Let’s admit it, impulse buying is kind of fun in the moment, but that spontaneity can drown you. Impulse buying is the biggest enemy to frugality, simplicity and a working budget. It can also be incredibly difficult to stop once you get into that viscous cycle or if retail therapy is how you get by during your difficult days.
If impulse buying has been a struggle of yours and has been undermining your efforts to stick to your budget, save and invest, here are 6 simple strategies to help you beat the urge.
1. Practice the 30- Day Rule
The 30-day purchasing rule works perfectly if you stick to it and it is quite simple. You cannot buy anything you see on sale or anything you find interesting until a 30-day period has passed. This, of course, is in exception of necessities. Have a wish list of those things either on your phone or refrigerator. After the one month period has lapsed, and you still feel the need to get it, you can buy the item. Now, most times, the urge will have already passed and you can just cross out the item from your wish list.
2. Plan Your Purchases
For most of us, planning for big purchases such as cars, a house or vacation is quite the norm. Where this begins to break down for many people is when the purchases are much smaller. Phones, clothes, shoes, books and other items we consider small may never be planned for in our budgets but they for sure are hemorrhaging large amounts from our wallets every day.
Planning for small purchases is simple budgeting at its finest. It allows you to buy the stuff you really like and to enjoy the luxuries you desire, without being destructively chaotic with your finances. This is done through the use of sinking funds which are savings accounts where you save up for non-monthly expenditures and short-term projects. To save for your sinking funds, you calculate the total amount you need and divide by the number of days or months left to save up for that particular purchase. You then save up those amounts until you reach your goal; then you can make the purchase. Make it a habit to plan, save and even shop around to see if you can get these things much affordably.
Making a list before you go shopping is also paramount in beating impulse buying tendencies. If you make it a habit to stick to the list, you eliminate buying things you had not planned for, hence did not have money for. Going through this process will ensure that most, if not all, of your purchases are more deliberate, and less on impulse.
3. Avoid Going to Malls and Signing Up for Vendor Email Lists
Walking around in shopping malls or retail centers without having something specific you went there to look for, is a sure way to end up impulse spending. And while you are at it, stop going shopping when you are hungry. And yes, I mean food-hungry. Walking around hungry causes you to end up spending money you had not planned for because you need to eat and all that yummy stuff is being dangled on your face at every corner.
Beware of signing up to too many email lists as well. I don’t know if it is just me, but during this pandemic, my emails have been full of sale emails and offers, some of which, I did not even sign up for. If you are not careful, the marketing psychology used by vendors will have you broke and living paycheck to paycheck all your life. Most times, in retrospect, you will find that you didn’t even need the thing in the first place and it wasn’t all that cheap anyways.
4. Ditch the Credit Cards
Most people really don’t need one, I promise you. We live in a culture that worships credit scores and to be honest, this is just a system invented by banks to make you think you need a high score in order to buy anything and that’s simply, not true. It is possible to live a debt free life. It is possible to buy things in cash. Of course it will take you much longer to acquire some things but it will save you a life of judging your financial success off of money that is not yours and being a slave to monthly repayments.
Here’s a quick tip: If you cannot ditch your credit card completely, put it in a ziploc bag with water and literally freeze it in your freezer. Every time you want to use it to make a purchase, you will have to wait some hours to unfreeze it. That wait can be enough to stop you from making that unnecessary purchase. Thank me later, okay?
5. Do not Shop when you are Emotional
Our finances are so personal and so it makes total sense that when something personal is going on with us, our finances take a hit too because our money habits align to how emotionally balanced or imbalanced we are. Emotions play a big part in what we buy, why we buy it and when we buy it. And marketers know this and this is why their sneaky ads sometimes hit a nerve and you end up buying. Don’t let your emotions control your spending habits! Don’t buy anything when your emotions are riding a roller coaster.
6. Keep the End Goal in Mind
What does financial freedom mean to you? Is it about flexing or is it about having the power and the freedom to choose the kind of life you want to live without financial limitations? The goal is not just to look wealthy but to actually be wealthy.
It is very important to have clear goals in mind at all times. What do you want to do with your life and do you have financial goals that you are trying to accomplish? How will this impulse purchase affect your goals? Are you sacrificing long term financial freedom for a pair of shoes you don’t need or that make-up kit that you don’t even use?
Here is the real deal though: every action you take with your money, no matter how small, is worthy of a bit of thought, either in the moment, beforehand or afterwards.