Discipline and careful planning are essential if you’re to achieve your long-term financial and lifestyle goals.
But these can count for little if you can’t resist the temptation of impulse purchases. So how can we teach ourselves to avoid unnecessary spontaneous buys?
Well, let’s start by looking at why we’re often happy to fritter away cash without thinking about it. Peer pressure is undoubtedly a big factor, as our desire to fit in and be accepted by others can lead to people feeling under pressure to keep up with others’ lifestyles. At the same time, many will use impulse buying as a way to ease negative feelings. Shopping trips are often referred to as “retail therapy” for good reason, as buying shiny new items really can make us feel good at times of emotional distress or difficulty.
But the desire to get that dopamine hit can overcome our rational thought and judgement, and of course, the instant gratification that comes with a sudden purchase never lasts for long. Brands often know how to push our buttons while we’re browsing, both in-store and online. Perhaps they’ve aggressively marketed a particular product, or introduced limited time offers and multibuys that make you think you’re getting a bargain. But if you come away having bought something you neither wanted nor needed, you’ve probably wasted your money.
That’s why it’s so important to learn tactics to exercise a bit more control over your spending.
Sleep on it
Instead of buying something straight away, give yourself at least 24 hours to think about whether you actually need it before opening your wallet.
Research the market
If you’re still thinking about buying that item a day or two later, then carry out some basic research to see if what you’ve got your eye on is actually the best option for you. For example, does it offer all the features you want? Could you get a cheaper alternative elsewhere? By researching the market instead of succumbing to impulse buying, you’ll be able to make much more informed decisions and possibly get what you want for less.
Unsubscribe and unfollow
If you’re having your head turned by certain brands, unfollow them on social media and unsubscribe from their mailing lists, so you’re exposed to fewer tempting adverts and offers.
Examine your feelings
Think about why you’re making an impulse purchase. Is it because you’re stressed, bored or anxious? If so, look for different ways to manage these emotions, other than spending money unnecessarily.
Monitor your spending
Use your bank statements and budgeting apps to keep an eye on where your money is going. If you can track your spending habits, you should be able to identify trends and areas where you might be particularly prone to impulse buying.
Write a list
Before you head to the shops or click on a retail website, write down what items you genuinely need. By having a good idea of what you want to buy, you might be able to avoid being swayed by non-essential items that you’re not currently looking for.
There’s nothing wrong with the odd impulse purchase if you can afford it, and unnecessarily depriving yourself of life’s simple pleasures certainly isn’t the way forward. But excessive impulse buying can be counterproductive and you can end up regretting it, often within moments of making a purchase. In fact, a study by credit provider Vanquis shows that people spend nearly £184 a year on items they later regret purchasing. This shows the importance of really thinking about what you’re spending money on.
By taking control of your spending habits and making intelligent and considered decisions, you’ll be in a much stronger position to boost your wealth, make your money work harder for you, and achieve your long-term financial goals.
It is important to take professional advice before making any decision relating to your personal finances. Information within this article does not provide individual tailored investment advice and is for guidance only. We cannot assume legal liability for any errors or omissions it might contain. Ethical Futures llp is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.