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How to Stop Impulse Buying & Shop More Intentionally

How to Stop Impulse Buying & Shop More Intentionally

In today’s post, I’m sharing some helpful tips to help you learn how to stop impulse buying and shop more intentionally instead.

You’ll learn practical things you can do to reduce the temptation for impulse purchases. As well as ways to shift your mindset, habits and behavioural patterns to make it easier to avoid impulse buying too.

What are impulse purchases?

Simply put, impulse purchases are things you buy that you weren’t planning to buy until you saw them in a store or on a website.

They can be small things like a treat or magazine while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store. Or a t-shirt you notice while you’re walking by the clothing aisles. And sometimes they can be bigger purchases, like a new vehicle when you were planning to just look that day.

We’ve all made big or small impulse purchases at one time or another.

The purpose of today’s post is to create some awareness around impulse buying. Then give you specific tips and strategies to help you avoid buying on impulse and start buying more intentionally instead.

What’s the big deal?

Impulse buying might not seem like a big deal in the moment, especially when the purchases are small. But impulse purchases can add up to not only drain your bank account and blow your budget.

But they can also result in a lot of clutter accumulating in your house. Simply because impulse purchases are often things you buy that you don’t really need. Or things you didn’t even know you wanted until you saw them.

It might feel good in the moment to treat yourself to something new, but if it’s something you don’t really need, there’s a good chance it’s going to result in clutter in your home.

Either clutter caused by things you already own that you’ll no longer use after buying something new. Or clutter caused by the impulse purchase itself if it’s something you don’t really need or totally love.

And even if it does feel good in the moment to buy something new, that feeling usually fades fast. Leaving you in a cycle of wanting to buy something new again and again to get those good feelings back.

How to stop impulse buying & become an intentional consumer

The key to learning how to stop impulse buying is learning to become a more intentional consumer. Making well thought out purchases and only buying the things you truly need, will use or love.

It sounds good in theory, but it can be a lot harder to put into practice.

Marketers and advertising firms are experts at enticing you to want to buy what they’re selling. And it can be hard to resist. Hard, but not impossible!

Becoming an intentional consumer doesn’t mean you’ll never buy anything again or spend hours agonizing over every purchase you make.

Instead, it’s simply doing your best to get clear on what you really want and need to buy and sticking with that. Rather than getting pulled into making impulse purchases without thought that you later regret or cause clutter in your home.

Here are 15 tips, tools and strategies to help you learn how to stop impulse buying and become a more intentional consumer!

How to stop impulse buying

1. Have clear financial goals

One of the easiest ways to avoid making impulse purchases is having clear financial goals.

When you have clear goals for how you want to spend your money, it’s a lot easier to “keep your eye on the prize” and avoid spending on impulse purchases.

Having clear financial goals reminds you to think about where else the money you’re about to spend could go. And the motivation to meet your financial goals is a great way to avoid spending on impulse purchases.

Clear financial goals make it a lot easier to say no to impulse purchases and direct your money where you want it to go instead.

2. Make a budget

Speaking of financial goals, another great way to learn how to stop impulse buying is by making yourself a budget to follow.

A budget doesn’t have to be a tool to restrict your spending. It’s simply a tool to help you make intentional choices about where your money goes.

For example, if getting fancy coffee drinks is important to you and your income allows it, you can include enough in your budget to buy a fancy coffee every day of the week if you want.

Budgets are about taking control of how you spend your money. And spending it intentionally instead of spending without thought.

A budget lets you decide ahead of time how much money you want to devote to each category of spending for you and your family. Then spending accordingly to avoid buying things impulsively.

3. Pause before you purchase

Another great way to avoid impulse buying is by pausing before you purchase.

When you pause before buying, it’s easier to avoid buying things impulsively. Instead, giving yourself some time to be more thoughtful and intentional with your purchases.

Before buying anything, simply wait.

Maybe wait 24 hours, or 48 hours, or 7 days or a month before going ahead and buying something. However long feels long enough for you to give yourself a chance to think a purchase through and avoid buying impulsively.

I don’t even recommend making a list of things you want to buy but are waiting on.

If it’s really something you want, need or will use, you’ll remember and you don’t need a list to remind you. If you need the list to remind you what you wanted to buy…maybe you don’t really need or want it that much after all!

4. Pay attention to your shopping patterns & habits

Another great way to learn how to stop impulse buying is by paying attention to your shopping patterns and habits, looking for trends.

Impulse buying, and sometimes shopping in general, can often be driven by emotions for many of us.

You have a bad day at work, but stopping at the mall and buying a new top makes you feel better for a little while. Or you have nothing to do on the weekend so you walk around the mall to relieve the boredom.

Start noticing what emotions are driving your impulse purchases. Look for patterns in the time of day or how you’re feeling when you tend to make more impulse purchases.

Once you know the types of things that make you more likely to buy impulsively, it’s easier to avoid those triggers.

5. Avoid your impulse buying triggers

Once you know the types of things that make you more likely to buy impulsively, it’s easier to avoid them.

For example, if you make more impulse purchases when you’re bored, or tired, or sad, or mad, etc. you can avoid going to the mall or browsing online when you feel that way.

If you tend to make more impulse purchases when you’re hungry while you’re grocery shopping, you can make sure you eat before shopping.

Knowing your patterns and triggers is the best way to avoid letting them tempt you into making impulse purchases.

6. Find new hobbies and activities

And the key to avoiding shopping at times you feel more triggered to make impulse purchases is to have something else to do instead!

Try out new activities you can do instead of shopping. Both at times you feel more triggered to make impulse purchases and at other times too.

Having a hobby that isn’t shopping gives you something to do that won’t end up draining your bank account or filling your house with “stuff”.

Figure out what you enjoy and find ways to do more of that instead of shopping.

And don’t be afraid to try something new. My friend Erica, of The Life on Purpose Movement, has a great list of hobbies to try that I love!

7. Notice if certain people (online or in real life) make you feel like buying more

The same idea applies to avoiding people who often make you feel triggered to buy impulsively.

If there are certain websites or online influencers who often influence you to buy things you don’t really need, consider unfollowing them. Or avoiding them when you know you’ll be more susceptible to impulse buying.

The less often you see people online telling you about new products you should buy, the less tempted you’ll be!

Also, pay attention to when comparison is making you want to buy something you don’t necessarily need or even really want.

Comparison can be a big trigger for impulse buying. Take some time to decide if you’re making the purchase because you need or want it, or because someone else has it and you’re comparing yourself to them.

If certain people in your life love shopping and you often end up making impulse purchases while shopping with them, try suggesting new activities to do together instead of shopping.

8. Use a list when you’re shopping

And during those occasions when you need to go shopping, make yourself a list and stick to it!

Only buy what’s on your list so you know the purchases you’re making are thought out and intentional.

If you see something you want to buy that’s not on your list, take a pause and wait before buying it.

9. Question what you’re buying & why you’re buying it

When you are making purchases, ask yourself some questions to figure out why you’re making the purchase.

For example, ask yourself questions like:

  • Do you really need or love this item? Could you use something you already have? Could you borrow it?
  • Where will you keep it? Is this going to be something you want to take care of and store in your home for the long term?
  • Will you use this regularly and for the long term? How likely will it end up as clutter the next time you declutter?
  • What is motivating you to buy this?
  • Did you know you wanted to buy it before you saw it?

Don’t try to sell yourself on buying something. Instead, question why you’re buying it and if you truly need it.

10. Pay with cash

Another easy way to cut down on impulse buying is by paying for things with cash when possible, instead of a debit or credit card.

Paying with cash gives you a more tangible reminder of the cost of each item. It can feel more “real” to hand over your money instead of swiping or tapping a card.

Sometimes using a card becomes so easy and convenient you almost forget that’s your hard-earned money being spent!

11. Make purchasing less convenient

And speaking of the link between convenience and impulse buying, there’s something to be said for making it not quite so easy to buy things.

If you have your credit card information saved on your favourite websites, consider removing it.

Sometimes if it’s too easy to add things to your cart and hit ‘buy now’ it’s easier to make impulse purchases.

The few extra minutes it takes to enter your credit card information manually, might be the extra time you need to notice you’re buying on impulse!

12. Stay out of stores as much as possible

Another simple way to avoid making impulse purchases is by staying away from the temptation altogether!

Stay away from stores as much as possible, especially the ones that are particularly tempting for you.

And especially when you’re feeling like you’ll be easily sucked into making impulse purchases. Like when you’re bored, sad, had a rough day, etc. Spend time doing your hobby or another activity instead.

Order your groceries online and do curbside pickup. Or search for and purchase the specific item or items you need online so you don’t go in the store and end up browsing.

13. Challenge yourself to shop less

One way to avoid spending time in stores is planning to do all of your buying for the week on one day of the week.

For example, every Sunday buy groceries and anything else you’ll need for the week, fill your car with gas, etc. Then aim to not shop or spend during the remainder of the week.

This is simply a chance to get out of the habit of shopping and spending as often. Making it easier to be more intentional about shopping rather than doing it all the time.

The more often you’re in a store shopping, the more likely you’ll be tempted to make impulse purchases!

14. Try a “no spend” challenge

You can even take it further and try a “no spend” challenge.

A “no spend” challenge is when you challenge yourself to only spend on the essentials, nothing extra, for a certain amount of time.  

Of course, you get to make your own rules, so you decide what is extra and what is essential. And you get to decide how long your “no spend” challenge will be. It could be a day, a week, a weekend, a month, a year. It’s totally up to you!

A “no spend” challenge is a fun way to get yourself out of the habit of shopping so you can stop making as many impulse purchases.

15. Unsubscribe from store emails

Just like avoiding stores can help you do less impulse buying, so can removing the temptation from your inbox.

Unsubscribe from store emails to avoid being tempted by each big, “can’t-miss-it” sale.

It can be great to wait for sales to save money when you have something you’re planning to buy. But don’t get sucked into thinking you need to buy something just because a big sale is going on.

There will always be another sale if and when you ever do truly need or want something. Marketers are good at creating a sense of urgency, but you don’t have to buy into it.

How to stop impulse buying and be a more intentional consumer

I hope today’s post will give you some ideas of ways to make fewer impulse purchases and become a more intentional consumer. And hopefully, make it a fun challenge for yourself while you’re at it!

Do you find yourself making more impulse purchases than you’d like? What are your favourite ways to avoid impulse buying? Leave a comment and let me know!

How to Stop Impulse Buying & Shop More Intentionally
Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

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Tuesday 12th of October 2021

I had to learn in my twenties to simply stop going to the mall because it made me want things and resent my husband for not being able to afford those items while being a stay-at-home mom. This was very difficult coming from a well to do family. But I suseded and so did my family!! Of course, once my husband was finished with his degree he made more money. This made life easier but we still had to plan and set goals. I remained a stay-at-home mom and we homeschooled our son. We paid for his undergrad degree and our son paid for his masters. We are so proud of him!! He is now happily married with four children!! We have been able to retire at a young age-in our mid-fifties- and are enjoying ourselves. Now, I have found I LOVE clothing and accessories and shoes of course, make-up and perfume as well!! I'm only spending what I'm budgeted for but my husband doesn't like me buying the things I buy. I do need to reign it in but I did so without for so very long that it seems the flood gates have opened!! I'm trying to spend more of my budget on hobbies as a result. That seems fine with my husband which is good!! Sometimes we do without too much for too long. My husband and I never went on vacations or did anything for ourselves for 20 years. We gave all to our son!! Now I'm so ill that I'm unable to travel. But, I have found a solution, I take the virtual tours on-line!! My husband and I get to spend a great deal of time enjoying one another. It's so nice!! We never thought we would be to this point!! So, just keep going!! You can do it!! But, learn from us and give yourself treats along the way!! Live your life!! Don't let it pass you by!! Use your good things daily in your life!! They will bring you so much joy!!

Simple Lionheart Life

Thursday 14th of October 2021

Thank you for sharing these wonderful insights. I'm sorry to hear about your health challenges, but how wonderful that you've found a way to enjoy travelling virtually! Thanks again for sharing your experiences!

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