How to Stop Impulse Buying: The Ultimate Guide
Hi, my name’s Tara and I’m an impulse buyer! But over the last couple of years, I’ve managed to get my spending under control (even in stationery stores!) by teaching myself how to stop impulse buying.
Do you ever look around your house and wonder “how did all this stuff get here?” or get to the end of the month and wonder where all the money went?
If this rings true to you, you may have an imp infestation!
Yes – imps are those tricksy little creatures that get you impulse buying. But first you need to identify what type of imps you have. We’re going on an imp hunt!
Where to look for clues?
Scour your bank account, credit card bills and paypal purchase lists for imp trails. These are patterns of behaviour. It might be occasional massive purchases or a pitter-patter of tiny little treats that add up. It may feel a bit scary, especially if you usually try to avoid facing these figures.
Block out three hours, screw up your courage and go hunting.
Highlight anything you think might have been an impulse buy, whether it was a coffee or a car. Once you’ve got a clear picture, you should be able to identify what type of imps you have and learn how to stop impulse buying too.
The treater imp
This imp thinks any occasion needs to be celebrated or condoled with your wallet. It’s Monday, you need comfort cookies. It’s raining, you need a magazine. It’s the weekend, treat time for the kids!
Little comforts and treats are part of the joys of life, but you need to give this imp some boundaries, otherwise it will just keep pushing for more.
Don’t eliminate all treats, but tell your imp firmly what it’s allowed. Maybe just one posh coffee a week or new toys for the kids once a term. Write down these rules, so the imp can see they are official. Allow for flexibility and spontaneity within the system, but commit that if you’ve had your treat quota for that week or month, that’s it!
Try making a list of free or cheaper treats that you can have instead. If you can, avoid the places that this little imp gets most excited or distract him when you’re close. If you can’t resist McDonalds, call a friend as you pass it by. Throw up barriers so this imp can’t have its way before you’ve even realised what’s happened. Put a 24-hour rule on all online purchases. You can add it to a wish list, but not your cart. Then you can come back to it with a cooler head later.
The insecurity imp
The insecurity imp is constantly trying to persuade you that you’ll feel better, look better or be better if only you had this, that or the other. If you discover that much of your spending was to cheer yourself up and make you feel better, then you’re not alone! 62% of us have used shopping as a way to elevate our mood.
The insecurity imp is a pretty powerful creature – it lives in your head, but it has the whole advertising and fashion industry supporting its cause. Disarm this imp by avoiding ads as much as possible, and whenever you see one you can’t avoid, tell it “thanks, but I’m fine the way I am.”
This imp need firm handling. Look it in the eye and tell it daily “No material object can make me a better person. I am enough.”
The “FOMO” imp
This imp is super excitable and is terrified of missing out on a bargain or experience. If you can’t resist a sale situation or you tend to overspend on Black Friday, you may have a FOMO imp problem.
This imp freaks out when something is available for a limited time only because we’re programmed to want things when they are scarce. Be aware that this imp is pushing on a human instinct and have a big human-sized shrug ready in response. Like – “So? They have a sale three times a year!”
You are more susceptible to the FOMO imp if you haven’t got a clear direction of where you want to be spending your time and money. Make a list of your true priorities and the stuff that’s really going to make you happy. More free time, a creative project, experiences with friends, pursuing a passion. Rank these things and make sure both the bulk of your time and money is spent on the things that matter.
Then use sales to get items you’ve carefully identified as necessary to help you live a life of passion, rather than letting sales manipulate what you want. Never buy something half price that you wouldn’t want or need at its full price.
The guilt imp
Close friend to the FOMO imp, this imp tells you you’re a bad friend/father/wife unless you’re constantly supplying the people around you with material possessions. Flowers when you come over, toys when you come back from a trip, excessive presents, “just because” treats.
Remind yourself that the people who truly love and care for you would love you just as much if you lost all your money and couldn’t buy them anything. Gift these people your time, love and thoughts, not something that will end up stuffed in their cupboard.
The curiosity imp
This imp is excited by anything new; it’s a wriggly little thing that can’t handle the idea of things remaining the same. Therefore, any excuse to change it up or “freshen” your look, or buy something new is going to get this imp tapping on the inside of your head telling you that it “neeeeds you to redecorate” or “neeeeds the latest phone.”
The good news is that this imp isn’t all bad. It can be trained to become a helpful part of your life. This is a two-pronged approach.
First, you need to teach the imp to appreciate the items you already own. Spend time imagining if you didn’t have the things you do in your life. Focus on the gratitude for your current sofa, phone, computer and clothing.
Next, turn the imp’s attention to more positive and productive areas of your life. What new thing could you learn about, what new place could you go? What new people could you meet? What new goal could you aim for?
The faddy imp
This imp is pals with the curious imp but is also a massive flake. It gets excited about stuff, gets you to buy all the equipment and then promptly loses interest. The way to subdue this little guy is to give him the benefit of the doubt, but always always borrow rather than buy the equipment. That way, if you discover a true passion you can always upgrade to your own equipment as a reward.
Avoid faddy fashion and décor trends by taking the time to research your true taste. For a full step-by-step guide on how to do that, see my book A Life Less Throwaway.
You may have all these imps or just a couple. Whatever imp situation you’re dealing with, know that all imps fear “The List”. A well thought through shopping list is your greatest shield, even if it’s just a couple of words on your phone.
But don’t just write a list of things you need to buy, write a list of things you don’t need to buy. If you’d like to see what that looks like check out mine here. In my experience, nothing else has helped as much as this to help me to go imp-free.