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6 Ways to Save Money by Preventing Impulse Buys

thinksaveretire profile picture
SteveGuest Blogger
June 23, 2016 · 2.6k Views

You're in the middle of your weekly grocery shopping routine and something catches your eye. It's that new flavor of Oreos that you've wanted to try. What the heck, you say to yourself, and proceed to throw the box of cookies into your shopping cart, right next to the bag of chips that you hadn't planned on getting.

While this may appear harmless, impulse buys are serious business. They keep us spending more money at the store than initially planned, and due to their nature of being "impulses," rarely contribute positively to our health, happiness, or budget. How do we stop ourselves from magically acquiring impulse items during our shopping trips?

>> SEE ALSO: How to Start a Budget and Be Outrageously Successful with Money

It can be tough, but here are six tricks of the trade to keep our impulses in check.


1. Arm yourself with a shopping list.

Source: Riverside Market

A shopping list means that you consciously made a determination about what you need from the store. While there is nothing that prevents us from "padding" that list with extras, lists do help us to avoid in-store impulses for even more items. But remember, a shopping list depends on us to stick to it. If you consider the list to be more of a "guide" than an "authorized purchase list", then you're cheating yourself into spending more money on things that you probably don't need. Make a list and diligently stick to it!

2. Establish a waiting period.

If you see something in the store that you want, consider it to be a possible purchase during your next trip. Meaning, if you still want that item a week or so later, only then consider the purchase. You might be surprised at how many would-be impulse buys we don't end up making after a little time to think about whether we truly NEED them or not.

3. Avoid temptations.

Source: Eat This

Carefully avoid shopping while you're angry, as angry shopping encourages us to "pamper" ourselves with off-shopping-list items to make ourselves feel better. Shopping while hungry has a very similar effect. Also, be aware of who you are shopping with. Are your shopping buddies influencing your purchasing decisions? These can be kids as well as adults. Also, if you don't need anything from the cookie aisle or makeup counter, avoid them!

4. Before checking out, check out your cart.

Before getting in line to check out, rummage through your cart and ensure that everything in it is actually on your shopping list. You may be surprised at how many items made it into your cart without your conscious brain noticing. Anything not on your shopping list, put back. Using the "waiting period" tip above, consider purchasing those items next time, but only if you still want them.

5. Use cash instead of credit.

Source: Kiplinger

The easy availability of credit essentially means that we adults have thousands upon thousands of dollars in our pockets, ready to be spent. Mentally, this gives us a little more leeway to spend more than we have, making impulse buys easier to rationalize in our heads (and to follow through with). Instead of using credit cards, try paying with cash instead, and only bring with you enough cash to buy the items on your list. There are very few techniques more effective at preventing impulse buys than simply not having enough cash available to pay for them!

6. Make notes on your impulses for future laughter.

If you can, record your impulse buys (or would-be buys) on a running list. Keep that list handy and keep it up-to-date. Every once in a while, take a look through it. How many of those items that you bought (or almost bought) would make you laugh? The more you say "Hah, I can't believe I almost spent money on that!", the better prepared you will be to avoid impulse buys in the future. Psychology!


thinksaveretire profile picture
Steve is a personal finance blogger with a goal of retiring from full time corporate work by 35. Steve can be reached on his personal blog at ThinkSaveRetire.com.

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