In the past, I was a major impulse shopper. If I saw something I *had* to have, I bought it. If something in the checkout line caught my attention, I added it to my basket. If something cute was on sale, I couldn’t pass it up. If the online store offered an additional gift or discount for buying more, I bought more.
It probably won’t come as a surprise, but all my “Treat Yo’ Self” shopping ended up getting me into a financial jam. I found myself in debt and never had the money to spend on the things I really wanted and needed… all because I wasted money on those silly impulse purchases.
Here’s what I finally did to curb my bad habit of spending money on impulse buys.
1. Create a Budget and Set Money Goals
You swear you just got paid, but when you look at your bank account, you have to do a double check to make sure your paycheck was actually deposited. So, where did the money go? If you are like the old me, you probably blew it on impulse buys.
One of the most effective ways to put a stop to impulse shopping is to create a budget with clear money goals. When you create a budget, you establish spending limits. You write down all of your expenses (like your mortgage or rent, utilities, food, gas, cell phone, cable or streaming subscriptions, credit card payments, and any kind of loan payments). You will also write down how much income you have to pay for all your bills.
Your primary goal is to have more money coming in than going out. And, you always want to spend less than you earn. This will let you pay down debt or set a savings goal. You will be much less likely to buy things impulsively if you create a budget and know where your money will go.
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Investing extra cash or stashing it in a high-yield savings account are sound strategies for growing your money. Unfortunately, if you spend every cent you earn, that isn’t an option.
Most people think they can’t afford to save, but the truth is they don’t have a handle on their expenses and their spending. Without a budget, they often overspend — forget about saving!
With Empower, you can create a customized budget in minutes. By using your budget to keep your expenses lower than your income, you ensure you always have funds left over to save. In fact, go ahead and create a savings category in your budget so you never miss an opportunity to grow your wealth.
2. Shop Intentionally
When I was at my worst, I spent a lot of time engaging in retail therapy. The problem was I couldn’t just window shop – I spent money I didn’t have on things I didn’t need.
When I realized browsing without purpose was getting me in trouble, I only went to the store when I needed something. I took a list – and I stuck to the list. I avoided going to my favorite online retailers unless I had a clear reason, such as needing a new swimsuit for the season.
Once I started shopping intentionally, I stopped buying impulsively.
Once you learn the tricks of how these companies market to consumers, it will be easier for you to say “no” to those impulse buys and shop with a purpose. When you shop online, they will entice you to add another item in your cart by given you a nice discount if you act fast.
This is FOMO: Fear of missing out. They want you to feel like you are going to lose a good deal unless you act now! Inside stores, they put soft drinks and candy bars by the cashier, hoping you will add another item to your shopping cart. Now you know, so you won’t give in to them again!
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3. Stay Away from Social Media
We often aren’t aware of how brands and retailers are using social media to get us to spend money. Sometimes it can be tricky trying to find out what are legit social media posts and what are ads enticing us to buy.
All of the popular IG influencers you follow (99% of them) are getting paid to advertise products. These brands know when influencers hype something, their followers will buy.
Even the most “real” influencers’ posts, stories, and reels are carefully curated to get you to notice everything from what they are wearing to how they have decorated their homes to the foods they are consuming.
Every time you watch their reels, they make money – even more money when you follow the link and purchase the product they are subtly promoting. Don’t let the reels reel you in!
If you refuse to be influenced by the influencers, you say goodbye to retail therapy and hello to more money in your pocket.
4. Delay Purchases if The Money Isn’t in the Budget
FOMO is strong and so many give in to it. In the past, I messed up financially because of FOMO. I remember making a large reactionary purchase on my credit card because my friends were splurging on the same item. At the end of the month, I didn’t have the money to pay the credit card off. You know how that ended: I had incurred even more debt from interest because of that one unfortunate purchase.
That experience taught me the importance of patience. I learned to say, “Not right now,” and wait until I had the money in my budget. It has kept me from spending money on things I don’t need (or even want in the long run). This new thinking also prevented me from racking up debt on impulse buys.
Reminder – The first tip was to create a budget and a savings goal. Tip 4 works best if you follow Tip 1.
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5. Use Cash as Much as Possible
Have you ever said: “I’ll just charge it.” I am ashamed to admit how often I casually said that when it came to impulse buys. I might not have had the money for the must-have dress or last-minute shoes, but I had a credit card. As you can imagine, my credit card bills were sky high, and much of it was because I had little self-control when it came to impulse buys.
Finally, I made the decision to stop paying for everything with a card and stick with cash instead. It made a huge difference! Before I went shopping, I went to the ATM and took out the amount I had budgeted for, and I told myself that whatever I purchased had to be purchased with that cash. You won’t throw extra impulse buys in a basket if you are afraid you won’t have the money to pay for them at checkout.
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Michelle Salater is a freelance finance writer with a passion for personal finance education. When she’s not in front of her computer, she’s reading biographies and exploring remote areas of the world. She also freelances for Wooster Media Group LLC.