8 Surefire Ways to Curb Impulse Spending

It’s hard to believe that August is almost gone.  Before we know it, fall will be here.  Fall is my favorite.  In Montana fall is short, sometimes it feels like the entire season takes place in a single afternoon.  Fall has always felt like a new beginning.  A time to try something new and a chance to make progress on any goals you’ve set for the year.  And with back-to-school shopping, gearing up for the holidays, and seasonal sales, it can often be a time to spend money.  Some of these purchases are planned for, but others can be impulse buys that can blow the budget. If you are looking to get your impulse spending under control and stay on budget this fall, I have 8 surefire ways to curb impulse spending and help you stay on budget.

Stick to Your List to Curb Impulse Spending

One of the most effective ways to curb impulse spending is to create a list before you shop…and stick to it.  Whether you are grocery shopping, back to school shopping, or shopping for a holiday party, having a list can help keep you on track.  For me, this rule has mostly helped reign in my grocery spending.  If I go to the grocery store without a list, I see so many things I JUST HAVE TO HAVE.  And my grocery budget goes out the window very quickly.  So, I’ve learned that I can’t go grocery shopping without a list.  To keep my list to necessities only I use my meal plan to guide my shopping.  If you find yourself buying everything in sight, try making a list and sticking to it when you’re at the store.

Shop Sales for things you already need

Shopping sales for things you already need is a great way to curb your impulse spending.  I like to keep a list on my phone of things that come to my mind and that I want or need.  These items aren’t urgently needed, so I don’t have to go out and look for them right away.  Instead, when I head out shopping, I review the list to see what I may be able to find on sale.  Shopping sales and receiving items at a discount gives our brains a dopamine hit, so we REALLY enjoy it.  Having a running list of items you’re already in the market for can help you keep your spending under control when things are on sale.  You’ll still get the dopamine hit from shopping the sale, but you’ll also be curbing your impulse spending and staying on budget.

Give Yourself a 24-hour Waiting Period

Of the eight surefire ways to curb your impulse spending, giving yourself a 24-hour waiting period works best for bigger items.  Although this rule can be applied to all purchases, it’s most effective if you know you have the money for a larger purchase but hadn’t been considering it until you saw it in the store.  Instead of buying it right away, give yourself a 24-hour cooling off period.  Go home, look at the space you have to put said item, think about how it factors into your life, and see how you feel after 24 hours.  If you still can’t stop thinking about it 24 hours later, and you’ve put thought into where and how it fits in your life, then it no longer becomes an impulse.  

Delete Shopping Apps from Your Phone and Avoid Window Shopping

We’ve all been there, we are bored, so we pull out our phones and hope on Amazon (or even on Instagram which has so many more ads these days).  We don’t mean to buy anything, but a bit of mindless scrolling later and we have $30 of randomness in our carts.  Having easy access to shopping on your phone or putting yourself in the position of window shopping “just to look” can lead to impulse shopping.  Research indicates that those who shop for fun often spend more money.  So, remove the temptation.  Delete the shopping apps from your phone and avoid window shopping if you find that these can help to curb your impulse spending.

Find the Root of Your Impulse Spending

One of the best things you can do to curb your impulse spending, is understand the emotions behind it. Emotions are a big driver of how we spend money.  When we are feeling sad, anxious, nervous, or upset, shopping can offer us a way to feel better.  Remember, when we buy something new, we get a dopamine hit.  This makes us feel temporarily better.  It also reenforces that shopping and buying things makes us feel better.  Which can lead to more impulse shopping.  

To work through this, you need to watch and understand the emotions behind your spur of the moment trip to the mall.  Do you find yourself shopping after a particularly rough day at the office? Or do you jump on Amazon late at night after a fight with your partner?  Knowing what emotions trigger you to shop can help you be more aware of impulse spending situations as they arise.  You can then find other ways to deal with your feelings like taking a walk or listening to some music.  Understanding your emotions will go a long way towards curbing your impulse spending.

Question Your Purchases To Curb Impulse Spending

One great way to curb your impulse spending is to ask yourself the following four questions before you make a purchase:

Question Your Purchases to curb your impulse spending

  • Will I use it? This is a great question because sometimes we buy things because they are flashy or seem cool.  But the truth is, they don’t fit in our lives.  Determining if you will use something is a good gauge of whether it’s worth the money.
  • Do I want to store it?  If you are buying something, you want to be sure it fits into your life (and your home) so looking at the storage requirements can help you decide if it’s a good buy.
    • Do I want to clean or maintain it? The things that we buy take up not just physical space, but also mental and emotional space. Looking at the true cost of owning something and determining if you want to clean and take care of it (and if you can afford to do so) can help with your buying decisions.
    • Would I rather put my money somewhere else? To me, this one is maybe the most important question to ask yourself.  You should be spending, saving, and investing according to your values.  So, considering a purchase and how it lines up with your values and your financial goals can help you be sure you’re staying true to what matters to you.

    Asking yourself these questions before you buy something that’s caught your eye can help you keep your impulse spending in check.

    Keep Your Goals Front and Center

    Along with asking yourself the four questions above, keeping your goals front and center can help curb your impulse spending.  There is an opportunity cost involved in every purchase you make.  The opportunity cost of spending your money is giving up the next best thing you could be doing with it.  Money is a resource, but most of us don’t have an endless supply of it.  So, when you are making purchases, it is key to think about how they are helping or hurting your progress on your goals.  Keep your goals front and center in a way that works for you.  It could be on the fridge, on a vision board, or in your journal.  Having them somewhere you can see them often helps keep you on the right path.  I like to write out my goals and keep them on my phone.  That way when opportunities come up and I’m not sure what to do, I can revisit my goals and see if I’m still on track.

    Budget for “Fun” Spending

    “Some impulse buys are going to happen. So instead of beating yourself up about it or allowing yourself to spiral into shame and blame, budget for it.”

    All the other eight surefire ways to curb your impulse spending are methods for avoiding it.  But, let’s face it, some impulse buys are going to happen.  It’s just the nature of things.  So instead of beating yourself up about it or allowing yourself to spiral into shame and blame, budget for it.  It can be so freeing to have a set amount of money each month or pay period that you don’t have to answer for.  Some people carry it in cash, others have a separate account that the money goes in.  What is important is to find a method and amount that work for you.  Know that this money can be spent on whatever you want with no rules or constraints.  But also know that when the money you’ve allocated to this category is gone for the pay period…it’s gone.  This can help you find balance and create some wiggle room in your budget.  It can also help you alleviate guilt associated with impulse spending.  

    Final Thoughts

    Impulse spending is something we all do.  But these eight surefire ways to curb impulse spending can help you as you work to get it under control.  Understanding why you tend to spend in the moment and having strategies in place to help can keep you on budget and on track towards your goals.  So as summer comes to an end and you find yourself facing all the sales of fall, use these strategies to curb your impulse spending.

    I’d love to hear from you, let me know in the comments how you deal with your impulse spending?

    Want more ideas about sticking to your budget, check out my blog post Creating a Money Management System You Can Stick To!

    Would you like more help with your impulse spending? Financial coaching might be just what you need.  Set up a free 30-minute clarity call to see if it’s the right fit for you today!

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