Here's How You Can Embrace Impulse Buys -- Without Wrecking Your Finances

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  • It's often unplanned purchases that make us happiest in our daily lives.
  • If you're able to meet your savings goals while continuing to make impulse purchases, then there's really no reason to stop.
  • Automating your savings contributions will keep you on track toward your financial goals, despite the occasional impulse buy.

I pride myself on being a pretty frugal person. I don't have a particularly lavish home, I drive an older car, and I generally don't spend more than $8 on t-shirts or pants for myself or my kids because, well, I can get away with spending less and clothing isn't something I particularly care about.

But just because I'm mindful of my spending doesn't mean I don't tend to fall victim to impulse buys. Quite the contrary -- I commonly wind up spending more money than anticipated in the course of my food shopping (I don't really tend to be tempted to buy other items on a whim).

Sometimes, I'll head over to Trader Joe's to pick up a preset list of items only to wind up with a credit card tab that's $40 higher than expected because too many new products caught my eye. And I've certainly been known to buy my fair share of unplanned Costco desserts. (I mean, who can resist a massive cheesecake for just $12.99?)

But I've learned to not only make my peace with impulse buys, but embrace them. And I'd highly encourage you to automate your savings so you can do the same.

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It's the little things that make life fun

The problem with impulse buys is that they can wreck your financial goals. In spite of that, so many of us make them. In 2022, a good 64% of Americans said they increased their impulse spending, according to Slickdeals. And last year, the average consumer spent $314 per month on impulse purchases.

There was a period in my life when I tried to really cut back on impulse buys, but I no longer do that. I've found that it's those impulse buys -- little treats at Trader Joe's, Costco, and other stores -- that make me really happy. Sometimes, I get more joy out of those purchases than larger, planned purchases. So rather than cut out impulse purchases, I've reworked my budget to allow for them.

I also make a point to automate my savings so I don't have to worry about impulse buys. What I do is arrange for a portion of my earnings to leave my checking account every month and land in my savings. And from there, the way I see it, the rest of my money is mine to spend, because I've met my savings goal for the month. So as long as I'm keeping up with my essential bills, impulse buys don't have to be a problem.

You deserve the occasional treat

Do I recommend making impulse purchases on a daily basis? Not necessarily -- and especially not if money is tight. But if buying a box of donuts on a whim gives you an afternoon snack to look forward to, or if splurging on a latte you didn't expect to buy makes a busy morning at work easier to cope with, then why deny yourself those small things?

If you make a point to automate your savings so you're meeting your goals, then impulse buys won't be the thing that stops you from meeting those goals. And that way, you can enjoy those spur-of-the-moment purchases without having to harbor feelings of guilt.

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