Beat the urge to splurge
The urge to buy something on impulse can be strong for a lot of
reasons - it's a bargain, you deserve it, or just because it's
right there. However, impulse buying can become a problem if it
means you spend more than you earn. Here are our tips on how to
reduce your impulse buying so you can direct your money to the
things you really want.
What is impulse buying and why do we do it?
Impulse buying is the unplanned decision to buy a product or
service, made just before a purchase. Some people impulse buy when
they are in their lunch break or getting their groceries. Others
buy products when they are searching online or when they are
shopping with friends.
Sometimes people have a weakness for impulse buying certain
items, like the latest electronic gadgets, shoes or even chocolate.
Impulse buying may occur because of a fear of missing out (FOMO),
or people may find it hard to 'let go' of the idea of making a
purchase if they convince themselves it's what they need to do.
A poll of MoneySmart readers in August 2016 revealed that most
people impulse buy extras at the supermarket (38%) as well as
How retailers get us to impulse buy
Sometimes buying products on impulse can also be induced by the
clever marketing of retailers. Online retailers might know what you
like based on what you've searched for and bought before, and will
use this information to target their online ads to you. Similarly
in-store retailers place items at the ends of aisles so you will
grab them on the way past, without a second thought.
Case study: Leona changes her shopping habits
Leona was in the habit of buying something as soon
as she got paid, and often dipped into her savings to treat herself
at the shops. When Leona got an unexpected large phone bill, she
didn't have enough savings to cover it and had to sell some of her
purchases to pay the bill on time. After that, Leona made a
commitment not to shop on payday and switched to using cash,
instead of a card, so she could keep track of what she
How to reduce the urge to
Get a reality check on your spending habits by tracking your
spending over a month using our TrackMySPEND App
The trick to overcoming buying things on impulse is to think
about what you are going to buy, before you shop. Here are some
ways to combat your shopping urges.
Make a public or personal commitment to change
If you know when you are likely to impulse buy, for example on
payday, during your lunch break, or online in the evenings, commit
to taking steps to counteract these habits. It might mean you
decide not to spend money on payday, not to shop during your lunch
break, and limit your online purchases. Telling someone about this
or writing it down will make you more accountable and help you
stick to it.
Sleep on it before you buy and make a list
If you see something you want, wait at least a day before you
buy it. You might find that the urge is less the next day, or
you've identified something else you can put the money towards.
Always write a list of what you need before you go shopping,
and stick to it.
Use cash and leave your cards at home
Instead of using a credit card, withdraw the money and use cash.
It will be easier to keep track of what you are spending on those
little extras. If you have multiple cards, consider reducing the
number. See our page on how to pay off
multiple credit cards for tips.
Avoid shopping centres
If you're tempted to browse stores and pick up a bargain, try
going to a smaller shopping complex for things like groceries,
where there are less items to tempt you. If you go shopping
to relieve stress or to feel happy, try to swap it for something
else, like exercise. Instead of heading to the shops, go for a walk
or to the gym.
Lean on friends
Phone a friend to take your mind off the urge to go shopping. If
you have a friend who isn't a big shopper, consider taking this
person with you to the shops so that they can help you to limit
your purchases to only the things that you need.
Do a budget
Planning to curb impulse buying starts with your budget, because
you don't want to spend money that was meant for a bill.
Work out what you have left after you've paid your vital
expenses like rent, food and bills.
Once you know how much you have left, think about your goals -
what do you want in the long term? Is there anything you need to
save up for? Factor that into your plan too. Then look at what you
have left, so you know what you can spend on extras. Constantly
remind yourself why you are trying to change your habits and keep
an eye on your bigger savings goals.
Reward yourself for free
If buying something on impulse is a way of treating yourself
'because you deserve it', come up with ideas on how else you can do
it that doesn't cost money. This may include things like a long hot
bath and home facial, visiting your local free museum or art
gallery, having a picnic in the park, a movie marathon at home,
taking time out to play a board game or computer game, reading your
favourite book, trying a new recipe, or allowing yourself to sleep
Learning to reduce impulse buying will
help you to live within your means, have money for emergencies and
to save money so you can realise your long-term
Last updated: 30 Jan 2017