Hello everyone! Last week I told you my story of impulse buying and today I am going to list and discuss 10 major tips for stopping impulse buying that I have taken on to try in my journey and which actually worked really well for me.
Impulse buying can be an annoying habit to get rid of because we don’t actually want to rid ourselves of our current coping mechanisms. In the environment I grew up in, it was very common for my friends just hang around shops, our parents constantly taking us to the malls to window shop, and release stress by going to a restaurant like MacDonald’s. Naturally, I took on those behaviours because I saw no other way to release stress, tension, or even sometimes sadness. This habit of impulse buying to feel better worked very well for years, and I know it does for many people as well. The main downside to this habit is, however, that eventually we regret that money spent and wish that we had that money now for something else.
If you wish to finally get rid of or reduce impulse buying, you want to swap that habit for a more sustainable one. Be aware that it will take some time before you can fully incorporate the new habit. And read on to learn some of the habits that you may want to adopt in place of impulse buying.
1. Shop with a list
Do you want to constantly loose money because you can’t control yourself in the sopping centre? Get what you need and go!
That’s basically what having a shopping list feels like. It is really helpful, and this is one of the first tips I ever tried. Although for me at the time it was more of a survival technique because I was so broke.
Nowadays, I still have this habit (although I don’t make a list for every single ride to the shop) because it serves me well by saving myself some money which I will happily spend on myself in other ways.
Using phone works for me, but if you like paper – you do you. But if you’re using phone, simply find an app that your phone already has like “notes” or “tasks” for this. You don’t need a new fancy and memory consuming app for your shopping lists. And if it’s easily accessible, even better. Make this easy for yourself.
2. THE 24 HOUR RULE
The other day a thought popped up in my head that I want to start reading more fiction but finding books is difficult at the moment (our library’s are basically shut). The next moment I found myself with a full basket of different fiction books on amazon.com . So, I told myself “Jane, if you really want them, come back in 24 hours.” Next day my craving for fiction is gone and I managed to pull out some fiction books in my university’s e-library!
I saw and heard many people trying out this rule, and many find it useful (especially if you’re as easily distracted as I am). And I love this tip especially because it doesn’t exactly limit you to buy what you want, but it puts a healthy boundary (or principle) that helps you manage your impulses.
Now, when I feel like impulse buying, not only I wait some time before I decide for sure but I also use that time to reflect on WHY I want to buy that thing.
3. Learn to return stuff you don’t like
It might seem tedious to return stuff you bought, especially if it costed you just a few dollars. But learning how to do it has multiple benefits: you will get what you wanted instead of settling for less, you might reconsider needing that item all together (which then saves you money), and it will help you keep your house or room less cluttered.
Once I bought a thing on amazon.com but it wasn’t what I wanted. It was a bit tricky at the start to find out what I needed to do, but I got it eventually and it turned out to be very easy! The hardest part in that was to actually make myself go to the letter box and drop my item for it’s way back to home.
After you do it once, you’ll feel so much more free and confident in yourself. You’ll be able to do it every time you received an item that you don’t want anymore, which then will save you lots of money and you’ll wonder “How did I not do this before?”.
4. Plan out your splurges
Many websites with tips for impulse buying will tell you to plan out your splurges. That means to set a budget for your impulse buying habit. I did something a little bit different to get this tip working, because just planning out impulse buying doesn’t usually work unless you know exactly how much and when you’ll want to impulse buy.
Budgeting is a plan for your money, and you need to treat it accordingly. A good plan is a flexible plan, which means that even if you plan to splurge $200 this month, you may go over that and it’s ok. But, no matter what you do, you have to record what you did in actuality compared to your initial plan. Then, you need to review and revise the initial plan to come up with a new and adjusted plan based on your spending history.
What I did, when I first tried to plan out my next big clothes shopping, I found myself spending all of that money on something else. It was devastating because I really wanted to go clothes shopping for a while, and it was hard to stop beating myself up for giving in to buying something else instead. But when I started tracking my spending on an Excel spreadsheet and planning (budgeting) following months, I found out that I was just impulse buying takeaways. My plan then changed to reducing takeaways money, getting better at cooking at home, and then saving that money for clothes shopping.
Over time, you’ll also notice how your impulse buying plans change with this new and deeper understanding of yourself. You might notice that you buy more on impulse during certain months of the year and that will allow you to save up some money in between those periods. That is when you will be able to accurately plan out your splurges.
5. Set a financial goal
Financial goals are sometimes just intentions but they hold a lot of emotional power and you can use that power to motivate yourself to save the money you want to spend.
Make sure the goal you make is SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely). For that it is a good idea that you write your goal down and go through each of these points separately. There are plenty of templates on the internet, which you can just Google.
My journey of stopping to impulse buy wouldn’t even start or get to this point if I didn’t have my goals very clear and written down.
6. Be clear about your needs and wants
Go through your bank statement and separate every transaction into two columns on a spare piece of paper: needs and wants. How many of those where needs? How many of those were wants? The difference between the two is that needs are the things without which you won’t be able to survive, while if don’t indulge your wants you’ll still live.
Now, there might be a lot of wants that feel like needs. This is because you feel the need for them and this is fine. Those transactions can also be your needs. But be careful not to spoil your inner child too much! Get yourself what you really need, less is always more.
And I found this creative spider-diagram for anyone who want to take a more artistic approach:
7. Take A Deep Breath: Pause for a moment to feel your feelings
This is a most recent tip that I have tried. I am finding it a bit tricky to use because I don’t always remember to do it. It is just a habit that I am not used to yet. And the key word there is ‘yet’.
What do you feel when you just saw something, fell in love with it, and just had to buy it because it seemed like you needed that thing all your life? Often, when we are happy, we tend to buy more. This also explains why we spend more during sunny and hot weather, on holidays and weekends.
Have you ever been told that you should not involve feelings into financial decisions? I am not here to ask you do that, in fact quite the opposite. Feeling happiness is wonderful and no body should be telling us to stop feeling that just so our decisions are more ‘rational’ to someone’s opinion. Of course, more logical people out there could argue that this is not about the emotions but rather about the finances when it comes to curbing our impulse buying. But as a quite emotional person, I found that this can be very hard for people like me to completely disconnect from our emotions for the sake of ‘right’ financial decisions.
How many times during the day do you ask yourself ‘How are you feeling’? I ask myself this quite frequently because it is important to process feelings before acting. And this is explained by Cognitive-behavioural therapy in psychology, which highlights that our feelings make the thoughts we think and then the actions we make out of those thoughts.
Taking a deep breath is one of the ways how you can get yourself to pause and ask yourself all the necessary questions before buying something. I recommend this dearly, and if you need help or guidance, simply reach out to me.
8. Read about the last purchase you regret
This is one of the most popular tips for stopping impulse buying that I see everywhere. I do not recommend using this advise and I’ll tell you why.
I used to do this without anyone even telling me to until I found myself not buying anything at all. I would be just so worried that I would regret buying something. And I just stopped buying stuff that would bring lots of joy in my life.
And even though I have made some massive mistakes in the past with my money which left me broke and mentally unwell, I decided that they are better to be used as information about what not-to do and bring it to the next financial decision of similar matter. Simply regretting a decision made in the past doesn’t allow you to grow and doesn’t guarantee that you’ll not make that mistake again.
9. Educate yourself on marketing and unsubscribe!
Marketing is all about advertisement of products that different businesses want you to buy. It’s pretty obvious that they do that for money, so you need to train yourself with an extra level of curiosity when it comes to adverts.
One of the reasons for not involving emotions into financial decisions is to not get influenced by smart adverts all around that target people who are experiencing those emotions. When you see an advert that you can relate to, ask yourself why. I found that for me it is because of the colour and aesthetic, and I especially really love smart or witty adverts. But because I know what their motive is, I can say ‘not today’ to it and carry on with my day.
But, I know there are so many adverts in our lives; you can’t just spend time figuring out what it wants from you every single time. It would be exhausting just to pull that off in your life every day. So, what to do in this case?
A smart move in this situation is to unsubscribe from newsletters that you’re no longer interested in, reduce the amount of time you spend on social media, and spend less time in shops online and offline. And you have friends, who are influencers or peer pressure you into buying stuff all the time, your responsibility here would be to find a way to not give in to their pressure (how? back to the tip no.7).
10. Decuttler before you buy
If you want to buy something new, that must mean that you have a need for it. If you read and actualised tip no.6 you already should know what your needs are and how they’re different from your wants.
Equally, I am not here to tell you that you shouldn’t have 10 pairs of shoes or multiple technological gadgets just because you don’t need so many. The main intention of decluttering should be to get rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy anymore (following Marie Kondo teachings).
Decluttering always works for me, I do it at least twice a year. And I started doing it because I figured that I have collected so much stuff over the years that do not even alight with my interests. Donating them to charity meant a huge mental reward from allowing other people find and enjoy my stuff that I don’t have any use of (instead of hoarding it all like some sort of goblin).
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