When it comes to finding extra money for saving in your budget, we’re often told to look at your regular spending patterns. You know the drill – cut out your Starbucks habit, bring your own lunch to work, take the bus.

But often it’s the irregular impulse buying that can wreak havoc on your budget. You may not be like the guy who impulsively blew $1,700 on a big screen TV when he was electronics shopping with his pal, but even all those insignificant purchases – that you probably don’t need, or even want – can add up, and blow your budget more than buying the occasional latte.

The Web of Temptation

I’m a craftsy type person and I regularly buy my supplies online. You’ve seen this before – if you purchase a certain dollar amount, the shipping is free. Shipping minimums get shoppers to add another item to their cart. So, I put another gadget in my cart thinking I’m saving money, and it ends up costing me more than what the shipping amount would be.

Online retailers know how to activate your impulses while online browsing.

Maybe you’ve seen:

  • Suggestions that will “complete the look.”
  • What shoppers who liked this item also purchased.
  • Limited quantities (or time). Act now to get $xxx off your purchase!

The Accidental Tourist

Who hasn’t come home with silly or useless novelty items to “remind” us of our great vacation? I remember my mother toting four sombreros onto the plane coming home from Mexico. She didn’t want them crushed in the overhead compartment, so she held them on her lap for the whole flight.

I used to live in Calgary, and one of the biggest wallet emptiers is the midway at the Calgary Stampede. You want to show off your prowess at throwing darts or tossing a ball – over and over again – and keep playing until you finally win that stuffed Olaf. Simply buying the toy for your child or sweetie would be a lot less costly (and less frustrating).

Related: 30 signs you grew up in a frugal family

The Stampede also has an exhibition hall that features all kinds of useless items and demonstrations such as the ones you see on TV. One time my mother-in-law and I stopped to watch a product demonstration for a “Sweepa”, a revolutionary new way to clean your floors.

The demonstration was amazing, and with two for the price of one we couldn’t resist so we lined up with our money in hand. Not only did we have to cart these brooms around the grounds for the rest of the day, at home we found they weren’t really that easy to manage. I gave mine to my husband for the garage and he threw it away when he thought I wasn’t looking.

“Where’s my Sweepa?” “What?”

Waiting for my plane, I encounter a saleswoman giving out soap samples. I have some time to kill so I wander through the store and buy a bath gift basket – at overinflated airport prices – and give it to my mother. A year or so later, she regifted it back to me.

What was I thinking?

We’ve all had these moments when we get our impulse purchase home and haven’t a clue as to why we wanted it so much – the higher end appliance or gadget that has sooo many more cool features (that we know we’ll never use), or the new sofa that’s too large for your room in a colour that doesn’t match your décor.

What about the beverage-dispensing hat, the $100 posture corrector, or the surfboard when you live on the prairies?

Take a look in your closets to see how many cute/funny/ugly/unique items you had to have and are now hidden away.

Final thoughts

Impulse buying can really undermine your monthly budget. Often these purchases are not in line with your goals and can set them way back.

Related: 35 ways to save money

Aimlessly browsing, whether online or in stores, with no specific purchase in mind can lead to costly impulse purchases that you don’t need – especially dangerous if you carry a balance on your credit card.

What’s your craziest impulse buy?


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