You stand in TJ Maxx starring at that $10 t-shirt you just have to have. You just got paid last week. What’s $10 anyway? You grab the shirt and place it in your shopping cart.
But wait, you kinda have the munchies too. You head to the food aisle and stare in amazement at all the choices. Stomach rumbling, you grab a few items and throw them in your cart.
You make your way to the checkout line. The lingering smell of a cinnamon spice candle wafts into your nose-holes and smacks you in the face. You add it to your cart just as the cashier says “next customer.”
You stand there. Palms sweaty as the cashier rings up each item one… by one… by one. The damage is done. You swipe your card and try to forget about the $30 you never intended to spend.
Impulse shopping. We’ve all been a victim.
Americans spend about $450 a month on impulse purchases–or $5,400 a year–according to a recent study done by Slickdeals.net.
You can’t turn back time and unpurchase the things you never needed, but you can be aware of your impulse shopping triggers so you don’t fall victim again.
Is Impulse Shopping Really that Bad?
Impulse shopping seems innocent in the short-run, but it can wreak havoc on your financial happiness in the long-run.
It’s kind of ironic. Impulse shopping increases your happiness the moment you buy something, but this happiness quickly fades as you begin to have buyer’s remorse–that sinking feeling of regret you have after you make a purchase.
Buyer’s remorse lowers your overall happiness even more, which then makes you want to impulse shop again to raise your level of happiness back up. This process constantly repeats until one day you’ve dug yourself into a financial hole and you’re suffocating from the debt you’ve created.
Three Triggers That Lead to Impulse Shopping
The best way to stop impulse shopping is to know what makes you want to do it in the first place. Once you’re aware of your triggers, you’ll be able to stop them head-on.
Trigger 1: I’ve Got to Have the Latest and Greatest
Do you find yourself needing the newest iPhone every year? Maybe you think you’ll be seen as “less than” if you’re ever caught dead with an iPhone that only has one camera on the back instead of two.
If this is you, I completely understand.
You see products advertised on social media, TV, billboards, and more. You then see those same products owned by your family, your friends, your celebrity crushes… everyone! Before you know it, you can’t picture yourself without it.
Trigger 2: Retail Therapy is Good for the Soul
You’re happy? You go shopping.
You’re sad? You go shopping
You’re angry? You go shopping.
Retail therapy is seen as the cure-all for any type of day you may be having–whether good or bad.
There’s technically nothing wrong with retail therapy, but when you do it every week–with money that’s better spent elsewhere–it’s a lose-lose situation. You rob yourself of financial security while you bring more junk into your house you’re never going to use.
Trigger 3: Window Shopping is Harmless
Do you find yourself stalking your favorite stores multiple times a week–whether in person or online–looking for new items?
For me, it used to be Old Navy. I’d see new items on their website and begin to picture how happy I’d be if I owned those items. Before long, the urge to buy would be so strong I’d find myself adding it to my shopping cart.
Five Questions to Ask Yourself Before Your Next Purchase
No matter how prepared you are, you’re going to find yourself–in the middle of TJ Maxx–trying to convince yourself that it’s really okay if you buy the $10 shirt... And the $5 snacks... And the $7 candle.
Before you let that impulsive little voice in your head take the win, ask yourself these five questions.
Do I already own a similar item?
If yes, you probably had an emotional connection with the item because it reminds you of something you already own. There’s no need to have duplicate items, so this is probably a sign you don’t need to purchase.
If no, ask yourself why you don’t already own it. If you’ve never thought about purchasing something even remotely close to it, it’s still not worth buying.
If I bought this today, would I immediately want to wear it or use it tomorrow?
If the answer is no, you don’t need it. If the $10 shirt is going to hang in your closet for a month before you wear it, you probably only want it because it seems like such a bargain, not because you actually like the physical item.
On Seasonal Items: Am I okay with this living in storage for many months out of the year?
I’m not trying to be a Scrooge–holiday decorations are great. But do you really need boxes and boxes of decorations for every season collecting dust and taking up space in your closet?
If you live in a hot climate that only gets a little chilly a few months out of the year, do you really need chunky sweater #15 to complete your collection?
On Trendy Items: If this suddenly stopped being trendy and I was the only one who owned one, would I still want to use or wear it?
I’m looking at you, thigh-high boots.
Just think about it. They’re all the craze now. But if you were the only person in the world who owned a pair of thigh-high boots, would you still wanna rock ‘em like there’s no tomorrow? If not, don’t purchase them. I promise you’ll get rid of them the moment they stop being trendy. And believe me–they will.
Would I be willing to pay full price for this item?
Most of the time you think you need something because it’s on sale. FOMO is real, and sales make you think you’re missing out on a great item if you don’t act immediately.
You see a pair of pants discounted from $30 to $15. Your heart skips a beat as you think of the $15 you’d save by purchasing today. But do you love the pants so much you’d be willing to spend the original $30 on them? If not, this is a sign that–deep down–you don’t want the pants in the first place.
Having an honest conversation with yourself before you make a purchase can save you a lot of money in the long run.
Take a few minutes today and identify your impulse shopping triggers. Next time you’re about to buy something you had no intentions of buying, ask yourself the five questions above.
You might just be surprised at how quickly your urge to purchase something decreases–and how quickly the dollars in your bank account increase–when you realize you actually don’t need to make that purchase.