Impulse spending is an infamous contributor to personal debt. Many tearjerker debt stories start with “those shoes” or “that video game console I really thought I could afford.” Everyone struggles with ways to stop impulse spending at some point in their life. Myself included. I also know firsthand how hard it is to control bad habits like buying things without a second thought. But if you ever plan to get out of debt, it’s very important to control impulse spending and stick to a debt budget. Here are some suggestions that worked for me:
1. Stop Browsing Shopping Sites
Those shiny retail sites online are highly optimized to make people buy things. They are like chocolate chip cookies to a six year old. When it’s right there on the table, how can you control yourself? Retail sites advertise items with slogans like “buy now 50% off” or “buy one and get one free.” Offers of this nature are really hard to ignore. Don’t fool yourself and believe that you can control yourself from clicking that “buy” button. Don’t visit retail sites telling yourself that you are only browsing. The temptation will be too much, so simply don’t ever venture there.
2. Leave the Credit Card at Home
If I have my check card with me, I’m always buying things. Leaving it behind is a good way to stop impulse spending. I keep telling myself that my purchases are small. A burger on the way home or a snack buying trip to the dollar store never really costs much. Except that these little purchases eventually add up to hundreds of dollars at the end of the month. Eventually, I decided to leave my credit card at home on weekdays. I only have it with me when I absolutely have to buy things like groceries or gas. I ended up cutting down hundreds of dollars in frivolous spending simply by not having my credit card with me all the time.
3. Schedule Shopping
Scheduling shopping trips can help cut down unnecessary purchases. For example, say you are out of milk. So you go to the grocery store, and while there, you think ‘why not get an ice cream tub and new cereal, too’? You don’t actually need the latter two items, but you spend money on it anyway. You can control stupid impulse buys like this by scheduling grocery runs. Make a list of everything you need per month or for two weeks and buy it all at once. When you spend couple of hundred dollars buying things you do need, you are less likely to add unnecessary items to the list.
4. Make Payments Early in the Month
We won’t be making impulse purchases if we don’t have money on hand, period. A friend of mine had this practice where she would pay all her bills—rent, utility, mortgage, cable, etc—the first day of the month once she received her paycheck. Then she’ll do the monthly grocery run. After all that, there was only a pittance left that didn’t buy much. She even managed to deposit a portion of it in a savings account. I think that’s an excellent method for everyone to control spending and save for the long run.
5. A Budget Can Stop Impulse Spending
If you can’t beat it, indulge it, but only in a strictly controlled manner. If you can’t stop yourself from wasting money buying shoes every week, maybe it’s not a good idea to go cold turkey. You will only fall short of your own expectations. Instead, allocate a small amount without hurting regular expenses to “entertain yourself.” If you can’t completely stop impulse spending, at least restrict it.
The above are only suggestions. Don’t try them all at once. Try one or two, and see where it takes you.
Have you ever struggled with impulse shopping?