So you’re walking around the mall for no apparent reason and see a nice pair of shoes. You know you don’t really need another pair but you’re bored and you buy it anyway. Then you come home and realize you have a very similar pair of shoes that you haven’t even worn yet.
Welcome to impulse shopping. Here are ten tips to stop the impulse buying habit, and get your budget back on track.
1. Set a Miscellaneous Shopping Budget
If you find yourself regularly overspending each month, check your accounts and determine by how much. If you go over by about $100 each month, modify your budget to make up for it. Take out a hundred bucks from your account to use as spending money,
Just like with a diet, going “cold turkey” doesn’t work. And like the “nibble here and there won’t affect your weight” mentality, spending a few dollars here and there for things you don’t necessarily need does add up.
Budget for the miscellaneous and you won’t be surprised at the end of the month.
Don’t have a budget? Here’s How to Create a Zero-Sum Budget, a cool way to make sure every dollar you earn is accounted for.
2. Don’t Shop While You’re Hungry
If you’ve ever been at a mall or grocery store when your stomach is growling, you’ll know that one of the best ways to mindlessly spend money is when you’re hungry. Suddenly, walking past the bakery or an Auntie Anne’s is pure torture, and you just have to treat yourself.
Make sure that you eat before heading out, or at least bring a few snack bars with you.
3. Don’t Go Window Shopping While Bored
If shopping is your favorite hobby, find a new one. Only go to a mall or store when you have something specific at a particular store that you need to buy.
Going to the mall to “window shop” when you’re bored or have free time isn’t the best way to spend time for you or your bank account. If you just go to look at nice things that you may want, be sure to think ahead and plan these purchases in your budget for the next few months. Not only does this allow you to stick to your planned spending, but it also gives you time to see if you really need or want something, or if you’re buying out of boredom.
4. Avoid Buying Stuff When You’re Overly Emotional
While some people like to celebrate happy occasions or good news with a good meal, others might celebrate by spending lots of money and regretting it later.
When you’re happy or over emotional, your rational side is overtaken by your emotions, making you more likely and more willing to buy things on the spot. The same goes for the opposite side of the emotional spectrum.
Related article: The Scientific Reason Behind Why Money Makes Us Happy
When you’re sad or feeling blue, you may be more inclined to cheer yourself up by buying things you don’t need. Think of the cliche breakup ice cream tub scenario – to compensate for feeling down, you might try to binge eat your feelings. The same goes for emotional spending!
5. Feel the Spending Urge? Disconnect
Physically avoiding stores when you’re in the mood to buy things isn’t enough. You may want to disconnect from an internet connection so that you don’t visit eBay, Amazon, or any other online retailer from your computer or smartphone.
If that sounds extreme, consider not keeping your PayPal or credit card information handy when you’re online so that buying something takes more effort and time. Don’t allow auto-fill to fill out your financial information, or Amazon’s 1-click shopping to make splurging just a tap away.
The time it takes you to get up and find your credit card may be enough time to really consider if what you’re buying is necessary and within your budget.
6. Ask Yourself These Questions First
Before whipping out your cash or credit card, take five minutes to ask yourself these questions and answer them honestly.
- Is it a want or a need?
- Can I afford it within my budget?
- Are there any other upcoming purchases that are more urgent?
- Can it wait until next month?
- If it’s too expensive, will it go on sale soon?
- Will it improve my life? How?
We’ve put together 16 Ways to Trick Yourself into Not Spending Money, with some excellent tips on what to do before shopping temptation.
7. Prioritize Your Spending
If your budget allows some leeway for leisurely spending, make sure you prioritize your purchases. For example, what is more important this month? Buying a new washing machine, or upgrading your (already new-ish) smartphone?
Choosing between purchases is a smart way to stick to your budget while avoiding spending your money impulsively.
8. Make a Shopping List for Everything
There’s no room for “YOLO” each and every time you’re at the store. If you’re going to a store to buy something, make a list of things you are buying beforehand, and don’t buy anything that’s not on the list.
If you see something you like, create a new list for the next time you go to the store. This prevents you from buying it on the spot and gives you time to see if you really want it, and can afford it.
9. Take a Walk Before Ever Saying “Yes”
Don’t be intimidated or feel pressured by the salesperson that went out of his way to help you at a store. That’s their job.
When you catch yourself with an urge to buy something that isn’t in your planned purchases list and budget, take a walk. Politely tell the salesperson you’ll think about it. Go outside to give yourself the time to think about the purchase without the salesperson around.
This will not only calm that urge down, but will help you focus on your budget, and analyze whether buying it is a good idea or not.
10. Give Away Something Old Before Buying Something New
Not only will giving away one item before you bring home a new one help de-clutter your life, it will remind you exactly how much already you have. It may also show you how much you may not really need that new item after all.
This is true especially for clothing. Taking a survey of your closet once in awhile will remind you that you don’t really need that new pair of shoes or that dress because you already have something similar. If not that, maybe you’ll realize that you can upcycle the item, or find a new way to style it.
As with everything, stopping a impulse buying trend comes down to changing your habits. First, set up a budget with a little wiggle room for small splurges. Second, learn to change when and why you shop, and always be prepared with a list and a purpose. You don’t have to quit shopping entirely, but you do have to take the “impulse” out of the equation!