Every successful retailer understands the power of impulse buying and lays out the retail space to encourage it.
A study by the UK company Npower found that the most common impulse purchases include food, clothes, magazines, wine, and books, and that a sale price is the single most powerful motivator for impulse purchases.
Getting a handle on impulse spending can save you significant money every year, reduce buyer’s remorse, and give you the satisfaction of knowing you managed your money better than you could have.
Here are 12 tips for cutting down on impulse purchases without resorting to soul crushing self-deprivation.
Involve Kids in the Shopping Process
Involve your children in the shopping process and help them learn to curb their desire for all the appealing things they’ll see at the store.
Let kids help you make your list, and delegate some minor decision-making power.
Perhaps one child chooses the cereal and the other chooses lunchbox items, or perhaps if they behave properly they can each choose one item costing less than a dollar.
This helps kids feel responsible and doesn’t take all the fun out of shopping.
Don’t Grocery Shop When You’re Hungry
Everyone’s done it. Going to the store hungry makes people buy foods they never would otherwise, and these foods are often expensive convenience foods that are not nutritious.
Have an apple or a sandwich before heading out to the store to curb hunger-induced buying.
Wear Mental Blinders
Make a list and stick to it. Also, be efficient.
Make your list in the order the aisles are laid out in your store so that you get in, find what you need, and get back out without wasting time.
Eventually this becomes habit, saving you serious money over a year’s time.
Pay With Cash
Paying with cash makes spending “real.” If you know you spend between $80 and $100 at the store each week, take out $100 right before hitting the store.
You’ll avoid impulse buys, and over time it will almost become a game of how much can I get for my money this week?
Implement a Mandatory Waiting Period
If you see an item that captures your interest, sleep on it.
Make it a rule that if you see something you want that you didn’t specifically go shopping for, you’ll wait 48 hours before buying it.
Chances are, you’ll forget all about the item. If not, maybe it’s not so frivolous after all.
Clean Something You Have Before Going Shopping
When all the clean laundry is in a pile in front of the closet, it’s obvious how you might think you have nothing to wear.
Have places for your possessions, and keep possessions organized. Folding laundry doesn’t take much time, and you can do it while watching TV.
Knowing what you have and where it is prevents you from ending up with five nearly identical black skirts.
Audit Yourself Every Year
During that lull right before the New Year, go through your home and see for yourself the things you bought that you haven’t used, or that make you wonder what you were thinking at the time.
Make a list, and you can see just how much impulse purchases add up to in a year. (Also, box that stuff up and give it to charity.)
Impose a “Get Something / Get Rid of Something” Rule
Make room for purchases by getting rid of stuff you no longer need or want.
Make space for that new game controller by getting rid of the old one behind the couch that has peanut butter on it. Ditch those too-tight shoes you never wear before buying a new pair. ]
Reevaluating what you have can make it easier to avoid buying things you don’t need.
Shop Less Frequently
The more you run to the store for a few items, the more you’re exposed to impulse purchase temptation. Make one big list for the week and try to avoid making fill-in trips.
Save Receipts for When Sanity Returns
When you make an impulse purchase, particularly if it’s pricey, keep the receipt. Once you’re home, you may realize you bought it in a moment of retail insanity and can return it easily.
Bring Your Own Kvetch
Have a friend or family member who’s frugal and proud? Bring him or her with you.
That way when you’re buying that new silk tie for your big work presentation, you’ll be talked out of buying the chip and dip set and the dress shoes that don’t quite fit but are on sale.
Don’t Overdo the Discipline
Finally, improving fiscal responsibility is like losing weight.
If you’re on a diet and designate certain foods as forbidden, they take on exaggerated importance, and can prompt a major, guilt-inducing binge. I
t’s fine to treat yourself occasionally. Life is too short to be a constant battle for frugality.
Buy the occasional treat, and you may avoid a regrettable, resentment-fueled spending spree later.
Mary Hiers is a personal finance writer who helps people earn more and spend less.