You’ve arrived at the store, list in hand. You know exactly what you need to buy, and nothing can shake your focus. Well, except maybe that candle. Or those statement earrings, which are a steal since they’re on sale. Or that lipstick, which will look great with the dress you’re wearing to your friend’s wedding later this summer. Tossing a few extra things in your cart couldn’t hurt, could it?
An unplanned purchase here or there might not be detrimental, but spontaneous transactions like this can add up and start to have a negative impact on your bank account. It’s a widespread problem too. According to the recent Capital One Financial Superpower Survey, “making frequent impulse purchases” is the most common financial weakness among American consumers.
“Impulse buying [often happens] because we feel better when purchasing the item,” certified money coach Megan Lathrop says. “The simple act of purchasing increases all the feel-good chemicals in our bodies, and we have a belief that we will be happier for having this item.”
According to Lathrop, who is also the co-creator of Capital One’s Money Coaching program, impulse buying is especially prevalent when you’re scrolling online or through social media, when you walk around a mall, or during the holiday season, when you might feel higher levels of pressure around shopping in general. Regardless of the circumstances, while it’s okay to treat yourself to something spontaneous occasionally, you don’t want to do it so much that it winds up hurting your finances. Keep scrolling for six tips from Lathrop to help you keep this habit in check.
1. Establish a waiting period. If it’s not an essential — and it probably isn’t — pause before purchasing and establish an appropriate waiting period. Even an additional 48 hours can be enough time to help you be sure that the item you’re coveting is actually a must-buy. If you’re still thinking about the thing you want to buy at the end of that waiting period, you can feel more confident about the purchase knowing that you thought it through.
2. Account for impulse buys in your budget. When you know you’re prone to these kinds of purchases, you can make sure your habit doesn’t hurt you by taking it into account as part of your regular budgeting process. Allot funds for those impulse buys in advance so you won’t feel as panicked — or short on cash — when they happen.
3. Think about value. Before you pull out your credit card, consider how the item you’re thinking of buying aligns with your values. Does the price tag seem to match a current value that you’re consciously choosing to invest in? Make a note in your phone or keep a list of your top three values at any given time so you can remind yourself of where you’d really like to put your money when necessary.
4. Use the buddy system. Everything’s better with a buddy. Recruit a friend, family member, or significant other to be your accountability partner and check in with them every time you’re thinking of making an impulsive purchase.
5. Research, research, research. Use your waiting period to learn more about similar products. Do other brands make a better or less expensive version of the thing you’re thinking of buying? If you wait a few weeks, will you be able to find it on sale? How is it reviewed online? Comparison research is especially important if you’re considering a bigger-ticket item.
6. Picture how the item will actually work in your life. If the item in question is a piece of clothing, take the time to consider when you’ll wear it and if it will match other pieces in your wardrobe. If it’s something for your home, get clear on where you’ll put it… and make sure that you won’t need to buy something else in order to make it look good. Many impulse buys don’t actually have a clear purpose, so making an effort to visualize them as part of your life can help you avoid spending money on something that’s not going to be useful.
Are you guilty of impulse buying? How do you keep it in check? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photo via Getty)