The Curse of the Impulse Buyer

An impulse buyer can have more of an impact on your financial situation than you may realize.  Often, you don't even recognize yourself as an impulse buyer - or if you do, you don't realize how bad it is.


Ask yourself these simple questions:

·      Does anyone complain about how much money you are spending?
·      Does the balance on your credit card surprise you at the end of the month?
·      Do you have more clothes, shoes, jackets, etc. than you can possibly wear?
·      Do you have all the latest gadgets as soon as they are released?
·      Do you buy things you "didn't even know you wanted" until you saw it in the store?

If you answered "yes" then you may be (probably are) an impulse buyer.


The effects of impulse buying are varied but in the end someone will suffer.

If you are single and unattached then the only thing suffering is your bank account.  However, if you have a family or significant other then your uncontrolled spending will also affect them by limiting what you can afford to buy or do as a family.


The good news is once you recognize your impulse buying habit; you can take steps to control it.

1.     Only go shopping when you actually need something.  Don't wander aimlessly through the stores this actually promotes impulse purchases.  Go only to the store you need and pick up only the items you came for - then leave, fast.
2.     Carry cash.  If you can't seem to stay out of the stores then carry cash.  Leave the credit cards at home and just carry a minimal amount of cash.  Plan ahead for your purchases and bring just enough money for the item you're planning on buying.
3.     Make a list.  Write down what you are planning to buy when you go to the store and then follow your list.
4.     Give yourself some buffer time between seeing an item you want and the actual purchasing of the item. If you spot something not on your list then tell yourself you have to wait until it is on a list before you can buy it.  When you get home put it on a list if you still think you need it.
5.     Wait two weeks.  For the bigger items (set a dollar limit, say $50) make yourself wait two weeks before going back to buy it.  That should be enough time to decide if you really need it or not.

Don't be too hard on the impulse buyer - whether it's yourself or someone else.  As consumers we are buffeted 24/7 by advertising blitzes and some of those advertisements can be pretty convincing.

Recognize impulse buying as a problem and take steps to limit it. My previous article: Frivolous Spending, will help with this. It might also help to set a financial goal to feed your "impulse" money to instead of random products - like a down payment on a house, new car, vacation, education, etc.

Retail therapy - the act of buying something in the hopes it will make you feel better - is not something you want to indulge yourself in for very long.  Follow the five steps listed above and get control of your spending. 

Your financial future will thank you.