Does Your Spending Need Tending?

To shop is human – to splurge (at least once in a while) is divine.  But if your buying habits cause problems with your family, job, and finances you may be an impulse buyer in trouble.

Related: What’s Your Purchasing Behaviour Style?

Do you:

  • Use shopping to cheer yourself up or make you feel better if you’re down?
  • Browse the stores and shop almost every day?
  • Regret purchases soon after making them?
  • Have feelings of guilt or are disappointed in yourself?
  • Acquire more than you have room for?
  • Hide purchases from your spouse?
  • Buy items that you are not sure your will use, just because they are on sale?
  • Often come home with more than you intended?
  • Spend more than you can afford, maxing your credit cards?
  • Have items in your home that are still sporting price tags, or even still in the shopping bags?
  • Stash your purchases and then are unable to find them?

Splurging is fun, and often exhilarating at first – the guilt can come later.

Related: 30 Signs You Grew Up In A Frugal Family

Unfortunately, the number of people who “gotta have it, now!” is increasing.  One estimate is a whopping one in five.

If you’re thinking you’re not susceptible, you may be right.  However, it is also quite likely you’re kidding yourself.  We’ve all done it – the incredibly cool gadget, a great pair of shoes, a bag of jelly beans, or a magazine you started reading while waiting in line at the checkout.

Take a moment to look around your house and you’ll probably find lots of products you don’t really use.


Some people just love shopping and many more derive an enormous amount of pleasure from acquiring something new.

Fit some occasional, small impulse buying into your budget.  But, if you haven’t opened the package, or used the item within the week, commit to returning it.  Don’t beat yourself up.

Related: How To Make A Better Personal Budget

Retail tactics

Retailers have made a study of the psychology of impulse shopping and capitalize on it.  They have learned that we are very susceptible to “loss aversion” – the fear we’ll miss out on a deal.

We are also susceptible to the innate desire to save money or time so we purchase “value” items and apparent discounts.

We routinely delude ourselves with an idealized view of what the future might be like.

Randy has not done a stroke of exercise in the last 10 years.  He buys the new Ab-Toner-9000 with the idea of turning into someone who has the motivation to crunch his stomach 200 times a day.

Emotions are triggered by seeing the product artfully displayed, or by a well- crafted promotional message a la the “infomercial.”

Related: What I Learned From Working Retail

Here’s an example:  My husband hates peeling hard boiled eggs, so when he saw the “Eggies” advertised he practically RAN to the TV store to buy them (this is somewhat of a feat considering he can barely walk across the living room without getting out of breath due to his disabilities).  Now this $19.99 purchase sits in my pantry because, “It’s too much of a pain to use them and, especially, disassemble them to wash.”

Words to shop by

Write the following questions down on an index card and keep it handy.  Pull the card out and read them right there in the store whenever you are face to face with a coveted item.  It sounds corny, but it works.

  • Do I really need this?
  • Will I use it within the next month?
  • How many more of these do I already have at home?
  • Can I really afford this? Really?

An ounce of prevention

We’ve heard this before, but it’s worth repeating.

  • Make a list and stay focused.
  • Don’t browse too much.  Wandering around encourages random buying – you’ll always find something you want.
  • Don’t touch unless you are quite sure the item is what you want.  Touching increases attachment and it’s encouraged by retail stores.  Keep your hands in your pockets.
  • Keep your budget in mind.
  • If you have the urge to make an impulse purchase, give yourself a cooling off period.  You can often talk yourself out of it.
  • Think of your long-term goals.
  • Instead of shopping, pursue other enjoyable activities.

Related: Why Do We Save?

Final thoughts

Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough do NOT go shopping.  They join a fitness club with the money they have saved.  Then they get healthy, maybe a little bit wealthy, and exceedingly wise.

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  1. Lama on September 4, 2013 at 8:07 am

    I love your posts and I often share them on my Facebook page
    I shared this one earlier today 🙂

    • Boomer on September 4, 2013 at 2:10 pm

      @Lama: Thanks for your kind words and for your support.

  2. Bet Crooks on September 4, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Some people write a short message similar to those you suggest on a paper envelope and keep their debit/credit card inside it. The idea is to see the message while pulling out the card and re-think the purchase.

    I’m fortunate because I don’t like shopping so I only go to the store when I need to. My children are growing up in a household where “going to the mall” is not a form of recreation. When they are older, their own personalities will control what they choose to do, but at least they aren’t picking up a bad habit from me.

  3. Boomer on September 4, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    @Bet Crooks: I also am not that interested in shopping – and I hate to browse. I have, however, gone to the store clutching my list and come home with more than anticipated 🙂

  4. KC on September 5, 2013 at 7:52 am

    During good times, I had a bad habit of spending money on more things than I needed to really furnish my place over the years. Now that I literally have everything that I need, I have no desire to go shopping anymore although I could use new shoes but am really not that ambitious to get them. I know, very unusual for a woman! haha

    I’m finding myself starting to sell some stuff that I haven’t used in 2 years and it’s serving me a good lesson.

    • Boomer on September 5, 2013 at 5:09 pm

      @KC: Once you have everything you need you don’t really need to buy more. I still have kitchen appliances I received for wedding presents almost 40 years ago. As long as they still work, I’m fine with them, although my stand mixer sounds like jet plane taking off – ha ha!

      I have been in the process of disposing of everything I no longer need and I don’t intend to add more.

      • KC on September 6, 2013 at 10:21 am

        @Boomer, I’m sure that you could have significant energy savings if your 40-year old appliances includes a fridge and stove! haha

        I buy good quality stuff and I hang onto them but just needed to stop buying stuff that I use only once a year! So far, I’m 80% successful….

        • Boomer on September 6, 2013 at 10:29 am

          @KC HA! None of my large appliances made it that long. They’ve been replaced a few times. I like to buy quality that will last for a while. I just don’t run out and buy something just because it has a couple of new features. If it works well enough for me, then I’m good.

  5. fiscally fit on September 5, 2013 at 11:55 am

    people have the tendency to accumulate so much “crap”. If you haven’t used something in the last couple years… get rid of it haha

  6. Anton Ivanov on September 11, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    In my experience most people “buy” instead of “shop”. They go to a store, see something they like, pull out a credit card out of their wallets (the most common case) and get it.

    Shoppers, on the other hand, know what they want ahead of time, look for the best deals and are not afraid to walk away form the store empty-handed.

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