Impulse buying is both bank account draining and gets in the way of any financial goals you have. Here at Pretty Penny, I believe that every penny saved is worth just as much as every penny earned so each and every one of my purchases is considered very carefully. If it’s going to get in the way of my race to £500k then there would need to be a really good case to go ahead with it! I have managed to eliminate impulse buying with one simple rule. See if it will work for you too. But first…
What is impulse buying?
Simply an impulse buy is a purchase that you didn’t plan to make. A decision made in the spur of the moment to buy something you wouldn’t have expected to buy.
It could be a special offer on a product you like. A sale item. The latest video game. It doesn’t matter what it is, but the point is, it’s a purchase that you hadn’t planned to make.
Why is impulse buying so bad?
As I have said, the very nature of an impulse buy is that it’s an expense you didn’t plan to make. This means that the money spent on this particular thing was probably going to be put to use somewhere else. That might have been towards something very important like a mortage or rent payment, food or utility bills, or something seemingly less critical like a “rainy day” account. If impulse buying gets out of control then not only is this going to hit your wallet pretty hard, but it’s going to prevent you from developing good financial practices going forward.
Why do we impulse buy?
Fear of missing out
The latest hotness has dropped. The newest video game. A special food item you didn’t know was even available… you have to have it. Or at least, that’s what you tell yourself. Perhaps your friends bought it and you want to experience it for yourself or you read a very good review. Our fears of missing out (FOMO) are strong feelings and those are hard to choke down.
We might have had enjoyed a previous incarnation of a particular item. Now, seeing a new/improved version we are already invested in what’s in front of us. We remember how it made us feel and we want that hit all over again.
Think we are getting a great deal
Often we can be shopping for something intentionally and see something on special offer. We don’t need it, but it seems like a product on offer is something we should take advantage of. Although the price might be good and the saving is real, we end up handing over more money for things we don’t need. Things don’t have to be expensive or put us badly out of pocket to be a problem. In fact, it’s often the opposite, where a series of small impulse buys for add-ons or special deals on things we don’t need really add up.
We all love buying things for ourselves. Who doesn’t? And we sometimes draw extra pleasure by throwing caution to the wind and just going for it! Impulse buys really fuel that “feel good” sensation of getting something unexpected.
One rule to end impulse buys
I present… the “3 Week Rule“!
It’s not complicated nor particularly ground-breaking but I’ve been living by this for years when it comes to buying stuff that isn’t a need. If I want something, I wait 3 weeks. If I still want it then I buy it.
That’s all there is to it. Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones.
Three weeks give me time to
- Consider the product I was tempted to buy on impulse away from the smart marketing in store or online
- Have a think about what I would have to do without in order to get it
- Consider what value it will really add to my life. Is it really worthwhile to future me?
- Shop around and see if there is a similar product available cheaper elsewhere
- Weigh up any ongoing costs associated with the item. For example, a new video game might need a recurring subscription service to play it. Or a something mechanical might need ongoing maintenance.
- Think about if it will discounted at another time of year. Maybe there are patterns to this kind of product and it’s worth waiting just a little while longer.
This rule doesn’t apply to needs. I only apply it to things I want.
Food, medicines, warm clothes for winter, etc are needs. I can’t do without those. But I can do without a new hoodie that’s on offer when I already have three perfectly good ones at home. That’s not to say that I can’t shop the sales and put stuff away for when I need them… but that’s a planned purchase. Again, this is all about things you buy on impulse.
If, after all this time and consideration I find I still want it, then it’s probably going to be something good for me and I’ll look at buying it. If it was a time-bound promotion or offer and it’s now gone, well that’s too bad, but the upside is that the money I would have spent is now safely being used for something that might have been more worthwhile in the first place.
Remember this all stemmed from a potential impulse buy! It wasn’t on my shopping radar to begin with, so I haven’t really lost out. It might be something I would like to plan for going forward and if that’s the case then I can accommodate it properly and remove the impulse part altogether.
That’s it. One rule. 3 weeks!
There are lots of other ways to avoid impulse buys such as not putting yourself in the position where you might make one. Avoid big sales at difficult times. Marketing departments spend lots of money to get us to spend so don’t go shopping when you are most vulnerable.
If you have any other suggestions on how to avoid impulse buys, leave a comment and tell me your best strategies! Feel free to share this article on social media and get the conversation started with those around you.