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Last updated: May 6, 2022 • Lifestyle

Impulse Buying – All You Need to Know

With the holiday season creeping up on us, closer and closer with every given day, taking some extra care of our spending habits might be a good idea. 

Living in the modern world isn’t easy, especially for our budgets. With purchasing apps disguised as social media platforms that allow us to buy stuff after only a few clicks, it’s no wonder our spending habits have changed. The comfort provided by our modern lifestyle leaves little consideration for the environment. We spend money we don’t have (credit cards), to buy things we don’t need, to impress people that don’t care about us, only because it makes us feel better about ourselves. And you’re going to ask … What’s so wrong with feeling better about myself? 

Well … it’s bad if your financial situation is suffering because of your spending habits. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with purchasing the items you need. We all need food, clothes, cleaning supplies, cars, technology, shoes, bags, and self-care items. However, we don’t need the pair of black stiletto pumps from Louboutin that we’ll probably only wear once a year because we don’t want to ruin that red sole, especially if we already have a pair of black stiletto pumps in our closet. Also, you probably don’t need the ice cream bucket from Ben & Jerry’s during your grocery store, seeing as you already have two at home. Those are unnecessary purchases that only have a harmful impact on your budget, but that’s what the consumerist society we live in thrives on. Why feed the overly stuffed monster anymore? Just go home, wear your black stiletto pumps and eat the Ben & Jerry from your freezer.

So What is Impulse Buying?

notebook cash dollars money

If you’ve ever found yourself in a store purchasing something that you did not plan to, it doesn’t matter if the store is Saks Fifth Avenue or the grocery store on your way home. The item purchased that wasn’t planned is an impulse buy. We have to understand that the amount of dollars spent on things that we did not intend to buy and therefore do not need does not matter. Because you spend $3 extra while you buy your morning paper, then you spend $5 more when you buy your Starbucks, then another $10 when you do your groceries, and another $45 on that dinner that just happened. You wind up spending 63 extra dollars that we did not plan ahead of time by the end of the day. 

This is what impulse buying is. It doesn’t have to be a designer handbag that you just have to have or an extra feature in your favorite online game that will give your avatar a more ferocious look. Yes, men make impulse purchases … actually, they spend more than women do, so all those men that look to their wives, fiances, or girlfriends think again. Impulse buying is not misogynistic, nor is it based on sex. We all do it whether we want to admit it or not. 

Research done by Slickdeals shows that during 2019, the average American spent $450 on impulse purchases every month. That alone is a hefty sum if you think about what items can be purchased through impulse buying. However, if you multiply that by 12 months, you have $5,400 spent every year on items, articles, or products we don’t actually need. Now, that is a lot. The sad part is that while 2020 came with the economic struggle many of us faced because of the pandemic, the amount of money spent on impulse buying increased by 18%. Yes. In the first year of the pandemic, instead of buying less because we were worried about our financial situation, we spent more.

Why do we Impulse Buy?

shopping kind leisure woman

Psychology studies show that impulse buying is an emotional affair. Many of us buy things on a whim because it makes us feel better about ourselves. Whether it’s a chocolate bar or the latest fashion trend, impulse purchases are connected to self-esteem issues, anxiety-related discomfort and stress, depression, sadness, and for some, even boredom. Indulging in impulse buying gives us all a momentary dose of dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone. That’s the biggest problem, and it’s the number one reason why so many people struggle to give up on impulse buying or stop before it becomes an addiction, as the movie “Shopaholic” showcased incredibly. It makes us feel good.

However, our finances, bank account, and budget aren’t happy about any of this. This is important not only because it increases our spendings and the chance of going into debt, but because, once we realize how much money we spend on something we don’t actually need, our stress levels rise. We start feeling bad, regretting our decision to purchase said item, and anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues surface again.

In 2020, around 44% of Americans admitted to feeling bad after an impulse purchase. While impulse buying isn’t the best of habits as it does have a significant impact on your bank account, in the long run, its nasty cousin, compulsive shopping, is when your impulsive buying habits are a daily occurrence. Making the distinction between the two is important because while impulse buying is less likely to create serious financial problems, compulsive buying is a disorder that needs to be treated, managed, and kept under surveillance. Compulsive shoppers or shopping addicts have the uncontrollable urge to buy things. It doesn’t matter if an item is already owned. Compulsive shoppers will buy it again despite any financial struggles to do so. If your impulsive buying habits become a daily occurrence, you should look into finding a therapist or support groups for help. Compulsive buying can dramatically affect your life, from impacting your credit score or even going into debt to damaging relationships.

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How does Impulse Buying fit in with Consumerism?

group of friends sitting outdoors

Impulse buying absolutely thrives in a consumerist society, and the consumerism of that society thrives because of impulse purchases. The two fit perfectly snug together, and the amount of things we consume only fuels consumerism even more. The influence of consumerism can be seen in the ads you get on every social media platform because nowadays, it doesn’t matter if you’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, TikTok, Instagram, or Pinterest. You will get ads. Funnily enough, you will be bombarded with ads even if you swear off social media platforms through your email. You will still get it in your physical mailbox if you swear off the technology. If you don’t have an address, you will still see it on billboards or throughout the stores you walk/drive by on your way to and from work. Consumerism is everywhere because it’s the society we live in. A society based on how much money we spend on the things that we buy, how much use we get out of those things, and how fast we need to replace them. 

However, impulse purchases don’t satisfy an actual need. They satisfy a whim. The only need impulse buys satisfy is our need for validation, gratification, dopamine, and the need to be perceived as cool. The cool part is nurtured by consumerism, with every commercial telling us that this perfume will change our lives, that this mink coat will make us feel whole, or that this new app will help us find fulfillment in our lives. Even the fact that social media platforms target ads based on what we say, search, look at, or hear is another kind of targeted marketing. If you ever talked about a trip to Bali for a bit only to discover all the discounts and offers in your timeline the next day, don’t be surprised. We live in a society where our phone will give us access to it if we ask the void for something. At a price, of course.

How does Impulse Buying fit in with Environmental Awareness?

recycle clothes icon on recycled

In many ways, the price for impulse buying isn’t only for our budget. While impulse buying goes hand in hand with consumerism, the same can not be said about impulse buying and environmental awareness. By simply understanding what an environmentally aware lifestyle means, it’s clear to see how impulse buying goes completely against that. When we buy something that we don’t need, let’s say that it isn’t something we’re meant to eat but use. We only purchase something that will most likely be left unused in our homes. Whether this is a dress that you only wear once, a decoration that we won’t use, or a kitchen utensil that we only used once in the first year after purchase, there will come a time when we sort through all the stuff that we own. When that time comes, we will come across this item, go into a decluttering frenzy and throw it away. 

Impulse buying can become a quick slope into increasing the amount of waste we produce. It can also be linked to fast fashion, one of the world’s biggest polluters, and pollution during manufacturing, marketing, transportation, and disposal cycles. Every item, object, product, or, yes, food that we do not need gets thrown away without completing its life cycle. It becomes a waste. Anything bought on a whim, any impulse purchase that we do not use, is a waste because while it was produced at one point, the fact that we purchased it increased the demand for it, so more products are being made. 

Only buying items that you need will make those items useful to you. You will use them, take care of them, and give them a longer life. If you manage only to purchase products from an environmentally responsible manufacturer, you’re one step ahead of the curve. Many producers of clothes, foods or other products adhere to environmentally friendly values and principles. 

Many local suppliers don’t increase their products’ CO2 emissions by shipping materials or ingredients from around the world. You can easily find them. However, if you are stuck on the price tag that might be somewhat bigger in some cases, look at it like this. Environmentally responsible products are generally made to be used for a longer time. So, if you buy a random t-shirt for $20, you might wear it for a year and still have it in relatively good shape. But if you buy an eco-friendly t-shirt, you might spend $100, but you might be able to use it for … I don’t know … decades. I know I have a hoodie that’s still in pristine shape that I got 15 years ago. While I don’t wear it daily, I wear it a lot.

How can you Limit Impulse Buying?

red shopping dollar cart

If it wasn’t made clear so far, impulse buying does not refer to purchasing items that are needed. Such things as grocery products that you need to eat, or clothing articles that you need in your closet, do not fall into this category if they are needed. So, to help you out and limit impulse buying as much as possible, we created the following list of tips that you can apply to your spending habits so that your budget and the environment can breathe easier while consumerism suffers.

Making a List and Checking it Twice

Planning is of the essence if you want to limit or stop impulse purchases altogether. Just like before you go to the grocery store, you list what you need to buy and find a way to apply this logic behind every spending decision. For instance, you need to buy eggs, milk, bread, salad, avocado, and some bacon for breakfast. You go to the store, and you only buy that. A smart refrigerator can help limit buying things you already have by helping you compile the list of necessary groceries. Similarly, when you find yourself in a shopping mall searching for something that you need, like a pair of hoop earrings, or a new watch, don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked by something you see in the shop window. If you didn’t plan for it ahead of time, chances are, you don’t actually need it.

Furthermore, if you see something you like, fight the urge to buy it on impulse. If you’re still thinking about it when you reach your home, you’ll have another chance to buy it next time.

Take a Second and Think About the Purchase

Transitioning into the second tip, we can’t help but underline the fact that if you really like something that isn’t planned for, giving yourself 24 hours to think about it before you purchase it can go a long way. For instance, seeing something you don’t need while shopping for what you do need doesn’t mean you have to buy it immediately. Give yourself a day or two, and if once that time has passed, you’re still thinking about that item, go back and purchase it. However, you might realize that you don’t actually need it once you are home. It might be that you already have a similar item on hand or that you don’t actually need that particular item. Whichever it is, if you’re not thinking about buying after at least 24 hours passed, then you’re going to be happy you didn’t spend that extra money on it.

Consider Reason and Time for Shopping

summer beach holiday online shopping

A bit of introspection goes a long way in understanding your spending habits. If you buy to make yourself feel better, don’t. If you buy because you feel good, don’t. If you buy to reward yourself, don’t. While we aren’t saying that treating yourself is bad, treating yourself without having planned for it can have a negative impact on your bank account in the long run. For everything else, it won’t only help your bank account to find something else to do, but also your mental health, social habits, and the quality of life that you have. If you’re sad, talk to someone. If you’re happy, celebrate with friends. If you have the sudden urge to reward yourself, plan it and make it an occasion, don’t make it a new scarf, a watch, a chocolate bar, or a Nintendo game, make it a special Valentine’s gift that two people can enjoy

Also, if you tend to impulse purchase online through apps on your phone, try an ad blocker, delete shopping apps or set up restrictions on your phone for certain times. For instance, if you browse through your phone and make purchases at night, limit that. Go to your phone’s settings, find “screen time” for iPhone or “digital wellbeing” for Android and make it so that you don’t have access to those apps after a certain time. 

Extra tip:

Look at how you spend money. Make sure your card information isn’t saved on sites or apps if you make online purchases. This won’t only protect you from hackers but will also provide extra steps for you to finalize the purchase giving you more time actually to make each purchase. If you spend money when you go out, set up spending restrictions on your card, or, even better, leave your card at home and only use cash; Like that, you can limit the amount of money you send by only taking a certain amount with you.

Conclusion

While, throughout this article, we covered spending habits from different points of view, it’s all up to your personal decision. Our finances are as personal as it gets. In truth, no one can make us spend our money in any other way than how we want to spend it ourselves. It’s all a game of control over emotions, habits, and impulses. The amount of money you spend doesn’t have anything to do with the amount of money you have. You could have millions of dollars that you throw into the wind or choose to invest in improving yourself or the community around you. At the same time, you could live paycheck to paycheck and impulse buy things you don’t need or save for your next holiday. The way we spend our money is based entirely on our personal lifestyle, our understanding of the value of money, and our appreciation of that value. You can be poor and consider yourself rich because you see value in the experiences you have and not the amount of dollar bills in your bank account. You can also be filthy rich and be unhappy with your life because you can only find value in material things. Money is just a means to what truly makes us happy. Saving it might make it easier for us to be happy, but spending it might lead to postponing plans, dreams, or life goals like purchasing your first home

What was mentioned in this article is in no way to be considered financing advice. If you want that, seek a financial advisor. What we did here is simply shed light on a phenomenon that’s sweeping the nation, which has a massive impact on society as we know it. Let us know in the comments below if you ever think twice before paying for something in the store. Like & Share this article with friends and family, especially if their spending habits are something you’re concerned about but don’t want them to get alarmed about.

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