Ahhh, yes. The infamous impulse purchases. We’ve all been there. We go to a store planning to purchase some milk or paper towels and leave the store with 5 other items we didn’t plan on purchasing. Sound familiar?
Impulse buying can be defined as an unplanned or spur of the moment decision to purchase an item or service; sometimes prompted by a product’s strategic placement or flashy display that catches one’s eye.
A 1998 study estimated North Americans spent more than $4 billion a year on impulse buys. Can you imagine how much of an increase this statistic would show for 2013?
Checkout lanes are a major culprit for contributing to impulse buying. The marketing of a product at the checkout lane to entice your sense
of “needing” that item is one of the many strategies consumers face when shopping. Almost any store you select, you will never fail to see those extra items displayed at the cash register for that last effort to add to your purchase before your payment transaction is complete. Kids absolutely LOVE having those little toys and items that appeal to their “last chance” to get mom or dad to buy them something before leaving the store.
How do you avoid the temptation of impulse buying? Here are a few tips to help curb the urge to grab that last item that catches your eye before checkout.
- Take stock in your need to purchase. Could it be that you may be influenced by the flashy display or the fact that you’re rewarding yourself for a small (or large) achievement that may validate your extra spending? Finding out what motivates your spending is the first step in cutting back and feeling accomplished with saying no to yourself.
- Stay home. Sounds good, but really? Stay home? Well yes. If you find yourself shopping out of boredom or social togetherness, hold gatherings at your home to socialize but spend little to no money. Spending money and socialization do not have to go hand in hand.
- Leave money out of your outing. If you are going somewhere that doesn’t require much money to do, ie: a child’s sporting event, trip to the park etc, don’t take any money that you don’t want to spend. If you have cash with you, you are 5x more likely to stop somewhere and spend a portion of it. Not having it with you greatly reduces that urge. Which brings me to the next tip….
- Avoid plastic! Using credit cards to purchase items that you don’t have the cash to purchase is a huge trap consumers fall into every day. The concept of “buy now, pay later” is WAY too tempting and can create financial disasters down the road. Chances are, if you are a consistent “charger”, you will end up paying back 3-4 times more for a shopping excursion than you would if you had just saved and paid cash. A $50 sweater turns into a $150 sweater once you’ve paid the interest on it through minimum payments. If you are building credit and credit cards are your stepping stone to a positive credit score, charge a small amount ONCE a month, then pay it in full when it’s due.
- Pay cash. The vision of having cash in your hand and it disappearing with each purchase is eye opening. When we quickly swipe a card (debit or credit), we lose the visual act of how much we are actually giving for that purchase.
- List it or leave it. Make a list and stick to it. This creates accountability. If something is not on the list, don’t buy it. Not as easy as it sounds. This step takes self control and the ability to say no to your spending. But if you set your mind to it, it can be accomplished.
Merchants want you to purchase impulse items. They use strategy after strategy to appeal to your impulse shopping reflexes. Clever deals such as “Buy 2, get 3rd free”, when maybe you only needed one. Eye level product placement, for kids and adults. Have you ever noticed that child impulse items are located on lower level checkout lane shelves? Not a coincidence.
Setting your mind to purchase only what you need is the only real key to avoiding falling into the impulse trap. Decide you aren’t going to fall into the trap and enjoy keeping the money you worked hard to keep in your pocket!
“It is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want.” ~ Dr. Spock / The World According to Spock (Star Trek)