10 tips to help you avoid impulse buying

July 8th, 2011 Margaret Ratcliff

For some of us it’s a hobby, for other’s it’s a way to feel better after a bad day at school or work. Whatever the reason, or root cause, impulse buying is a dangerous habit that can quickly wreak havoc on your bank account and your life.

This danger is especially acute if you don’t track your expenses. In that case you probably aren’t even aware of how quickly your expenditures at the mall or online are piling up. What’s worse, you probably don’t even know exactly how much money you have available for spending.

We’ve put together some simple tips that can help you avoid impulse buying and regain control of your bank account:

  1. Make a list before you go shopping and stick to the list when you are at the store. By planning out your meals for the week and sticking to the shopping list you’ll quickly see your grocery bills decrease.
  2. Find a hobby other than shopping and going to the mall. Even the most disciplined saver will find themselves buying unnecessary items when they are shopping with friends. The simple way to reduce the risk of impulse buying is to avoid the store in the first place.
  3. Recognize the friends and family members in your life who encourage you to buy items. We all have that friend who loves to shop and with whom you end up spending lots and lots of money. Find other ways to spend time with these people.
  4. If you do need to shop, take along a friend who will help you control your spending. This will help you avoid impulse buys and focus on what you really need.
  5. Focus on your needs as opposed to your wants. Ask yourself “do I really need this?” every time you head to the cash register with something in tow.
  6. Leave your credit cards at home and shop only with cash. This will prevent you from spending more than you want to.
  7. Allow yourself a special purchase once a month – as long as it’s within your budgeted spending plan. It’s not realistic to cut out all discretionary spending.
  8. Make a conscious effort to examine your shopping habits. Do you tend to shop a lot when you’re sad or depressed? Or do you always run straight to the mall on payday? Recognize your habits and adjust your behavior accordingly.
  9. Don’t use shopping as a way to make yourself feel better.
  10. Do not fall in the trap of department store credit cards. Although it may result in an immediate discount, you may end up purchasing more and get stuck with a balance and high interest.

You work hard for your money – don’t blow it all on impulsive purchases that you don’t really need.

Margaret Ratcliff

About the author

Margaret Ratcliff is Second Vice President and Retail Managing Officer at MidWestOne Bank. She works with MidWestOne customers to help them manage their personal finances and identify effective money management solutions.

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