We live in a society driven by the desire for instant gratification. You need only look at the rapid growth of online retailing to see this is true. One of the key pillars of that business model is fast and free delivery. In fact, it’s just a matter of time until someone clicks “buy now” and their doorbell rings the instant payment goes through.
Marketers are aware of consumer impatience and do everything possible to incite it — then satisfy it. This is why avoiding impulse buying is so important to protecting your personal finances. Contemporary marketing practices make it all too easy to succumb to those impulses, often to the detriment of your bank account.
With that in mind, here’s what you can do.
1. Craft a Spending Plan and Stick to It
Note we used the term “spending plan” rather than budget. The fact is you do have to spend money to live. Planning your spending is far more effective than trying to avoid it. Give every dollar a purpose — covering your living expenses, saving for emergencies, preparing for retirement, eliminating debt, and, yes, some non-essential purchases.
Allow yourself 10 percent of the dollars in your spending plan to indulge yourself, whether it’s entertainment, vacationing, “toys,” guilt-free shopping or whatever. Giving yourself this wiggle room will make it easier to adhere to your plan.
2. Institute a Cooling-Off Period
Set the purchase decision aside for 24 hours if you’re hit with a sudden desire to buy something. In other words, take some time to sleep on it to see if it’s really a thing or just an impulse.
In most cases, impulses will fade when given time to subside, saving you the expense of buying something just because having it will feel good.
3. Plan Your Shopping Trips
Going out to buy anything without a clear set of parameters within which to do so is a recipe for overspending. This is just as true if you’re shopping for clothes or a car as it is if you’re grocery shopping or buying a home.
Further, going shopping while hungry guarantees impulse buying will creep into the excursion. Plan your shopping trips in advance and eat before you go. Knowing why you’re going and what you’re looking for will help you stay focused on your primary purpose.
4. Consider the Amount of Your Time Something Costs
Let’s say your job pays $25 an hour. You’re hit with a sudden impulse to buy a suit that costs $2,000. Is that suit, or more importantly, is the value you’ll derive from owning that suit worth 80 hours of your life?
That’s what it’ll really cost you to get it.
Looking at purchases in this manner makes succumbing to impulse buying far less likely. Time is life. When we exchange time for money; we’re giving up part of our lives to get it.
Further, when we use credit to make such purchases, we’re mortgaging our future as well as giving up some of our past. Even worse, this type of debt has the potential to get out of hand rather quickly. If you’re already there, a debt settlement program like Freedom Debt Relief or another debt elimination strategy can often help you find your way back.
5. Find Alternative Ways to Use Idle Time
Many of us shop because we’re bored. Whiling away idle time on shopping sites, or window-shopping in malls, is a good way to trigger an impulse to buy. Read a book instead. Go on a hike. Write letters to friends and loved ones.
Doing these things, rather than shopping for entertainment, will help you keep more of your hard-earned money where it belongs — invested in the long-term enjoyment of your life. Plus, it will improve your intellect, your health and the nature of your personal relationships.
These are just five ways to go about avoiding impulse buying. A lot of articles with a lot of good advice on the subject have been written. This is but one of them. However, the tips here will absolutely get you started in the right direction.