How to stop impulse buying
8 January 2020
Have you ever been sucked in by a sale, or overcome by the urge to buy something you tossed aside later? Impulse spending is something we’re all guilty of. We like to think of ourselves as rational and in control, but sometimes we spend more than we’d like to. Thankfully, there are ways to manage our impulses
Tips to avoid impulse buying
Understand the traps
To understand impulse buying, it helps to understand its triggers. For example, stores are structured to awaken the shopaholic inside all of us. And although we can’t change the system, we can change how we respond to it.
Sales and discounts
The pull of an offer can be seductive. Sales make our hearts race, and compel us to act by targeting our loss aversion tendencies—we think we’re missing out on something great if we don’t grab it. Understanding this process may help you notice it happening. You’ll know if an item truly excites you, or if you’re just hooked by a seemingly good deal.
Immersive shopping experiences
Sarah had a rough day. She relaxes with online shopping. What's happening in Sarah's brain? Stress makes it hard for her to resist instant gratification. Stress can influence our spending choices. Instant gratification is addictive because of dopamine. Dopamine equals short-term pleasure and stress relief. Each purchase sends Sarah a shot of dopamine. A McCrindle report says 82 per cent of Aussies report feeling good when they buy something new. We're all Sarahs. Luckily you can control emotional spending. Be mindful. Ask yourself if you're reacting emotionally. Make a budget and stick to it. Track your spending. Make note of your purchases over twenty dollars.
Use tools to take back control
Use emotional awareness
Often, seeking material comforts via impulse buying is driven by unmet emotional needs. We might use shoes as pick-me-ups, or search for happiness on a clearance rack. Practising mindfulness allows you to get to the source of a spending desire. Taking control of your emotions may be the most powerful way to reduce impulse buying.
Suncorp Behavioural Psychologist Phil Slade suggests finding other emotional outlets, and never shopping when sad. When you’re unsure if you truly want something, Phil suggests saying you’ll ‘’make this decision tomorrow’’. Delaying a purchase can help you distinguish rational thoughts from emotional ones.
Emotional awareness helps you spot shopping traps and become the sole driver of your spending behaviour. You can’t get rid of your emotions – you’re only human! – or the never-ending sales, but you can navigate them like a pro.
Create shopping lists
Arm yourself with a shopping list before you hit the shelves, and stick to it. This way you’ll be fully aware of what you came to do. When you plan to buy bread, buy bread—even if the supermarket aisles throw you off course, herding you towards the soft drinks. Supermarket essentials (like milk and bread) are often placed at the back of a store, so it’s easy to get sucked in. That’s where your list comes in handy—it can keep you on track.
Track your spending
A budget can help keep unnecessary spending at bay. Having a fixed amount of money to spend prompts you to re-consider spontaneous spending impulses. If you’re new to the whole budget planning thing, try our free budget planner to help get your head around the financial planning process.
Suncorp’s Everyday Options Account can also be a great way to budget better everyday—you can create up to 9 linked savings sub-accounts and name them whatever you like. Separating your food budget from your furniture one can keep things simple. Open a bank account online and enjoy no monthly account keeping fee for the life of the account!* Bask in your newfound confidence when you next hit the shops!
*Monthly account keeping fee waived for new Everyday Options accounts opened from 3/12/2018. Fee will be charged and waived for as long as the account is held. Offer is subject to change without notice and may be withdrawn or extended at any time. Banking products are issued by Suncorp-Metway Ltd ABN 66 010 831 722 (“Suncorp Bank”). Eligibility criteria, conditions and fees apply and are available on request. Please read the relevant Product Information Document before making any decision about this product. Contact us for a copy. This advice does not take into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.