What Is Impulse Buying and 10 Ways and Tips to Avoid It


Americans have normalized making impulsive purchases. According to a report highlighting recent SlickDeals survey results, consumers spend an average of $276 a month on impulse buys.

You’ve probably been shopping and saw something that immediately caught your attention. Maybe it was an ad that sold you, maybe it filled a want you never knew you had. 

Suddenly, your credit card’s out, and there’s another $100 bill down the drain. 

Putting this into perspective, you might believe that spending an extra $9 daily is fine. But that same amount adds up to an extra $3,285 a year.

Suppose you invested that much money instead of going against your savings plans. You’re looking at $16,434 in five years, and that’s without compound interest.

Understanding what makes you purchase things impulsively is the first step to breaking the habit. In this blog post, we’ll cover 10 ways to avoid impulse buying, including:

  1. Set a Budget
  2. Set Aside a Small Fund for Non-Essentials 
  3. Make a List What You Need
  4. Leave Your Cards Behind
  5. Write Down What You Normally Impulse Buy
  6. Buy Things When You Have a Clear Head
  7. Focus on Your Situation
  8. Shop With a Friend
  9. Unsubscribe From Email Newsletters
  10. Remember Your Goals

First, though, what is the definition of impulse buying, and why is it so irresistible? 


What Is Impulse Buying?

Impulse buying is exactly what sounds like: an unplanned purchase. Anything you get that is outside of your initial budget counts as an impulse buy, whether it is a last-minute candy bar or a brand-new laptop. 

One 2019 survey suggests that around 80% of Americans have made impulse purchases, with men being more likely to spend impulsively than women. 


Reasons for Impulse Buying

There are three Ss, which are the main reasons for someone to buy something on impulse:

  1. Sales
  2. Skills
  3. Sentiments

Sales: People Impulse Buy When They Believe They Are Getting a Good Deal

Whether it’s Black Friday or flash sales, it’s nearly impossible for most buyers to avoid a good deal. SlickDeals conducted a 2020 survey saying that over 50% of shoppers admitted to buying things impulsively because of a sale.

Similarly, shops that offer anything for free can be enticing. Free shipping, buy-one-get-one-free deals, you name it. Many people fall for these marketing tactics and end up messing with their intended budget.

Keep in mind that when it comes to sales, you’re only saving the money you planned on spending anyway. For example, if you planned on buying some pasta and it went on sale for 50% off, you’d be saving 50%, giving you a bit extra for your grocery budget. 

However, with impulse buys, you aren’t saving money at all -- you’re just spending more of it on things you don’t need. 


Skills: People Impulse Buy Because of How Well They Manage Money

How well do you handle your money? Overspending and impulse buying can be rooted in your budgeting skills.

Such behaviors may come from your experience in a household that doesn’t pay too much attention to budgets.


According to a 2019 poll, many impulse buyers cite how their parents handled money growing up as a reason for their money-managing skills or lack thereof.


Identify your foundation when it comes to managing your money. Once you realize that the money-related skills you picked up from your environment might not have been the healthiest, you can consciously avoid impulse buying and start saving money.


Sentiments: People Impulse Buy Based on How They Feel in the Moment

Emotions can explain why you might buy anything out of impulse. 

After all, you worked so hard all week, cashed your check, and you’re ready to go have a good time. Your sentiments might overpower your rationality because you just want to feel better, even for just a moment.

Be careful of marketers who take advantage of your emotions to sell their products. Brands know the best ways to seem relatable to regular people just so they can appeal to you and get you to buy their item or service.


10 Tips to Avoid Impulse Buying

With that out of the way, here are the 10 ways to avoid impulse buying: 


1. Set a Budget

Your budget is simultaneously the simplest and hardest thing that you can do to start saving money. It can be easy because you usually only need ten minutes to plan where your money should go.

The difficulty lies in sticking with it. 

You need to overcome the countless material temptations when you go shopping (both online and in-person) to stick to your budget. Unless you have an emergency and absolutely must buy something, avoid spending on anything that you haven’t accounted for in your budget.

Remember, your budget and finances are your responsibility. Practice self-discipline when it comes to your money.


2. Set Aside a Small Fund for Non-Essentials

It might be surprising to learn that one of the best ways to avoid impulse buying is to have a fund for non-essentials. After all, aren’t you trying to avoid buying things you don’t need?

Ultimately, this isn’t the goal, though. The goal is to spend your money wisely and keep it within your budget rather than going over it each month.  

If you consistently have purchases you’d like to make each month, allot part of your budget towards these things. For example, you could give yourself $50 to spend each month on whatever you’d like. 

Giving yourself this satisfaction reduces the temptation for impulse buying. 


3. Make a List of What You Need

We cannot stress enough how making a shopping list is a great practice for anyone who wants to save money. Nothing helps you plan for your next spending spree better than knowing what you need before you go shopping.


When you list down everything you need before you go out, you can check whether your list stays within your budget. This way, you can avoid overspending.


You can spend any change you have left when you get everything on your list. Or, you can set it aside and add that amount to your next shopping spree budget.

Knowing what you need also helps you estimate how much money you will be spending. Try to go to the shop carrying only the amount of cash to pay for the items on your list.

Without extra money, you lower the chances of impulse buying. 


4. Leave Your Cards Behind

Consider taking the previous tip further by leaving your debit or credit cards behind to eliminate all temptations of overspending. Having them in your wallet might convince you that you can safely go over budget even just once.

Debit and credit cards might also tempt you to impulsively buy things online. 

In this case, you might want to make sure your devices and stores don’t automatically fill out your card number. If you have to get your card and type in each number individually, it gives you time to stop and think about what you’re doing. 

Review every online shop you frequent and be sure to clear your computer or phone’s memory of any card numbers that automatically appear when you check out.

However, a similar problem arises when you’ve memorized your credit and debit card numbers. This skill is common after doing so much online shopping.

In that case, you might want to use cash instead of cards for at least a week until you forget these numbers. 


5. Write Down What You Normally Impulse Buy

Make a list of the things you tend to spend money on that are not essential. Your list might include:

  • Getting fast food when you have food at home
  • Getting a haircut from a professional when you just had one last month
  • Getting a new item that you saw a celebrity using

When you know what you are prone to spending your money on, you can get a clear picture of how to allocate your money. Once again, having a list puts things into perspective and you can avoid spending on anything outside of your essentials, such as:


6. Buy Things When You Have a Clear Head

As mentioned, your emotions factor into your spending habits. 

For example, if you’re feeling down in the dumps one day, you might remember your favorite bakery and buy a few pastries from there to cheer yourself up. 

But then, you end up doing the same thing whenever you feel down, not just once. You realize that the pastries you buy are short-term fixes to a long-term problem.


Avoid letting your emotions dictate how you spend your money. Be sure to take a second, minute, or even a day to calm down before you go for an unplanned purchase.


Once you gather yourself together, reassess whether the thing you want to buy is essential or not. You might end up buying something completely useless in the long run.

Similarly, you might let your positive emotions take over your better judgment. Suppose you’re having a good day and then you spot a sale that’s about to end.

Remember that sales come and go no matter how exciting marketers make it seem. There will be plenty of other sales that might even have better deals than this one. 


7. Focus on Your Situation

When you see that other people buy and own the things you want, you might start comparing yourself to them. This will tempt you to purchase things even more to aspire after a certain lifestyle. 

Focus on what you have and remember that you spent time setting a plan for yourself instead of comparing yourself to others. In the end, it’s about adjusting your mindset and keeping yourself grounded in your reality.

Similarly, you might want to consider limiting your social media usage to avoid comparing yourself to your friends altogether. 

This tip is not to say that you cut yourself off from your contacts. Just take a break to avoid seeing what others have been buying so you don’t feel compelled to get one for yourself.


8. Shop With a Friend

Having a friend when you go shopping might help you by holding you accountable for your spending habits. If they’re willing to come along, bring a friend, a sibling, or your spouse along when you go shopping and give them a copy of your shopping list.

Let them know in advance that you might end up buying something not on the list, and choose someone who’s honest enough with you to remind you when you need them to. 


9. Unsubscribe From Email Newsletters

You might get tempted to buy things outside of your budget when you see advertisements in your emails. Every sale and product launch is a new chance to impulse buy. 

Try spending some time checking which newsletters you’ve signed up for so you don’t get flooded with sales pitches when you open your inbox. 

Depending on your email provider, you can use filters to automatically archive incoming emails about sales. If some sales emails still get through, however, just unsubscribe to the newsletters that are keeping you from your savings goals. 


10. Remember Your Goals

Be sure to stick to your overall goals for saving money so you can avoid impulse buying.

When you keep your goals in mind, you are looking at the bigger picture. Whether you are paying off a loan or investing for your future, remembering why you are saving money you’re your finances into perspective and makes impulsive purchases seem small.

Use your goals as a motivator and a reminder to keep you from impulse buying. 


Recap: Best Ways to Avoid Impulse Buying and Start Saving Money

Ultimately, there are plenty of ways to avoid impulse buying so you can reach your goals. 

We are confident that these ten tips we gathered can help you avoid impulse buying. Should you need further assistance in planning your financial goals, consider getting in touch with our seasoned financial advisors.

At 121 Financial Credit Union, we have professional advisors who can help you stay on your path to meet your financial goals. Connect with our experts today by calling 904-723-6300.

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