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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