We live in world of precision-targeted adverts, product placement, and algorithms designed to make us buy things we don’t need.
With flash sales every week, fast fashion trends, and online shopping easier than ever before, we’ve become addicted to buying ‘stuff.’
Parting with your money has never been easier, now living in a contactless society. With a tap of plastic, you can walk away with bags of goods, whilst opening online accounts with your favorite shops means you can buy things with a single click.
But the easier it has become to shop, the more we’ve lost touch with what we are actually buying and how much we are spending. And we’ve forgotten how to appreciate what we have.
We need to learn how to declutter our lives, realize the impact we’re having on the earth, and put an end to that dreaded ‘end of the month’ panic.
If you know you’re an impulse buyer, here are some simple ways to help you be more aware of where your money is going:
1. Ask yourself ‘do I really need it?’
It sounds obvious, but it’s a step we so often miss. Asking yourself if you really need something before you buy it is one of the simplest ways to stop impulse buying.
Impulse buys are done in the heat of the moment and without thought for what it’s costing you. Encouraging yourself to question your purchase before you buy gives you the time to process what you’re doing.
With contactless payments on cards or your phone, we aren’t even confronted by the amount of money we’re spending in the same way we were when physically spending cash. It’s become all too easy to forget or deny how much money we’re actually handing over.
By asking yourself if you really need what you’re about to purchase, you give yourself a second of breathing space to think about what you’re doing. You have the opportunity to think about similar items you may already have or something else you’d prefer to spend the money on.
More often than not, as the impulsive excitement evaporates, so will your ‘need’ for whatever you were about to buy and you won’t regret walking away.
2. Ask yourself why you’re really buying it.
Buying something on impulse might make you feel good for a moment, but that feeling never lasts.
Craving a quick fix of happiness through some retail therapy could be your way of patching over deeper feelings that you’ve been ignoring.
If you’ve been in a phase of impulse buying, try to identify when it started and how you’ve been feeling physically and mentally during this time.
Have you been under stress? Has anything changed recently in your life? If so, try thinking about how that change has made you feel and if it’s the real reason behind your impulsive actions.
If you’re buying things to distract yourself from what you’re feeling inside, whatever you buy, it’s not going to fix the real issue.
You don’t need to spend money to invest in some ‘me time.’ Reconnect with your feelings, face whatever you’re distracting yourself from, and work out how you can really address these emotions in healthy and productive way.
3. Check what mood you are in.
Before you even go into a shop, think about what mood you’re in.
We tend to become more impulsive when we are emotional, and less able to think clearly and rationally. If you’re upset, you might buy something you think will make you happy or out of spite.
A purchase made on impulse is motivated by feeling rather than genuine want or need. If you’re in an emotional state already and feeling impulsive, don’t make things worse by parting with a lump of your hard-earned cash.
Try giving yourself time to calm down and feel better naturally. Identifying and working on what you’re feeling inside will be a whole lot more effective at making you happy in the long run than an unnecessary purchase you might regret later.
And when it comes to grocery shopping, avoid going when you are hungry or you will end up putting things (usually treats) in your basket that you wouldn’t otherwise touch.
4. Check your bank balance.
Simply checking your bank balance more regularly could be one of the most effective ways to stop your impulsive spending habits
It’s always surprising how much things add up, and how suddenly, after an innocent wander through the high street or browse on the web, you’re bank balance is looking much lower than you last remember.
If you’re an impulse buyer, chances are that you prefer to live in denial about the state of your bank balance. You wait for that declined transaction to come through on your card before you take the time to assess the damage, because you don’t want to deal with the consequences of your spending.
This isn’t a sustainable way to live and can get you into far worse situations with money later on.
Checking your bank balance regularly will keep the sum at the forefront of your mind next time you see something you want to buy. It will help you have a better understanding of how much you have to spend and make you think twice before filling up your basket.
5. Take an interest in your money.
Taking a real interest in your monthly income and where it goes could help you appreciate your money and learn to make it go further.
To better manage your money, come up with a system to stick to when it comes into your account.
Prioritize paying off essentials first like bills, rent, mortgages and credit card statements. Once you’ve done this, you have a better view of how much you actually have to spend on everything else.
Think about the things you want to do that month and how much they’re likely to cost you. Consider how much you spend on food and travel, and mentally deduct that from the sum.
If you’re not used to splitting your money like this, then the final number might surprise you and not fund as many ‘treats’ as you originally thought.
But try to see this as a positive thing. It makes you realize how far your money goes and place a greater significance on what you have.
You can start to look for ways to make your money go further in your shopping habits or investments.
Once you start taking an interest, you won’t look back and those impulsive buys will become less and less appealing.
6. Set a savings goal.
Are you ever shocked at how much you’ve spent in a month? Have you ever sat and thought about what you could have bought with all that money if you’d realized how much it would all have come to?
Having a savings goal you’re working toward is an effective way to be more thoughtful about what you’re spending money on.
Verbally committing to someone about your savings goals or writing them down will help you to be accountable for them, and give you a constant reminder of what you’re aiming toward to keep you on track.
Every time you go to pick something up, you’ll begin to see the item for what it’s worth and the difference that amount of money could make to your savings goal.
Every penny makes a difference, and the satisfaction and sense of achievement you’ll feel when you finally buy that one thing you really wanted will be so much more rewarding than the 10 or 20 impulse buys you bought on a whim.
7. Calculate the time you spend, not just the money.
Some people just love shopping, and there is nothing wrong with that. But do you ever think about how much time you spend on a regular basis just aimlessly browsing? Time is money, and your own time is your most valuable asset.
If you’re in the habit of sitting at home and scrolling through your phone on endless websites, try to stop yourself and check the clock. Work out how long you’ve sat there looking at things you don’t need. It might shock you how much time, not just money, you’ve been wasting.
Thinking about all the productive things you could have achieved within the same amount of time might be the wake up call you’ve needed to change your habits.
Your time and energy is valuable, so be conscious what you spend it on. Being more aware of this could help you achieve so much more than just adding to your wardrobe.
8. Don’t tempt yourself.
If you know you’re a terrible impulse buyer, then the worst thing you can do is put yourself in a situation where you’re tempted to spend.
There’s no need to make life harder for yourself; all it takes is a few small simple lifestyle choices to make a positive change.
If you’re meeting a friend and you usually go shopping, trying suggesting meeting them for a drink or a walk in the park instead.
If you do need to go out to buy something, try writing a list to keep you focused and not get side-tracked by the rest of the shop.
If it’s online shopping that you’re addicted to, you can start by deleting shopping apps from your phone.
Sign out of shopping websites too so that you have to physically log in every time you want to use them. It might feel like a pain at the time, but these small changes will force you to be more conscious of your shopping habits and remove the temptation to spend.
We all deserve to treat ourselves, and sometimes it’s nice to get something we want just because we like it. Picking up something extra for yourself when you’re out and about, or taking advantage of a great online deal shouldn’t be something you berate yourself for.
But impulse shopping is a habit that can easily get out of hand. Buying something for the buzz can become addictive and harmful, and end up getting you into debt and causing you stress.
Ask yourself if you’ve disconnected from your spending habits. If you have, try being more conscious about where your money is going and what’s motivating you to buy.
Not only could you save yourself a few pennies, but you might find yourself feeling more content and appreciative about what you already have.
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