How to Stop Impulse Buying

An interior view of a fashion boutique that showcases handbags and shoes on display shelves.

You have just picked out a pair of fabulous new booties for Sunday brunch with the girls, and you are headed to the counter with them. 

As you stand in line, you notice a bracelet calling out to you that would complement your brunch outfit perfectly. It’s only $20, so you grab it, as well as a bar of fancy soap, and a chocolate bar on your way up to the cash register. 

Hey, we have all done it… If the goodies near the cashier of a retail shop aren’t enough to tempt you, every time you buy something online, the website makes a bunch of suggestions for other things that you might like.

Impulse purchases can add up! You may wind up with drawers full of things you don’t need with no money to spend on what you really want. Knowing how to stop impulse buying can be an important step in making sound financial decisions.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with having a portion of your income devoted to discretionary purchases. 

However, there are a variety of ways to protect yourself from your urge to buy fashion items without initial intention. 

Wait Before You Buy

Part of realizing how to stop impulse buying involves self-parenting. It is a good idea to wait a certain amount of time before you actually buy the item you suddenly want to purchase so that you can think about whether or not the purchase is necessary. 

As you wait a day or two, evaluate the item:

  1. Does the price fit your budget?
  2. Do you need it?
  3. Are you in love with it?

I do this in order to determine if I am really in love with the item. If I’m in love with it, I think about it a lot! Then I know that the purchase is worth it for me.

Dip Only into Designated Funds

Bad shopping habits are hard to break, and can make you go broke quick! Rather than control the habit, control the money. 

For example, some people limit their discretionary spending to cash-in-hand purchases. 

If you have a side hustle, you can limit your impulse purchases to money you make from that gig.

Basically, if the money is in your designated shopping fund, spend it! If it is not, then do not buy anything that randomly tempts you to purchase.

How to Stop Impulse Buying – When It’s On Sale

Ah, the siren song of the hot sale; it seems impossible to resist, right?

You see a handbag reduced from $500 to $300 and you wonder if you will ever be able to save $200 on a bag again.

Although it may be hard, you want to consider the fact that $300 is an awful lot to pay for a handbag even with the discount. You also want to consider whether or not you need a handbag and if you would have wanted that particular one if you had not seen it on sale. 

Try to envision your life both with and without the handbag. Is there really that much of a difference? If the bag will revolutionize your life, you should buy it. 

Conquering impulse buying takes patience and self-evaluation. Being self-aware is a major key in learning how to stop impulse buying

A woman stares at her laptop screen that displays an online retail store that has a 50% off sale as she holds her credit card in hand.

Impulse Buying as a Way to Fill a Void

If you are considering buying something that is not a necessity, analyze why you want it. Although it may sound annoyingly new-age-y, sometimes we buy things to fill a void inside of us.

Part of figuring out how to stop impulse buying involves discovering how your own thought process works.

I’ve seen this first hand happening with a close relative. She was bored over the pandemic lockdown and kept buying random items from online. It made her feel excited and happy – but only temporarily. 

She lives by herself and she felt very lonely, and that’s where the impulse buying was stemming from. Once the state wide quarantine lifted, she was going out with friends again and embarking on new experiences. She realized that her bad shopping habit was filling the void of not having anything to do, and was able to work on that moving forward. 

Talking with friends or family about your shopping behavior can help you discover the root of the issue. Consulting with a therapist is extremely helpful as well. 

A Thoughtful Gift Could Be One Too Many

If you buy gifts for other people on impulse, you should question if there is an occasion coming up where they should expect a gift or if it is something they will be able to use. Make sure you are not simply trying to endear yourself to them.

Will the Purchase Actually Make You Feel Better?

If you buy when you are going through a rough patch, you should ask yourself if it makes you feel better in the long run. Our emotions can determine our actions. However, the consequence of our actions can be an empty bank account. 

When you feel upset and have the urge to shop, turn your attention elsewhere. Call up a friend, or opt for a different stimulating activity. You can cook, make candles, or watch a TV show you enjoy. 

How to Stop Impulse Buying With This Money-Saving Tactic

The next time you want to buy a fashion item at random, write down the price of it in your smartphone notes. (I use Samsung Galaxy Notes). 

Instead of buying it, set that amount of money aside for a whole 30 days. Keep tabs on the items and write down all of the prices. 

At the end of the month, use the total amount to purchase that one handbag or clothing item you really love or need. 

This will get you in the habit of saving your money and thinking about your actions.

Be Aware of Gimmicks 

Can we also talk about scams? There are retailers out there who specifically prey on impulse buyers. 

The clothing item arrives looking nothing like the picture, or it is so cheaply made, you can’t even use it. How annoying! Then to deal with the return…ugh! 

It is yet another reason to hold back from purchasing on a whim. Take your time and carefully read the fine print. Check the product reviews before buying – no matter how cheap the price is. 

Shut Out the Email and Social Media 

I recommend taking a break from emails and social media. So many shopping ads are thrown in our faces when staring at our screens or scrolling. 

If you can’t completely avoid using your phone, temporarily move the social media and email apps over to a folder on your home screen to get them out of sight. You can then move them back out of the folder the next day when you are ready to return to using them. 

It’s mentally refreshing to spend at least one day a week off of your smartphone. It will be a challenge, but so worth it! I always have a clear mind the next day I go back to using social media and email. 

A close up of a woman's hands holding a smart phone with a coffee beside her.

Take a Deep Breath

I find that before I make a spur of the moment purchase, my anxiety goes up and I feel a bit hyper, needing to buy it right now. I feel rushed to complete the transaction before someone else gets to it in some cases. Do you ever feel this way too?

In these instances, I think it’s beneficial to stop and just take a deep breath. Breathe in, breathe out. Don’t let the urge to buy something upend your peace. 

Limited one-time only sales, limited stock items, and website pop-ups with false information along the lines of “someone else already has this item in their cart!” can cause negative feelings when impulse buying. 

Don’t let them win! Nine times out of ten, the item will be restocked later. You can also email the company about the item to see if they can help you purchase it. 

Don’t let impulse buying have a hold on your life! I hope these tips and suggestions help you in your journey to minimize, or even break, the habit. 

Do you have any other tips for how to stop impulse buying?

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