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How-Tuesday: How to Prevent Impulse Buying

You've created an incredibly thorough budget. You're making all the smart moves, like couponing, eating at home, and even making your own cleaning products to save money. Yet, there's one pesky habit that, within mere minutes, derails all of your hard work week after week: impulse buying.

Curb Impulse Spending | Image source: / Photographer: zhu difeng

Here are ten tips to help put the brakes on that impulsive purchase that leaves you feeling broke... and guilty.

1. Make a List and Stick to It

Nothing will help keep you more focused than going in with a list. Heading to the store with a few things in mind can be dangerous, since it often leads to tossing in totally unnecessary purchases along the way. Take the time to craft a detailed list - whether you gradually add to it throughout the week and take a regular Sunday shopping trip, or take 20 minutes to do a walk-through and determine what staples you need to purchase before heading out the door - then stick to it.

2. Think it Over

We've talked before about taking a time out before making a purchase. Experts recommend two tricks. The first is to hold the item you've picked up, but might not need, in your hand for ten seconds before putting it in the cart. While holding it, ask yourself why you picked up the item, if you actually need the item, and what you could do with the money you'd save by not getting the item. Based on your answers, you'll have a better idea of whether or not to purchase it. The second method is to step away from the item (maybe even snap a photo) and wait a month. If your'e still hung up on thinking about it 30 days later, it's probably worth spending the money.

3. Shop with Cash

Studies show that those who shop with a credit card spend 12-18% more than those who shop with cash. Having a precise amount to work with really causes you to question every single item in your basket and keep track of your spending along the way. Heading to the grocery? Set a specific budget, withdraw that amount in cash, and leave your cards at home.

4. Shop Alone

Shopping with kids, your significant other, or a group of friends can increase your likelihood of impulse buys in order to please them or "keep up with the Joneses." A solo shipping trip will ensure that you're in a calmer, more focused state of mind.

5. Don't Shop While Tired or Hungry

We've all been there. A growling tummy can easily coax you into tossing food you don't even normally eat into your basket because it sounds appetizing. Hunger and fatigue can throw off our judgement as we try to rush through the store and get home. Make sure you're well-rested and full before you make a shopping trip.

6. Steer Clear of Stores When Emotional

Much like when we're tired or hungry, our emotions can wreak havoc on our shopping bill. It's common to want to fill the void that stress, anger, or sadness is causing us with some kind of material fix rather than a mental one, and retail therapy is often the answer. Even extreme happiness may be a culprit (celebration shopping, anyone?) Instead of rushing to your favorite shop when your emotions are running high, try diving into one of your hobbies, exercising, taking nap, or calling a friend to vent instead.

7. Budget for Splurges

No matter how much we work to avoid impulse buys, now and again, we just won't be able to say no. And that's okay - occasionally. So, make sure you budget for them ahead of time. Allow yourself a certain (reasonable) amount of money each week or month and set up a separate savings account, or withdraw that set amount in cash, and dedicate it solely to your "impulse buy fund."

8. Don't Shop as Entertainment

Shopping should never, ever be a go-to way of passing the time. Not even window shopping. If you've got easy access to shopping centers, it can be easy to pop in on a lazy evening or on  your lunch break, but perusing the aisles of a store out of boredom makes us much more vulnerable to impulse buying. Take up a hobby, always keep a book nearby, or stay productive by crossing tasks off of your daily and weekly to-do lists instead. You'll feel way more fulfilled. We promise.

9. Don't Buy Anything You Can't Return

You may feel better about an impulse purchase if the item was on-sale or in the clearance section, but often these items cannot be returned should you decide it wasn't such a great idea once you get home. Ask the store about their return policy before you check out and if you won't be able to get a refund later, then put it back and walk away.

10. Seek Professional Help

Sometimes impulse shopping and buying is the result of something much deeper and takes more than a few words of advice to manage. If unnecessary purchases are causing major financial issues and feelings of guilt in your life, and you're struggling to get them under control, reach out to a professional who can help you get back on track.

For even more tips on curbing impulse buys, check out this MoneyTalks article.

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