10 Ways to Stop Impulsive Spending (so you can get ahead with money)

No one is above impulsive shopping. We have all fallen into the temptation of buying the shiny new thing that we just can’t live without. But, if we are going to ever get our finances under control, we will have to learn the art of saying “No”! For some, this comes easier than it does for others. In this post, I am sharing 10 ways to stop impulse spending to help you curb the habit of overspending so you can get ahead with your money.

You may be a natural saver, and if so you are my hero. But, for those of us who like to spend money, it is work to try to stop impulse shopping.

Will all of the distractions in stores and online, it’s no wonder why we spend money so impulsively at times. Got to hand it to the marketers, they know how to get us to spend our money.

I seem to spend more money when I have my kids in tow.

When my kids were babies, I would often head to Target just to get out of the house.

I would strap everyone in the car and head to the store. I had convinced myself that this was a great way to get my steps in. Sure, that would have worked well if I was a natural saver, but since I am not…this plan often backfired. Often!

Before you knew it I came home with all sorts of things for myself and managed to let my toddler talk me into some new things for him too. I couldn’t justify only shopping for myself so I gladly let him help me out in this mindless shopping experience.

Impulse Buying Examples

Sometimes purchasing things that we think we need are actually impulse buys. These include things like:

  • Candy
  • Gum
  • Coffee house beverages
  • Fast-food
  • Anything at the check-out stand
  • Unplanned snacks
  • Books (I’m totally guilty of this)
  • Craft supplies (especially when you have no time to invest)
  • Magazines
woman with colorful shopping bags

These spending patterns in people may be signs of an impulsive buyer. It’s always important to evaluate the season you are in and whether or not the purchase makes sense. Will it make more sense to wait a little longer when the product will be more enjoyable? Do you really need that item right now?

Effects of Impulse Buying

There’s nothing harder than buyer’s remorse. We have all felt it at some point or another, it is real. But there are practical effects of impulse spending as well. The most obvious is, once that money is spent, it’s gone. There are times when you are able to take merchandise back, but often you may not get a full refund.

Impulsive buying can also cause clutter in your home when you bring home things you may not need. I don’t know about you, but physical clutter causes mental clutter in my mind and leaves me feeling stuck.

Impulse spending can also prevent you from building discipline in your life and getting ahead with your money. Willpower is like muscle memory. It gets easier and stronger the more you practice making it more likely that you will wait on that must-have purchase.

How to Stop Impulse Shopping When You Just Want to Spend

What I didn’t realize at the time was what I was actually teaching my then 2-year-old.

First off, I was programming him to think that when you are bored, just go shopping to fill the time.

Second, I was instilling in him that every time we go to Target, he is going to walk out of there with a new toy. Why not, mom did, right?

Now, let me just say that I am not opposed to treating your kids or yourself to a new “toy” every now and again. But for some people (my old self included) this has become a way of life.

Financial expert, Dave Ramsey, often says that getting ahead with money is 20% head knowledge and 80% behavior. It really comes down to the small everyday decisions we make. What we choose to do now and how we spend our money today, will have a direct impact on our financial situations years from now. What we are really doing is creating habits. Good or bad, we are creating them.

So, if you find yourself in Camp Impulsive Shopper, I want to share with you these practical steps I have taken to stop impulse shopping.

stop impulsive spending with these simple tips

1. determine to only use cash for purchases

Paying for items with cash seems to be an old way of life. Rarely do we see people taking out dollar bills at the store anymore. Most of the time, people are using debit or credit cards to pay for things. But here is the thing with cash…once it’s gone, it’s gone!

pink wallet full of cash

It is so much easier to overspend when you use a credit card or even a debit card for that matter.

Do you know why?

Because you don’t feel that money leaving your hands. When you hand that cash over to the checkout person at the store you are physically parting ways with that money.

Peace out to those dollar bills!

On the other hand, when you use plastic, there is really no emotion involved because it’s all electronic. Your wallet pretty much looks and weighs the same after.

Buyer’s remorse can certainly set in down the road when you get your bank statement, but at that moment it is a simple, relatively rhythmic process.

I don’t know about you, but I want to feel my money leave my wallet. Those dollars represent hard work. They all count.

If you prefer to not use cash and would rather use your debit card, no judgment here, we do too at times. But, please avoid at all costs using credit cards to pay for items.

2. stick to a monthly budget to help stop impulsive spending

One surefire way to stop impulse shopping is by sticking to a monthly budget. Having a written monthly budget in place is telling your money where to go and giving every dollar an assignment.

A budget is the road map to your financial success and it is the difference between reaching your money goals and not. If you want to save money, you need a budget. My absolute favorite budgeting app that we use in our home is Every Dollar

If you want to pay off your debt, you need a budget. Without a budget, these goals are dreams that are rarely accomplished without a plan.

A budget can tell you if what you are about to buy is an impulsive purchase or an intentional purchase. Chances are if the item is not in your budget, it is impulsive.

3. plan your purchases with a written list

Without fail, each time I go to the store for weekly groceries without a list, I either forget to buy what I need, or I buy too much.

Yep, I go in for food and come out with a new set of sheets (yes, my Kroger sells bed linens). But that can of beans I need to make chili…walked right past it.

Tell me I am not the only one.

shopping list on a wood background

But, when I intentionally sit down and write out a list of items I need for my weekly meals, I get what I need and get out of the store. The list helps me stay focused and curbs the chances of overspending on impulse buys.

4. use self-checkout at stores if available

There is a reason why all of the check-out lines are stocked with items like magazines, pens, hand sanitizers (hello, 2020) and razors, and candy.

Now, I get that these are not very expensive items, but, over time these unplanned purchases add up. And, are they really what you came to the store for?

So, use self-checkout, focus on why you are there, and leave…RUN!!

5. stay off social media for a while

Social media has a funny way of bringing out our worst money habits. Who would have thought that a simple little “way to connect with people” would have so many emotions associated with it?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy social media.

But, if I am not careful, I can find myself in the comparison trap real quick. I am just being honest.

You might be asking, “What on earth does Facebook have to do with how I spend my money?”

You see, more often than not, social media is nothing more than a highlight reel of all the best of someone’s world. Usually, people don’t post about the hardships in life or the struggles they are facing.

It’s usually the #newcar, or the #awesomevacation, and the #amazinghomeremodel. While we are happy for our friends, these highlight reels of all the good happening to other people can leave us feeling like what we have or do isn’t good enough.

It is in these moments that we look to feel the void with “stuff” that may make us happy for the time being. Oftentimes, we spend money on things we don’t need to impress other people (some of whom we don’t even like).

If you find yourself struggling with discontentment after looking through social media, I want to first tell you that you are AMAZING just as you are. And second, I want to encourage you to minimize your time spent on social media if you working to get your finances in better shape or pay off debt.

6. use your calculator to keep you aware of your spending

These days, everyone has a smartphone. It is so much easier now to keep track of how much you will be spending by the time you make it to the checkout. You can even add up the tax before you get in line.

This works really well when you have an established budget in place because you will know right away if you have enough money to pay for everything.

calculator to use for shopping

This system keeps impulse shopping at bay, because if what you can pre-determine what your total will add up to before getting in line to pay. Your calculator will tell you if you have the money to get anything extra or not.

7. have an accountability partner that will help you Stop impulsive Spending

One of the best things we did when we were working on paying off all of our debt was to surround ourselves with people who were already debt-free. This accountability helped us stay on the straight path to reaching our goals.

Paying off debt and learning to stop impulse shopping is not something that is easily done alone. It is too tempting to slip into old spending habits when there isn’t someone walking alongside us who has been there before.

I encourage you to find someone who you trust who is wise with their money decisions and share your goals with them. Be specific.

Ask them to hold you accountable for what you spend, how you spend, and when you spend. I can assure you, it may not feel good at times. But, you will thank your friend for the support in the end.

8. sleep on it

When faced with a decision to buy anything on impulse, sleep on it. This includes online purchases as well.

Most unplanned purchases are just that, unplanned.

When you give yourself time and space to think it over and sleep on it, you might realize the next day that you really don’t need that item. And if you do, this gives you time to shop around and you may be able to find it cheaper elsewhere.

9. don’t shop in an emotional state

Many impulsive buys happen when people are not thinking clearly because they are emotional. Loss, an argument with a spouse, or stress at work can impact how you spend your money.

If you are experiencing a situation that invokes negative emotions whether that is sadness, fatigue, or overwhelm, refrain from shopping temporarily.

Let some time pass so you can get your thoughts together and regroup. Instead of shopping, try taking bath, journaling, or going for a walk.

Trust me, your bank account will thank you for taking a little time to breathe.

10. keep your goals in mind

The last thing I want to encourage you to do is to keep your financial goals at the forefront of your mind. You may need to write your goals down on little sticky notes and put them up where you see them every day.

When I am working on a goal I will write it on a sticky note and put it up on my bathroom mirror where I see it on a daily basis.

I also put notes up by the front door so I can remember my goal as I am walking out the door.

Another great place to have your goal always in front of you is the lock screen on your phone. Let it be a constant reminder that you got this and you WILL slay that debt, build up your savings, and stop impulsive spending.

Phew…we made it to the end, thanks for sticking it out with me. I know I gave you a lot of info here, but I know that you can do this. You are in control. Let me know how you handle impulse shopping. Email me at thefrugalhive@gmail.com

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