3 Tricks to Avoid Impulse Purchases

by Maurie Backman | Sept. 14, 2019

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It's easy to fall victim to unplanned buys. Here's how to break that habit.

We all waste money on things. For some of us, it's store-bought coffee we could easily prepare at home for pennies. For others, it's restaurant meals and rideshares. But in a recent study by The Ascent, 42% of respondents said that their wasteful spending comes in the form of impulse buys. 

Of course, falling victim to unplanned purchases is common in this day and age. Marketers are adept at enticing consumers to spend money on things they never thought they needed, whether by running sales at intervals throughout the year or by setting up attractive displays that shoppers can't help but notice. 

And it's not just physical stores where impulse purchases are a problem. It's easy to overspend when shopping online, too. Especially when ads pop up all over the place to let you know about the magical new products and services you must try. 

Three smiling young women holding shopping bags.

Image source: Getty Images

While it's not difficult to understand why so many people make impulse buys, the fact of the matter is that they're bad for our finances. Spend too much money on unplanned purchases, and you could easily wind up with an unhealthy load of credit card debt on your hands. 

The solution? Aim to avoid impulse buys at all costs. These tricks will help you do just that.

1. Shop only with cash

You can't overspend if you don't actually have the money on hand to do so. If you can't trust yourself to avoid impulse purchases, make shopping lists in advance before hitting stores, figure out what the items you need will cost, and bring just enough cash to cover those purchases.

Leave your credit cards at home so you're not tempted to whip them out on a whim. The same holds true for your debit card -- take the option to buy extra things off the table. 

2. Don't window shop for fun

It's easy to tell yourself you're going to walk around your favorite store on your lunch hour to snag a break from the office or that you'll pop into a store and browse to kill time while waiting to meet up with friends. But the more you put yourself in a shopping environment, the more likely you are to overspend on something needless.

Instead, stay out of stores unless there's something specific you have to purchase and find other ways to occupy your downtime. Walk through a park on your lunch break or read a book while waiting for company.

3. Employ the 24-hour rule

When we see new things we want, our brains send off warning signals saying, "Buy this now, before it's too late." That's why we buy things we don't need. But if you take that urgency out of the equation, you'll often find that you really don't want or need the item in question. That's why the 24-hour rule is so helpful.

The next time you're tempted to make an unplanned purchase, force yourself to wait a full 24 hours before completing it. If, after that time, you're still convinced you want or need the item, buy it (assuming you can afford it). Much of the time, you'll realize during that window that the item in question isn't all that important to you.

The fewer impulse buys you make, the easier it is to build or maintain savings and stay out of debt. If you have a tendency to make unplanned purchases, employ these tips to avoid overspending. It may be difficult at first, but you'll be happier for it in the long run.

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