We’ve all been there —we head to the store for one item and a full shopping cart later we realize once again we’ve succumbed to whim and our “I want” attitudes.
Impulse buying is the culprit in many of our overspending challenges. We see something and we purchase it even if it wasn’t on our list.
You aren’t alone. Impulse shopping is a common affliction. Eighty-six percent of us have made an impulse buy at some time, with three-quarters of us purchasing impulsively in the last three months, according to a recent survey by Princeton Survey Research Associates. Almost half of these purchases are done for ourselves. They can be real budget busters as well, with 20 percent of us reporting that we’ve spent at least $1,000 on impulse.
How to avoid impulse shopping is a challenge. But there are some ways to tamp down the urge to splurge.
The easiest and most effective way to stop impulse buying is to simply pause during the process. Retailers know if they can get an item in your hands, you are far more likely to buy it. And if it makes it into the cart, you are probably leaving the store with it. Try this little trick. Imagine the money you are spending in one hand and the item in the other. Ask yourself what you would rather have, the money or the purchase. That may be enough to make you fight the impulse.
It is possible to just walk away. Possible, but difficult. Shopping releases that feel-good dopamine into your system. When dopamine is in your system, the “shopper’s high” makes you buy things you may not even need or want. Walk away and see if you still want it the next day. If so, then you know that the dopamine isn’t causing you to purchase. You are buying something because you want it and/or need it.
Another strategy is to limit the number of stores you go into. The more stores you go into, the more likely you are to purchase impulse items. Again, it is the relationship between holding it in your hand and the purchase. So if you are shopping for something, do your comparison shopping on the internet.
However, if you have done any shopping on the internet, you know how difficult it is to avoid impulse shopping. If you have viewed something, that ad will pop up in the corner of your viewer the next time you open your computer. Then the emails start to remind you to buy what you viewed. So it is very difficult to avoid the impulse buy because the ads just seem to keep popping up. Even more irritating, the ads seems to follow you even when you have already purchased the item.
These ads are following your browser history. You can turn the ads off by clearing your browser. Look under settings and click on “clear browsing data.” Remember this is also the area that holds all your passwords and bookmarks so make sure you clear the cookies and not everything. Then go one step further by blocking cookies. Each browser (Chrome, Firefox, Explorer, and Safari) has a different method to block third-party cookies, so you might need to check on the internet for specific instructions for your browser. Turning off the cookies will help you avoid those specific ads of things you searched for on the internet.
Impulse shopping happens to all of us. By taking these steps, you can avoid the trap.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of the Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (907)474-7201.