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Stop Making Impulse Purchases in 4 Easy Steps


After three years of blogging and over 700 posts written, I’ve noticed one common theme when it comes to struggles people have with spending: Impulse Purchases. Whether it’s a pack of gum at the grocery store or a new shirt at the mall, impulse purchases are a sneaky phenomenon that can turn even the best of budgets upside down.

More often than not, impulse purchases aren’t necessary. They aren’t part of the budget or a spending plan. They’re those moments of weakness when that $5 latte sounds too good to pass up or that magazine beckons you to buy it as you’re waiting in line. No matter how frugal you are or how good you are with your money, we all fall victim to the occasional impulse purchase. While the intermittent purchase isn’t all that bad, left unchecked, impulse purchases can quickly spiral out of control.

If you’ve found yourself with an impulse buying control problem, check out the following tips to kick it to the curb before it wrecks all of your hard work:

Take a Breather

Regardless of what the “gotta have it now” purchase is, instill a rule that allows for a breather when you find yourself lusting after something that’s not on your list. It could be as simple as sleeping on it for a night or walking away from the display–or it could be as complicated as waiting an extended period of time or creating a list of pros and cons. Whatever your break of choice, make sure to be consistent with your effort to take a break so you’re able to fully decide if spending your money is truly worth it.

Enlist Your Friends and Family

In a moment of weakness, it can be difficult to pull yourself back from the edge. Whenever you’re feeling weak in your resolve to avoid impulse purchases, phone or text a friend or family member who you’ve enlisted to help talk some sense into you. Have a frank discussion with this person before you’re out shopping, explain your need to make some changes in your financial life, and ask them for some tough love should you ever reach out. Remember that they’re helping you so don’t be upset when they do what you’ve asked them to!

Check Your Mood

If you’re sad, angry, stressed, or exhausted, step.away.from.the.mall. Research proves that when we’re not on our game, we’re much more susceptible to weakness. For someone who struggles with impulse purchases, this can mean quite a struggle. Hone your ability to monitor your mood and stress level and make smart choices about avoiding potential temptation when you’re not feeling quite like yourself. Get some exercise, call a friend, take a nap. Whatever it is, don’t go shopping until the storm passes!

Be a Savvy Shopper

Here’s a newsflash: If you’re out shopping and see a sales sign posting a great discount, you’re not “saving” money by purchasing more items! That 30 percent off is a great deal–but only if you truly need that pair of pants or shoes. If you weren’t already shopping for them and they’re not already on your list, you’re wasting your money on an impulse purchase! Learn to sniff out which “sales” are truly sales and work to maximize your savings for the things you actually need. Your wallet–and your overstuffed closet–will thank you.

How do you avoid impulse purchases?

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My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. We are pretty good when it comes to impulse purchases except at the grocery store. That is why I started the popular Grocery Game Challenge which invites people from all over the world who struggle to stick to their budget to challenge themselves. It’s a work in progress and we still struggle but we are being proactive about it rather than waiting until we spend more than we should be. Great post.

  2. Impulse buying is like an addictive drug…hard to resist!
    Enlisting the help of a friend sounds like an awesome idea…we tend to be more accountable when someone is watching our financial moves.
    These days I try to carry only the cash I will need for budgeted stuff when I go shopping or stepping out, reduces the temptation to stray!

  3. I’m usually so frugal but it’s those impulse buys that get me! Especially when I wait until the last minute to buy birthday gifts and I NEED something, anything really.

    • Ugh…I do the same thing! I try to always have something on hand for an emergency gift situation and it’s helped tremendously

  4. Great advice Jen.

    As you mentioned, it’s always a good idea to impose a cooling-off period before you buy anything.

    This gives you time to consider the purchase in more detail.

    It’s also possible to tailor this rule according to the amount involved.

    For example, items up to $10 can be bought immediately. $10-200 involves a 24 hour cooling off period, $200-1000 one week and above $1000 one month.

    Just adjust the figures and time periods according to your circumstances.

    More often than not, avoiding the immediate purchase dampens the desire to spend.

    • Definitely! Thanks for adding the tip about having a threshold. Just make sure that you’re not going overboard with the small purchases–they can add up quickly, too 🙂

  5. Impulse buying can really ruin our budget, so those steps can really help us avoid it. Thanks!

  6. Whenever my mom finds a great deal she jokes with my dad as she walks through the door “man, with all this money I’m saving, we’re gonna go broke!” Thankfully she’s pretty wise about keeping a mental list of things we need and waiting until those big sales come around versus shopping only because there’s a sale going on.

    • Hahaha…not that great for the budget, but that’s really funny! Good things she keeps the list! 🙂

  7. Simple, but effective list. Taking a breather is probably most powerful. I live a long way from Costco and use this method sometimes. If I see something I like, I try to wait at least a week to assure its not an impulse buy. Thanks for sharing!

    • Waiting a week is a great idea–I bet you forget about most of those “must-haves”, right??

  8. I do stay away from malls whenever I am in a bad mood. It is very true that most people, especially women, tend to make impulse purchases when in a negative mood. This is like a stress-relieve that isn’t a good idea at all.

  9. For me, mood is definitely a driving factor. It’s like going to a grocery store hungry, don’t go to a department store with a full wallet.

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