Impulse buying is not a good habit to have. It starts off as buying a little something every now and then to act as a basic pick-me-up, and it makes you feel good. Because you start associating purchases with feeling good, you make larger and larger purchases. Before you know it, you have a home full of things you never wanted or needed, and a bank account that’s been drained of money which you really needed to spend on other things. If this sounds like you, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Impulse buying is becoming more common, but it’s possible to break the habit if you work hard and follow a few basic rules.
Buying goods for yourself is fine in moderation (so long as you can afford it), but when it becomes an addiction, it’s an issue. It triggers pleasure receptors in the brain the same way that gambling does. Many people enjoy playing mobile slots, for example, but the overwhelming majority of them know when to stop putting money into a slots site or related casinos. Part of the joy of mobile slots is taking a payout from a slot and then walking away in profit. Only players who feel compelled to put their winnings straight back into a mobile slots game has a problem, and it’s because their brains crave that pleasure receptor stimulation. People who find themselves compelled to buy things on impulse are experiencing exactly the same sensation.
If you’re worried that you might be an impulse buyer, try implementing the following ideas to help yourself cut back.
Keep A Remorse Diary
We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘buyer’s remorse.’ It exists for a reason. All of us – whether we’re impulse buyers or not – know the feeling of paying for something, and then almost immediately realizing that we didn’t want or need it, and we’d rather have kept the money. For many of us, it happens every time we order takeaway food! After a large purchase, though, the remorse is even more intense. If you’re feeling down after you’ve bought something, but that negativity to good use. Write down exactly what you’re feeling and why you regret your purchase in a diary, and keep that diary to hand. Any time you find yourself considering a spur-of-the-moment purchase, open the diary up, and read your last entry. That might be the nudge you need to take a step back.
Block Problem Websites
The problem of impulse buying has been made worse by the internet. In the past, we’d have had to leave the house (or at least make a phone call) before making a purchase. Now, we can do it from behind a mobile phone or computer screen, no matter where we are, any time of day. That makes it too easy. If there are one or two websites in particular you find yourself using to make purchases more than any others, consider blocking them. That can work one of two ways. Firstly, you could try emailing or otherwise contacting the website and asking for your account to be deleted, and your IP or email address to be blocked. Most retail websites have a procedure for this. If you don’t want to contact the website, you can block your own access to it from your computer or phone. You’d then have to unblock it to gain access to it again – and that extra hurdle might give you the time you need to reconsider.
Plan Journeys Carefully
If you find that your impulse buying happens when you’re wandering aimlessly through stores, then avoid being around stores. Consider doing your grocery shopping online instead of doing it in person. A product on a shelf can catch your eye as you walk past it, but that’s less likely to happen if you’re on a website. Also, avoid going anywhere near stores unless you specifically need to buy something. Temptation can be a difficult thing to overcome, but you’ll make it all the harder if you’re putting yourself in temptation’s way too easily. When you do have to go to the store, consider taking someone with you so you’re less likely to veer off course or spend more time shopping than you intended to.
Don’t Be Alone
As with any condition that affects your mental health, keeping your loved ones in the dark about it is one of the worst things you can do. An out-of-control impulse buying habit can lead to feelings of self-loathing and worthlessness. That then feeds into more impulse buying as you attempt to make yourself feel better. It’s important that you tell someone what’s going on. They may even be able to offer you practical support, such as going shopping with you as we mentioned above. If you’re not comfortable speaking to any of your friends or family about the situation, ring a professional helpline. They will have dealt with similar issues before, and they’ll be patient and understanding. If you’re able to speak to your doctor about the situation, they may even be able to recommend a suitable therapist. The therapy might not be free, but it’s better than spending money on more pointless impulse buys.
The Thirty Day Rule
No big purchase should be acquired without serious thought, but impulse buyers often can’t help themselves. That’s why it’s important to introduce a rule. When you’re thinking about making a large purchase (unless there’s a valid reason why you need to make the purchase immediately), write it down somewhere and leave it for thirty days. After thirty days, buy it if you still want it. You’ll probably find that the urge has passed, and you no longer want it. If you do still want it then great – it’s probably something you won’t regret buying! You’re not denying yourself any purchases – you’re just delaying them to make sure you really want them. This requires a little more discipline, but you’ll be proud of yourself if you can commit to it.
At the same time as trying all of the above, avoid getting angry with yourself. Beating yourself up will only make the problem worse, and you’ll fall back on impulse buying as a comfort strategy. Be kind to yourself, and take things one step at a time.
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