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What is Impulsive Buying ? Definition Of Impulse Spending

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

“It was satisfying, at least in the moment!”

That’s what she said. But the truth is we all have been there and found it difficult to fight the urge to buy something we didn’t really need. From supermarkets and retail outlets to online stores, chances are you have caved to impulses too, even if it was merely for some instant gratification.

In fact, research shows that Americans impulsively spend $183 on average every month. This means impulse buying behaviour is leeching on our budget constantly until it takes away a good chunk of $2,196 every year. And that too for things that we could totally do without.

While most of us are aware of the adverse effects of impulse buying on our monthly budget, the forces of marketing can sometimes be too powerful to overcome. But that does not mean it is impossible to manage impulse buying behaviour.

You might have the urge to swipe your card at an instant of wanting something so badly. It can also sometimes become what we call addiction to swipe cards instead of focusing on the purchased item. Whether it is useful or not, just the moment of swiping card alone can give an individual sense of satisfaction.

The nature of impulse buying is such that you will eventually be left with greater regret than satisfaction as going above and beyond budget has never made lives better. Rather, it brings in more complications and concerns as days pass by and you are left with only handful amount to pay for your bills, fees, rent, groceries, etc.

If impulse buying has been undermining your financial goals for too long, we know exactly how to curb it right off the bat.

Here’s everything you need to know about impulse buying and how to how to stop impulse buying!

What Is Impulse Buying?

Impulse buying is an unplanned purchase decision to buy something that gives you instant gratification. Often times they are things that you don’t even need but it just feels great to buy them. This phenomenon is especially interesting as it is not only prompted by intrinsic motivation but also by external stimuli. The cause of impulse buying could be to keep up with a trend, the marketing appeal, or simply because you liked it on somebody else. Read more here.

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With credit cards and online shopping, the buyer today has much more power to make an impulse purchase without any inconvenience. And often it doesn’t even bother too much in the moment as with a credit card you will be paying for it later.

But the truth is even when buying something is fun in the moment, it can add up to an already stressful burden of debt. Even worse it can keep you farther away from your financial goals and dreams. Whether it is as small as buying a candy bar in the checkout line or an expensive pair of shoes that are not in your shopping list, it is all impulse buying. If it wasn’t planned before you started shopping, it is going to affect your budget and goals in the long run.

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Let’s look at an example:

Sheila, a sole bread-earner of a family of 3, earns $560 per month. Her salary typically gets fractioned into the rent of $180 in rent, $50 in bills and the rest adds up to other weekly expenses, such as commuting, grocery shopping and going out.

One month, Sheila decides to go to the mall and buy a pair of clothing for herself with a budget of $100 in her hand. However, the bright and shimmery offers and discounts made her make a purchase of 3 pairs of clothing along with some beautiful accessories, of course, matching footwear and a handbag because the store lady made her believe it looked good on her.

With a total of $230, Sheila happily walked off the store and got excited to show it off at the office and on her social media accounts. Impulse buying hits only after you have performed the task of impulsively spending money. It is the guilty pleasure that subconsciously stays in your mind yet makes you act differently.

No doubt, Sheila is a hard-working woman and deserves to pamper herself every now and then. However, going off-beat and shopping way past the budget will only lead to shortage of money in the coming days. Sheila would have to now compromise on food, travel and other needs that were met otherwise.

This act of impulse buying further puts you in the spot of budget constraints and causing roadblocks for the rest of the month.

How to Stop Impulse Buying ?

Impulse buying might be nothing more than a financial pinch in our monthly budget. But in the long run the effect of impulsive spending can even make you end up retiring poor. The good news is there are some proven ways to keep it at bay. Read on and find out!

how to avoid impulse buying : Shop with a List

The first golden rule on how to stop impulse buying is to always shop with a list. Whether you have gone to a bricks and mortar store for groceries or you are shopping online for holiday gifts, always do it with a list.

Chances are you will always find something that you feel a sudden urge to buy but challenge yourself to stick to your list. Using a list will not only keep you focused, but it will keep the eye candy items out of your way.

Your mind will automatically try to find all the items mentioned on the checklist rather than pondering around clueless and buying the first thing you lay your eyes on.

Sticking to the list will help overcome the urge of wanting to spend impulsively on items and service you do not really require. These items are easy to forget upon purchase as they were meant to attract you at instant and only until you manage to bring them home.

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how to stop impulse spending : Ask Three Questions

Every time you feel a sudden dopamine rush for buying something, ask yourself the following three important questions:

  • Do I really need this item?

  • Is there any value that this product will bring into my life?

  • Is the price I’m going to pay worth the value of this product?

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These above questions are great for giving you an instant reality check. And they put your intentions and the effects of the impulse buying into the equation.

“Do I really need this item?” – This question will make you want to pause and think twice before making a purchase. You will be found in a position of debating the pros and cons concerning the particular product. If the answer still seems yes after reasonable explanations, then it shall not be termed as impulse buying.

“Is there any value that this product will bring into my life?” – Defining boundaries of needs and demands. This question will simply put the purchase to be made in the column of either need or demand. That way, you will know what kind of value is the product adding to your life, or is it even?

“Is the price I’m going to pay worth the value of this product?” – More often people regret purchasing an item at a much higher price than others. A dress from store costing $70 may end up dropping down to $50 next week as fashion keeps changing every and then. It could be purchased at a better price on the brand’s official online store.

Buying from official websites will help you receive quality products unlike redistributors that do not guarantee accountability.

If the answers to the above questions is no, it’s time to empty your cart and go back to your shopping list.

Set a Mandatory Waiting Period

A good rule of thumb to keep impulsive spending in check is to establish a mandatory waiting period for such purchases. Usually this could be a week or more. During this time wait out to rethink your purchase decision and to revisit your budget to make room for the purchase.

More often than not the urge to buy that item goes away in the cooling-off period. Even if you do go back to the store to buy it, upon seeing the item again you feel you don’t really need so you’ll pass. You can follow the 48-hour rule that clearly defines a 2 days waiting time from the moment you wish to make a purchase.

If you still feel the need to buy that product or take that service, you can go ahead. These 48 hours will help cool down your urge and also allow you think differently. Normally, the human reaction is lured with external behaviour and hence, marketing agencies spend hefty on coming forward with attractive campaigns and attention tactics.

Impulse Buyers Plan Your Splurges

While learning how to resist impulse buying, you may encounter a persistent impulse buying behaviour which could be another story. In fact, stopping it altogether might be pointless. That said a better way to manage it is to make room for small impulse purchases every month or two.

As long as you will plan for an inexpensive impulse purchase every month or at least once a quarter, you can prevent binge spending. So set aside a small amount in your budgeting app as an impulse fund to give you some wiggle room and mindful indulgence.

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Keeping a track record of the transactions you incur monthly will help you think and plan better for the future. If you maintain a record of your daily, weekly and monthly expenses, you will be in a position to easily mark red zones and green zones.

Red zones would mainly include expenses purchases that you could have easily avoided. Going to the spa on a sunny day, buying new furniture, expensive bags, last-minute country-side trip, etc.

Green zones will include products and services that are unavoidable at any costs. Grocery shopping, necessary products, skincare routines, commute expenses, fees, rent, home supplies, etc.

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Remove Saved Cards from Apps

Debit / Credit cards saved information, e-wallets, net-banking transfers can turn into your biggest enemies when it comes to saving a good chunk of income. The first step to cutting down on beyond-the-list expense would be to uninstall applications that tempt and lure you with offers, discounts and sales. Shopping, grocery, coupon, appliances and more such applications constantly are competing against each other for your attention.

To get this attention, applications will plan on customized target marketing. Sending mails according to what is in your cart, offering additional 10% discount and a promo code for you to complete the transaction, and more such tricks to bring you back to the app.

If, for some reason, you cannot uninstall the application, you can at least remove all the saved cards information from your mobile phone. Make it as difficult as you can to pay online. Not saving cards means you will have to input all the information one by one yourself. There is a possibility that you would just skip the step instead of having to drag yourself to your card desk.

Bottom Line

Impulse buying behaviour can be a vicious cycle that can be hard to break. You go into a store, make an impulse purchase, feel the instant excitement from it, never use it again and feel guilty every time you see it in your home. You might pledge not to impulse buy anything again, but you back to shop and you guessed it right; you are back in the cycle.

So, it goes without saying that the only way to fight an impulse is to do the opposite; wait. Put some time between the impulse and the action. Once you give yourself the time to think about your goals and budget, and reconsider your purchase, resisting the urge becomes much easier.

Lastly and most importantly, if you want a smart way to tackle your impulsive spending tendencies and have a better control of your money for good, download the Doctor Money app today. Use it up, wear it out, and make it do, or go without!

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