Impulse spending used to require taking a trip to the store. But these days, it’s not just display windows or the Target dollar section that have us opening our wallets to buy items we never knew we needed—it’s also ads on Instagram, emails from retailers and the lure of Amazon.
Impulse spending every once and a while might not hurt your budget, but over time, the habit can become expensive. Here are a few tips to help keep impulse spending in check.
1. Sleep on it before you buy.
If you’re prone to late-night scrolling, you might also be in the habit of late-night spending. Instead of following your whim any time you want to make a purchase, follow a simple rule: Wait until the next day. A little bit of time and space can help you think more clearly if the item is a want or a need.
2. Create barriers to online ordering.
If your credit card information is saved on all your favorite store websites and your phone is full of shopping apps, it can be easy to make mindless purchases. Make it more challenging to shop online by deleting your saved payment info and shopping apps.
When you need to take extra steps to complete a purchase, you’re more likely to pause and consider whether you really need something or if it’s just an impulse buy.
You can also try limiting discretionary purchases to cash-only: Research shows that people spend less when they pay with cash.
3. Get strategic with your shopping.
Another way to tame a wandering eye while shopping online is to search for the specific item you need instead of browsing by category; this can help you avoid the temptation of online window shopping. One study found that shoppers who browse by category instead of searching for a specific item are more likely to get derailed and spend more.
When you head to an in-person store, stick to a list—don’t add any items to the cart unless they’re already on the list.
4. Watch for signs of compulsive spending.
Many people indulge in the occasional impulse purchase without experiencing any lasting harm. But if your spending feels out of control and causes issues in your life, you could be struggling with compulsive buying behavior. A mental health professional can help get to the root of your spending habits and develop strategies and coping mechanisms to work through urges to shop.
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