With many of us feeling the pinch right now, it’s time to get a grip on your finances and avoid impulse buying. Many of us are guilty of making a thoughtless purchase on a whim, only to regret it later. If you find yourself buying things you don’t really need or ever use, then this is for you. If you’ve got clothes in your wardrobe you’ve never worn, or gym equipment gathering dust, it’s time to take control.
Generally, I tend to be quite minimalist, as I have next to no storage in my tiny flat. The lack of space in my limited cupboard space and small wardrobe forces me to think twice. But of course, the odd accident happens and I’m left feeling so annoyed at the wasted money and my impulsive buy! Whether you make the odd mistake or repeatedly do this, read on for key ways to avoid impulse buying.
1. Don’t shop alone, online or in real life
If you know you’re susceptible to impulse buying, make sure you seek a second opinion before you make a purchase. This could mean only shopping when you are with another person or sending them a photo, asking what they think. Make sure you choose someone who’s not an impulse buyer like you! It should be a trusted or even slightly cynical (or frugal) friend that will keep you in check and hold you accountable.
You should follow this rule even if you are shopping online. Show someone at home (family, partner or flatmate) what you are thinking of buying to get a second opinion. If you live alone, make sure you send a link to a trusted friend who won’t hold back. You could also show it to a colleague the next day (see the next tip). Do not make a significant purchase without running it past someone first.
2. Wait a week or at least 24 hours
No shopping late at night. This is when most impulse buys take place, only to be met with regret in the morning. Especially if you’ve been drinking or lonely, as you won’t make sensible choices. Even if you’ve not drunk, you could be bored or tired, scrolling mindlessly and not necessarily making a considered choice. You can bookmark the item until the next day or save it in your basket.
If you’ve seen something you like out and about, don’t buy it on the spot. Make yourself wait until tomorrow or even better, next week. If you are still obsessing about it a week later, then maybe you will get a lot of use out of it, or you may well forget about it, once the mood passes.
3. Ask yourself if you really, really need it
It’s all too easy to fall in love with an item you love the look of without really asking yourself if you need it. This is why it’s so important to hold off and give it some proper thought. Does it suit you? Will you have enough occasions to wear it? Some people like to divide the cost by how many times they will wear it to have a cost per wear indication, but I think that’s too subjective. You have to be ruthless and justify the need if you want to avoid impulse buying.
I often see super dressy items that I like and can see myself wearing. However, the reality is, that I just don’t go to the kind of places or events where I will get to wear them. I have a couple of dresses for special occasions, but I don’t need more than that if I’m honest about how often (or how little!) I go to those kind of events. If you do feel you need certain items, then think in terms of having a capsule wardrobe and focus on core items.
4. Try it on or try it out
If it’s a piece of clothing or shoes, you must always try it on. If you are ordering online then promise yourself you will return it the next day, if it doesn’t suit you or fit properly. Check yourself in a long mirror and make sure you check the back. Most things I order online look amazing in the images, but just so different in reality and sometime the quality of the clothes is really disappointing. Also, don’t just buy things because someone else has it or looks good in it.
If you are buying a gadget or piece of gym equipment, give yourself a deadline to see if it’s for you and is worth it. Are you honestly going to use this item enough to justify the cost? Give yourself three days or a week at most to decide, but don’t let it go past your set trial period.
5. Use the “one in, one out” rule
Make space first. Sell some clothes first and allow yourself to use the money from that, so you’re not spending much more money. I’m totally against clutter and excess so clearing out old purchases first is key. You might like the new found space so much you rethink filling it up. This goes for gadgets and gym equipment too, otherwise you will be surrounded by chaos.
Sell whatever you can via eBay or Minted. If selling isn’t for you, then still have regular clearouts and take things to a charity shop or to friends that would appreciate and definitely use them (don’t clutter up their life either).
6. Keep the receipt
Never chuck or delete the receipt. It’s easier if you have an online receipt or invoice but with physical purchases in store, make sure you have a safe place to keep your receipts. Most items will give you 30 days to return but as per the above, I’d say set yourself a week to decide, otherwise you are likely to forget about it, miss the deadline, and waste your money.
Don’t feel embarrassed about returning items for a refund. You are well within your rights. If the item is bad quality and falls apart (whether it be clothing or a gadget) you should always complain and seek a refund. If you are past the standard refund term but it’s faulty, you should still be able to get credit or an exchange. Make sure you are familiar with the consumer rights in your country. In the UK, here is the Consumer Rights Act.
7. Recognise your triggers
Identify when and why you are making these purchases so you can avoid impulse buying in the future. Do you make drunken purchases or buy things you don’t need when bored? Are you comparing yourself to others you see online, desperately trying to match their impossible lifestyles?
If you are using shopping to fill an emotional gap then make a commitment to recognising that, working on it (with help as needed), and looking at more healthy coping mechanisms. Do you need to exercise, meditate, reach out to a friend or seek counselling support to help yourself?
If you get bored with your clothes or like to regularly refresh your wardrobe, what could you do instead? Constantly buying items isn’t sustainable and is incredibly unfriendly to the environment. Read more about the damaging repercussions of fast fashion and it could help you think twice. Could you dye your clothes or modify them with a bit of DIY skills? Try wearing them with different items or colours to refresh their look altogether.
8. Try swapping or loaning with friends
Rather than always thinking you need new items, consider a clothes exchange with friends, neighbours or colleagues. This used to a bi-annual event at an old workplace of mine and was a great success. Try arranging an event yourself with friends or workmates.
Consider swapping other gadgets and equipment with friends every couple of months to try new things without having to buy them new. If your phone is dying, do you really need to buy a new one or could you just buy a new battery instead? If you do need a replacement, consider second-hand or refurbished options rather than paying full price.
9. Unsubscribe from newsletters and avoid tempting shops
If you are signed up to newsletters that flood your inbox with their latest products and offers, unsubcribe now. In order to avoid impulse buying, you need to ensure you aren’t constantly bombarded with tempting things everywhere you look.
It’s not just online you need to be wary of. If you know there are certain shops that you always end up buying things from, avoid them. Take a different route or keep your head down when passing. You need to change up old habits if you are seeking to avoid impulse buying.
10. Don’t fall for the sales and discounts
It’s easy to feel you are getting a bargain if something’s for sale or a special offer is on. But if you didn’t need it in the first place, you haven’t saved any money at all, you’re still out of pocket. Remember, it’s on offer for a reason. They are either clearing out out of season items or things no one else wanted to buy! Keep that in mind when you are tempted and stay away.
Use the above tips to take control of your impulse buying and break the habit. Find other ways to fill your time that are more constructive and won’t leave you out of pocket. Replace your spending habits with more healthy behaviours and start a new hobby. Read the post on setting new goals for inspiration.
Remember, if you think you have a serious compulsive problem, seek professional help so you get the right support to work through it and make positive change to move forward into a healthier space.