A shiny new kitchen appliance, a pair of shoes that you don’t really need, and a magazine that promises to help you lose 15 pounds in just two days—impulse buys run the gamut from pricey to cheap. What they share in common is that they usually aren’t things you need and that they add up—to more than $4 billion per year in North America, according to USA Weekend. If your impulse buying habits have gotten out of control, or you’re struggling to get out of debt, there are ways to curb the urge to buy and to purchase only what you need.
Use a List
A list can be your best friend, whether you are out shopping or purchasing items online. Before you go anywhere near a store, make a list of the things you need. You’re not limited to using a list only when grocery shopping. It can come in handy when you’re buying clothes, back-to-school supplies, or holiday gifts. Commit to only purchasing what’s on the list.
If something that’s not on your list catches your eye, make note of it, but don’t buy it. You can always come back later if you have room left in your shopping budget to purchase it. Often, giving yourself some space before buying will help you see that you don’t actually even want the item.
Time Your Shopping
When it comes to shopping and curbing your impulse buying habits, it really is all in the timing. Plenty of people have gone to the grocery store hungry, for example, only to leave with a strange assortment of foods they might never prepare and had no intention of buying. Along with not shopping hungry, it’s a good idea to try only to shop when you’re relaxed and have a clear head. Trying to finish all of your holiday shopping in the few hours you have between work and picking up the kids from band practice can lead you to make quick decisions or to purchase things you weren’t planning to buy.
Although you do want to think carefully about everything you buy, the less time you spend wandering the aisles of a store, the better it is for your wallet. Sticking to a list and committing to getting in and out of a store in 30 or 15 minutes, or less, will help you avoid buying things you never knew you wanted.
Leave Your Cards Behind
One reliable way to get your impulse buys under control is to only use cash when shopping. If you go into a store with a set amount of cash and no credit card, you can only purchase up to the amount of cash you have. Along with limiting the amount you can spend, paying with cash also allows you to remain connected to your money. Handing over cash hurts, while swiping a credit card tends to be a mindless, pain-free act.
Go It Alone
Sometimes, going to the store with a friend, family member, or child can lead to overspending and impulse buys. Your child might beg you for the sugary cereal, or your friend might convince you that those shoes are a must-have. If you can, try to do your shopping on your own, so that you don’t have outside voices encouraging or begging you to buy.
Going cold turkey from impulse buys can be tough. To make it easier, you can allow yourself one special treat per week. Set a price limit for the impulse purchase so that you don’t go over budget.
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