5 Ways to Prevent Impulse Buying

It’s lunchtime at work. You’re bored, so you pick up your phone and start scrolling through your Instagram and Facebook. *buzz* You get an email notification from your favorite store that they’re having a sale that you CANNOT pass up on. “LAST CHANCE” they say. “Up to 75% off,” they say.

Before you know it, you’ve gotten your shopping cart loaded. But, of course, you’re one item short of free shipping. Back to shopping you go...

Finally, you’ve picked out all of your cute outfits, with accessories. You apply the coupon code and you hit “Buy”. *buzz* You get a notification from your mobile banking app informing you that you’ve spent a whopping $400.

Your response….

Ok, so maybe that’s not you. Instead of scrolling online, you’re strolling down the aisle of a well lit, uber clean Target. Before you know it, your shopping cart is full of items that you didn’t even come into the store for.
You get to the register and the clerk says, “Your total is $500. Debit or credit?”

Likewise, your response is…

Different scenarios, same issue-- impulse buying.

Let’s all admit that we’ve been here to some degree before. Maybe it wasn’t hundreds of dollars, but at one time or another, we’ve spent money that we didn’t plan on spending. We blew our “budget” and, once again, found ourselves back at square one trying to regroup.

Though stores do a great job of feeding on impulse buyers, your decision to buy isn’t their fault. As much as I like to call Target the devil for being a master at luring it’s customers into buying more, the onus is actually on you. They’re relying on your lack of self discipline to increase their bottom line. And, guess what? It’s working.

At the root of it all, impulse buying is the result of the perfect mix of convenience and lack of self discipline. The store puts an alluring product before you at a seemingly bargain price, all while your guard is down and you aren’t aware that you’ve entered into a trap. Since you can’t control the store, the only thing left to do is to control yourself.

If you want to master self discipline, whether it be to stop impulse buying or to achieve any other goal, you must create an environment where doing the “right thing” is easy and frankly, your only option...

The Easy Button

The marketing department of Staples had it right with their explosively popular ad campaigns with the Easy Button. They dove right into consumers’ psyche when they presented a means of making life easier with the phrase, “Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an easy button for life?” Over 13 years later, it is still a recognizable symbol for the brand. Why? Because humans are always in search of the easiest, most convenient option.

So what does this have to do with impulse buying? Well, we impulse buy, in part, because it’s easy. It’s right beside the item you actually came to buy. It’s conveniently placed at the register. Your debit card information is already saved to the site. With this in mind, if you want to become self disciplined around shopping, you have to make not buying the easier alternative.

Here are 5 things that you can do to make ‘not buying’ easier:

  • 1. Unsubscribe to store coupons & don’t give them your email
Did you know that companies spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to have emails sent to your inbox to inform you about sales? They know that all it takes is a good, catchy subject line and perfectly curated outfits to get you from just skimming your email to hitting ‘Purchase’ on your cart. Furthermore, they know that it’s easier to keep a customer than to gain a new one, so they’ll flood your email with “exclusive deals” just to keep you around.

I know that it can be so hard to see these emails boasting 75% off and pass it up, so the best way to combat this urge is to not see it at all. Remove the temptation by unsubscribing from store coupons & by not giving them your email address in the future. Legally, companies must provide a way for customers to unsubscribe from their list and the button to do so is typically all the way at the bottom on the email, in fine print. Go figure. Find it, click it, and unsubscribe from future emails. And the next time the clerk at the register asks for your email or phone number, just tell her that you’d rather not provide that information. It’s your right.

Here’s a fact-- there will ALWAYS be a sale and you can ALWAYS find a coupon. You aren’t missing out if you don’t get the email directly to your inbox. There are apps like Retailmenot and Ebates where you can find deals when you’ve planned to make your purchases.

Now, some companies have gone a step further by sending messages via Facebook Messenger. Again, you can also unsubscribe to these annoying bots and rid yourself of the temptation.

  • 2. Don’t save your payment information to the site
Remember, convenience will cause you to lose the war against impulse shopping, so don’t make it easy. That means not creating a login for your favorite online store— where your payment information is usually stored. Instead, make it inconvenient by having to manually enter in your debit card number and address each time. That item may not look as good when you have to walk across the house to find your purse, dig for your wallet, and pull out your debit card. Though your email is required for them to send tracking information, be sure no uncheck the box for them to send you deals and updates.

If you’ve really got it bad with online shopping, I also suggest deactivating Apple Pay on your iPhone. Again, this would make the buying process less convenient, sobering you up during your impulse buy high.

  • 3. Pay with cash and only bring what will cover the items on your list
If online shopping isn’t your vice, here’s a tip for shopping in stores: Only bring the amount of cash that you need to buy what’s on your list. This means, no debit or credit card. *gasp*

I know what you’re thinking, “But I already have a list that I can’t stick to!” And I get that, but when you only have enough money available to pay for what’s on that list….#gamechanger. So, instead of going through the store just throwing it in the bag (or cart), you’re left with no choice but to only purchase the items that you came for.

This method works especially great when grocery and household shopping, where you typically repeat the same items each week and have a general idea of the costs. However, I’ve also leveraged this method for leisure shopping as well. In those cases I had an idea of what I wanted before I went into the store and an idea of the cost. Therefore, I was able to budget and have just enough cash on hand to pay for it with.

Now, if you really want to get savvy, start adding up the cost with the calculator on your phone as you put items in the cart. This way, you can see how close you are to reaching that limit. If there’s something left after tax is applied, then and only then, should you consider picking up a treat. Otherwise, call it a savings and put it in your piggy bank.

If you want to even savvier than that, start keeping track of the cost of your most bought items in a spreadsheet. That way, you know exactly how much it should cost you when you get to the register.

Speaking of carrying cash, here’s an old a faithful tip...

  • 4. Use big bills...because who wants to break them?
This tip is one that I actually learned as a child. There’s something about the human psychology that causes us to cringe when we break big bills— meaning $50 and $100 bills. When it’s broken, it’s as though we went from having money, to losing it all in a matter of seconds. And you know what happens next… Before you know it, those twenty, ten, five, and one dollar bills will be spent and you have no clue how it all went so fast. It kind of reminds me of gambling...but I digress.

If you’re not ready to commit to a list and only carrying “just enough” cash for your next shopping trip, try the big bill method. Again, don’t bring in your debit or credit card, only a single big bill. The horror of losing it quickly may just be enough to deter you from buying. 

  • 5. Reduce the impact of impulse buying by adding miscellaneous shopping to your budget 
The truth of the matter is that impulse buying is only bad when it’s not accounted for. There’s nothing wrong with discretionary spending, but there is something wrong with spending money that’s not accounted for in your budget and/or bank account. Add shopping as a line item in your budget and, more importantly, only spend what is listed. You can use any of the above methods to ensure that.

Being financially responsible doesn’t mean that you can’t shop. It just means that you, first, make sure that you can afford what you’re buying and secondly, account for it. Already have money set aside so that if there is a sale, you’ll have the money to cover it and there won’t be any damage to your budget or buyers remorse.

There you have it, 5 ways to prevent impulse shopping. It’s nothing more than allowing human nature work in your favor by making not buying the easier alternative to impulse shopping.

If you’re ready to completely master your money, then I suggest signing up for my FREE Money Mindset webinar. I’ll teach you everything else you need to know about money so that you can get on the path to becoming debt free and building generational wealth. Click here to get instant access!

Comment below and let me know which stores get you when it comes to impulse buying!