
So, it might be helpful to keep a list handy of things you could do instead of shopping. This way you’ll be able to find something to keep your mind and body occupied without having to think too much about it.
Instead of shopping you could:
- Go for a walk and get some exercise
- Treat yourself to a home manicure and pedicure
- Phone a friend
- Watch your favourite TV programme or film
What could go on your list?
2. Make it difficult to spend money
As well as avoiding the shops, you could also make it difficult to spend your money. You could limit or completely get rid of store cards and credit cards if they enable you to make unwise purchases.
If you do go shopping you could take only a limited amount of cash with you. Or you could give your money to a friend that comes shopping with you so they can be in charge of how much you spend and what you spend it on.
I’ve also found that if I use cash to buy things then I’m more conscious of how much I’m spending. I calculate how many hours and days it took me to earn the money vs how quickly I can spend it. Tapping a card or pressing a ‘buy now’ button doesn’t hit home and remind me to appreciate the value of money in the same way.
3. Set a budget before you shop
You could set yourself a limit but sometimes the temptation is too strong and we can go over that limit.
However, setting a budget is a helpful way of managing your finances in general. Allocating a budget for different areas of your life gives you control and insight into what money is coming in and how much is going out. Identifying how you spend your money and your shopping habits is a great way to manage your money sensibly and responsibly.
A budget for each area of your spending is also helpful because it helps us understand that shopping and spending doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
Taking control and ownership of your impulse purchases doesn’t have to mean you can’t ever buy anything. That wouldn’t be realistic and sometimes it’s fun to buy things on a whim. But, it does mean you have a budget for these impulse purchases and there are financial implications if you go over that budget.
4. Don’t go shopping when you’re feeling emotional
My husband and I have this joke that he’s never to go food shopping when he’s hungry. If he does, you can guarantee he’ll come out of the store with way more food than we needed. The shopping trolley is full and our food budget drained!
If impulse buying is a problem you recognise in yourself, maybe it’s time to address the root cause. When you’re feeling up or down and particularly drawn to reckless purchasing, think about exactly what you’re feeling and what triggered it.
Getting to the root cause of why you do what you do is the key to making changes to any habits or patterns of behaviours.
What is your mindset like when you begin to think about impulse buying? Are you angry, bored, frustrated, sad or something else? Disassociating these emotions with what usually happens next (in this case a trip to the shops) will help you break the cycle.
5. Think about what you’ll do with the item when you’ve bought it
If you like a simplified, clutter-free home, you might find you can avoid impulse purchases by considering what you’re going to do with the item once you’ve brought it home with you.
Do you really need that extra piece of furniture or wall art taking up space in your home? Do you need that extra gadget or appliance sitting on your kitchen counter? That extra make-up on your bathroom counter? That new top taking up space in your carefully curated wardrobe?
If you haven’t got a place to keep your item after you’ve bought it, do you really want it adding clutter to your home?
6. Do you have something similar?
Sometimes it’s possible to deter ourselves from buying something new if we’ve already got similar instead. Not many people like to waste money so you could think about purchasing a similar or duplicate item as just a waste of money.
The feeling of not wanting to waste your money might override the temptation of wanting to buy it just long enough to prevent you from buying it at all!
7. Take a list to reduce impulse buys
Impulse shopping tends to be done quickly with little careful thought and the strength of our emotions stops us thinking clearly. So, to help focus the mind it might be worthwhile taking a list.
Once again, stopping impulse shopping habits isn’t necessarily about stopping you shopping altogether. Instead it’s about helping you shop more mindfully and addressing your emotions in other ways.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with shopping. It can be fun and we all need to shop so it’s not realistic to stop shopping completely.
As Francine Jay says, “Minimalism is asking why before you buy”.
Create a little list of things it’s ok to buy (and perhaps with your budget for each item written clearly next to the item) and keep to that list. Stop when you’ve got to the end of your list.
8. Pause and wait before you impulse buy
Impulse buying is so easy these days. We can tap our card or press the ‘buy now’ button without giving it a second thought and expending only a teeny tiny bit of energy.
To slow down your purchasing and give your brain time to process what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and whether you have a really good reason to be doing it, take a pause.
Place the item on your wish list or in your online basket but don’t press the ‘buy now’ button for a day or two.
Visit the shops, see what’s in store, but don’t buy it until you come back a while later to actually make the purchase.
Giving yourself some time to think and reflect might help avoid those impulse buys.
9. Use the one in, one out rule
This is a handy rule for anything that you bring into the home to avoid the build up of clutter. If you want to buy something, ask yourself what you could get rid of, donate or recycle in its place.
Buy a bag but get rid of one that you have at home which you no longer use.
The thought process involved might slow you down and stop you making an impulse buy just for the sake of it. It helps bring back some intention and awareness into your shopping habits.
10. Take someone with you shopping
If we shop on our own it’s easier to make those quick impulse buys which we later regret. Take someone with you that you trust and respect their judgement. Chat through your thoughts, your reasons for wanting to buy something and listen to their feedback and opinions.
11. Return impulse buys if you can
This might not stop you making the purchase in the first place, but do remember you can return things if you later decide you don’t want to keep them. Just make sure you don’t remove tags and packaging first!
IF IMPULSE BUYS GET OUT OF HAND
Impulse buying can become a real problem if we can’t or won’t take steps to address it ourselves. Our spending gets out of control and our shopaholic tendencies can drain our bank accounts, strain our credit cards and put pressure on our relationships.
If you feel you need professional help and support to overcome problems with your shopping habits, spending, debt or financial management in general, I encourage you wholeheartedly to do this. It is not a sign of failure and weakness but instead a powerful way of living intentionally and purposefully.
RESOURCES ON MINIMALISM AND MONEY
Here are some other articles which you might find helpful on how to simplify your finances, shopping intentionally and the relationship between minimalism and money: