You’re standing in Target, holding a candle that you don’t need, trying to decide whether to put it in your cart or back on the shelf. You finally just think “whatever, it’s just a $10 candle!” and start heading to the checkout. Hang on! You’re about to make an impulse purchase. Impulsive spending can derail your budget and set you back from meeting your financial goals. Let’s talk about why we make impulsive purchases and 10 tips for avoiding impulse spending.

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The Consequences of Impulse Spending

While we all make some unplanned and spur of the moment purchases sometimes, unplanned shopping that happens on a regular basis can have financial consequences.

First, you can get distracted from your financial goals. You can get caught up in the buying cycle and forget the big picture. This can set you back from the life you really want to live because you’re accumulating things instead of working toward your goals.

You also can end up going even further into debt. If your impulse purchases are ending up on a credit card, you can very quickly wind up carrying a balance and putting yourself into debt. Don’t finance things that you can save up and pay cash for. And don’t open store cards!

Impulsive shopping can be related to negative feelings. Are you shopping because you’re anxious or stressed? If that’s the case, you aren’t actually solving the problem. You won’t be able to break your spending habit until you address the real cause of your behavior. Buying things is just a temporary fix.

Buyer’s guilt can also be pretty common after making an unplanned purchase. If you didn’t plan or budget for the item, it can lead to regret. This can lead to resentment about the situation, and those negative feelings could end up causing you to do even more impulse spending!

All of these factors can leave you with some pretty overwhelming financial stress. So let’s talk about why you could be impulse spending.

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    Why do you impulse spend?

    There are four main reasons people tend to do impulsive shopping:

    • To impress others
    • Trouble managing emotions
    • To make themselves happy
    • Not thinking about the financial consequences

    When we buy something, usually that comes along with a positive feeling. We got something we wanted and now we get to enjoy having it. Even if that good feeling is short-lived, it is still positively reinforcing the purchase you made. This will make it easier to make the next purchase.

    This also explains why you tend to shop when you’re upset or stressed out. You get that positive feeling from making the purchase. This teaches you that shopping will make you feel better when things aren’t going your way.

    A lot of emotional buying happens to try and impress other people. Ask yourself – are you buying the item because you actually want it and will use it? Or do you want it to show off to other people? Buying things to impress other people is not going to help you reach your financial goals.

    Analyze Your Spending Behaviors

    You can analyze your own spending behavior by taking a hard look at what you are buying and why you are buying it. If you can recognize what is driving your impulsive shopping then you’ll have a better chance at stopping or controlling it.

    Tracking your spending is one of the best ways to do this. You’ll be forced to look at exactly what you’re buying and how much you’re spending. Making yourself wait overnight or for 24 hours before making a purchase is a good way to see if you actually want or need the item, or if you just want it for the moment.

    Understanding your shopping behavior can help you decide which of the following tips will work best for you to help you avoid those impulse purchases!

    10 Tips For Avoiding Impulse Spending

    1. Shop with cash.

    When you shop with cash you have to physically give something up in order to take the purchase home with you. This is why people use the cash envelope method. Shopping with plastic doesn’t give you the same sting of giving something up as when you use cash because you’re getting your card back along with the item. Try taking a set amount of cash with you next time you go to shop.

    2. Unsubscribe from sales emails.

    If you don’t know about a sale or a new item, then you can’t go shop for it! I like to unsubscribe from any emails I get that I don’t want to be tempted to purchase from. Sales are only helpful when an item is planned and budgeted for. If there’s a sale for $200 off a $500 item, you aren’t going to save $200, you’re going to spend $300. You are still spending money you weren’t planning on spending! Remove the temptation of those emails completely.

    3. Unfollow accounts you tend to buy from.

    There’s a reason that brands do so many sponsored posts with social media influencers. When you have a connection or can relate to someone you are more likely to buy the things they use and recommend. If you start to notice there are certain accounts that tempt you to buy, mute or unfollow them for awhile. It doesn’t have to be forever – but your spending habits will improve in the long run!

    4. Leave items in your cart for 24 hours.

    Leaving an item in your cart and coming back to it later is a great way to let your emotions cool off before making a purchase. This can let you really decide whether you actually need and will use the item or if you just wanted it in the moment. If you still want the item after letting some time go by, you can add it into your budget and make a plan.

    5. Check in with your budget often.

    Checking in with your budget often will remind you of your financial goals. How is your life going to change when you hit your financial goals? Leave your budget in a place you’ll see it every day. Tracking your spending will force you to look at exactly what and how much you’re spending too. Keeping your goals in the front of your mind will help you avoid things you really don’t need.

    6. Get rid of your credit card.

    If you don’t have the credit card you can’t use it! Not having the ability to use credit can help a ton. Cut it up, lock it up, freeze it, whatever you have to do. Delete the card off all of your online shopping profiles so it’s not as easy to make the purchase. Don’t open store cards either! They will make you more likely to spend money in those specific stores.

    7. Do a check in of what you already own.

    Take a weekend to go through your stuff and declutter. Figure out what you already own and what you actually like and use! Realizing how much you’ve spent on the things you’ve accumulated – and that you don’t even want – is a great way to keep yourself from going back to buying things that you aren’t going to use.

    8. Try a no spend month challenge.

    A no spend month challenge is a great way to break your current spending habits. Set a goal for yourself for the month for something that you aren’t going to spend money on. This could be no eating out, no coffee runs, or just no personal spending in general. Use a tracker (like this one) to mark what days you stick to your no spending goal. For me, the tracker is enough accountability to make me think twice about the random purchases I want to make!

    9. Track your spending.

    I’m mentioning this again! I think tracking your spending is a super important part of budgeting. When you track your spending, you have to be honest with yourself and face up to exactly how much you’re spending and what you’re spending it on. It’s the simplest way to be real with yourself about your behavior and habits. Write down every penny you spend each day.

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      10. Find accountability.

      Find someone you can share your financial goals with that will call you out when you’re straying off course. It could be a friend, family member, coworker, or even a stranger on the internet. I use my boyfriend as an accountability partner, as well as the members of my Flamingo Fundamentals membership group (join the waiting list here!). Share your goals with someone you trust and that won’t enable your impulsive choices.

      These tips can help you combat your spending habits, but make sure to think about why you have the urge to make those purchases in the first place! Analyzing your behavior can help you break impulsive spending habits in the long run. You’ll have an easier time sticking to your budget and make faster progress toward your financial goals!

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      How to Avoid Impulse Spending