Each week we ask a question to help you focus on an area of your finances that might need a closer look. This week: How can I stop impulse buying?
Ouch. If you’re anything like me, the ‘new year sales’ have hit pretty hard this year. Which was particularly a blow after also doing a few rounds in the ‘Boxing Day sales‘ and the ‘Black Friday sales‘. Sure, I grabbed a few good bargains on things I need. But I also found myself at a loss as to how I could stop impulse buying along the way. There were just so many great deals out there that were too good to refuse. And so many, many shiny things.
Landing a bargain can be great for your budget, or it can be a wrecking ball. After all, it’s only a bargain if you would have bought it anyway – no bells, whistles or reduced price needed. You had a genuine hole that you managed to fill for less money.
What’s not a bargain is being unable to stop spending just because things are reduced in price. It’s not a ‘great deal’ if you find yourself buying a TV for half-price if you have a perfectly decent TV at home already. It never makes good money sense to buy things just because they’re cheap. Cheap still means you’re spending money on something you don’t need.
Like I said, ouch.
Here are 7 strategies to stop impulse buying and get your finances back on track. After all, every dollar you don’t spend is another dollar towards your financial goals.
1. Know your values and your goals
It may seem odd to start a ‘how to stop impulse buying’ list with a deep psychological evaluation, but it’s key. Unless you are completely down with what is most important in life, you’ll find it hard to channel both your energy and your money into the right place. So, get to know yourself and what you hold most dear first, then set some goals. Write them down.
Here are some thought-starters:
- 5 steps to align your values and your spending habits
- Knowing your values can help you manage your money
- Money goals: How to set your financial goals
2. Know your needs
Do you really know what you need to spend your money on? Simply noticing a gap in your everyday life isn’t enough. Gaps can be filled in all kinds of ways – some more expensive than others.
Before you decide its something you need to buy, ask yourself these questions:
- Why do you need it?
- Do you already have an item just like it?
- Can you substitute something you already own?
- Could you repair something you already own?
- Can you borrow the item from a friend?
- How about renting the item instead?
- Will you use it long-term?
- Could you buy it second-hand?
3. The 48-hour rule
While establishing your needs versus your wants is the starting point for getting you to stop impulse buying, you still need a few rules to halt it in its tracks. The first is the 48-hour rule:
Anything you want to buy, you have to wait 48 hours between the want and the actual purchase.
Often this is all you need to curb your spending. What was irresistible on Monday can often be forgotten by Wednesday. And kick FOMO to the kerb while you’re at it: there will always, always be another sale.
4. Step away from temptation
Hey there, yes you: if you don’t want to spend money, what are you doing at the shops? Or scrolling through online stores? Just stop being where stuff to spend your money on hangs out.
These strategies can help:
- Do your grocery shopping at a standalone supermarket – no need to be in a giant shopping centre just to pick up some milk.
- Unsubscribe from store newsletters – they’ll reel you in with their clever clickbait.
- Don’t shop alone – if you have to shop for something you need, take a friend to help keep you honest.
- Pay for things using ‘real’ money – thanks to the pandemic, it’s getting harder and harder to shop with actual cash. Which is entirely the point.
- Start practising gratitude for the things you have, rather than longing for the things you don’t have.
5. Try a no-spend challenge
Commit to spending nothing for a week or a month. Instead, keep a ledger of the money you would have spent each time you’re tempted. You might be very surprised how long that list grows at the challenge progresses. Or maybe you won’t – you’re here to stop impulse buying habits, after all!
Seeing the amount add up can be all the motivation you need to keep the no-spend challenge going beyond your committed timeframe. Especially when you realise that you also don’t miss a single thing you would have bought anyway.
6. Allocate some mad money
If you’ve tried everything but you still can’t seem to stop spending, it might be wiser to go with it rather than fight it. Add some ‘mad money’ into your budget that you’re free to spend on whatever you like. If that’s another white tee to add to the 12 white tees you already own, so be it. Mad money should never be guilty money.
7. Give your credit card to your mum
If you find you’re still spending even with these strategies in place, it’s time to hand your credit card over to your mum. Guaranteed she won’t let you back down on the promise you’ve set for yourself.
Find the rest of our Money Focus series here.