How to Avoid Impulse Purchases & Consume More Sustainably
Let’s be honest here: impulse purchases can be fun—at least in the moment. You walk into Target to grab some face wash, and before you know it . . . boom. Your cart has a tank top, a colorful pillow, new lipstick colors, and three bags of SkinnyPop in it. Oops.
This is actually really normal. A lot of us impulse buy all the time. Americans impulsively spend an average of $276 every month. That adds up to an extra $3,312 spent every year and about $198,720 in a lifetime! Ouch!
But let’s bring it back to reality here. Not only is impulse buying bad for your wallet, it’s bad for the planet.
Impulse purchases often lead to overconsumption. And the more we consume, the more we tend to throw out. Which leads to more and more items in landfills… that are actually in perfect condition, but we just don’t want anymore. And because they’re called “impulse” purchases, these are purchases we’re going to continue to make when we’re feeling impulsive. Thus creating a cycle of buying things we don’t need, throwing them out when we get bored with them, rinse, repeat.
Why Do We Keep Impulse Buying?
If we know impulse buying is something we should try to avoid doing, then why can’t we seem to stop doing it?
A lot of it is thanks to brands’ marketing. Over the past two decades fashion and lifestyle brands have done an excellent job of marketing to push consumers to buy, buy, buy. In fact, research shows that the average person today buys 60 percent more items of clothing than they did 15 years ago, but only keep it for half as long as they used to.
But a lot of why we impulse buy is on us—it’s internal motivators. For example:
- Our emotions – Our emotions play a huge part in what we buy. Whether you had a good or a bad day, we often just want to get something nice to make ourselves feel good.
- Our past experiences – Some of us were never taught money management or have picked up impulse buying as a bad habit.
- A good deal – Everybody loves a good deal. In fact, 64% of shoppers impulse buy because of a sale. And who wouldn’t want to take advantage of 30% off and free shipping?
- The love of shopping – When we shop, our bodies release dopamine. Which is why we get that happy feeling whenever we buy something we really want. This love of shopping, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. What’s dangerous is when this love of shopping turns into a shopping addiction.
How to Avoid Impulse Purchases
Ok, now we’ve gotten to the part you really came here for. How do we stop buying stuff we don’t need? Whether you want to stop impulse buying because you want to actually keep the money in your bank account or you want to live a more sustainable lifestyle and consume less, here are 8 tips to keep you in check and help you make better choices when you shop.
1. Ask yourself if you actually need it first
The answer is usually going to be no, so you’re going to have to put your willpower to the test. Just put it back quickly and walk away.
2. Make a budget or a plan and stick to it.
A budget can be a great tool for helping you avoid what you don’t need. The kicker: you have to actually stick to it. A budget isn’t a magic wand that will suddenly make all of your money behave. If it’s not already budgeted for, don’t spend the money.
Sometimes budgeting can fail though, if what you wanted to buy comes out to be less than what you budgeted to spend on it. That’s when a list of the items you need comes in handy. Just stick to the list and put your blinders on when you get to all the impulse items at the checkout lanes.
3. Wait a few days
Two-thirds of impulse shopping happens in our beds on our phones. It’s so easy to see something we want and click, click, click it into a purchase.
One way to help here is to give yourself a few days to calm down when an impulse buy gets you jazzed up. Put your impulse items back on the shelf if you’re at the store, or leave them in your cart if you’re shopping online, and walk away. Wait a few days. If you are still thinking about them three or four days later, go back and reassess if you still want them.
Make sure to watch out for deals and sales, too. Don’t let a countdown rush you into buying anything! Remember the deal, save some money, and be ready for it next time if you can’t afford it right now. Because a sale will come back around.
4. Don’t shop when you’re emotional
We said it before, but it’s worth repeating—don’t let your emotions control your spending! You might have a great day and want to treat yourself. Or maybe you’re having a bad day and a little retail therapy sounds like the cure. Your emotions often get you to buy things you wouldn’t normally buy if you were in that emotional state.
5. Bring an accountability buddy
Do you have a sibling or friend who’s willing to get in your face and tell you not to buy something? Bring them with you to the store. Tell them what you plan to buy and ask them to talk some sense into you if you start straying from your list that you made. If you truly want to change your consumption habits, someone who can help keep you accountable will go a long way.
6. Stop the comparisons
This is a game changer when it comes to impulse buying. If you always compare what you have (or don’t have) to others, you’ll never be satisfied. When we start comparing ourselves to other people, we’re playing a game we’ll never win.
Instead of looking at what someone else has and thinking, Oh, I need that too, take a step back and look at your life.. If you change your perspective, you’ll find you already have enough.
7. Get off social media
It’s true—if you’re having trouble with comparisons, social media isn’t going to make it any better. We’re not saying you have to kick social media to the curb forever, but try deleting Instagram and Facebook for a week (or more) and see if you notice a difference.
You can also try unfollowing accounts from brands that you shop with a lot and unsubscribing from their newsletters. This will especially help if you have a problem with constantly looking for new deals or shopping sales. Out of sight can keep them out of mind.
8. Do a no-buy challenge.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and sometimes a no-buy challenge is just what you need. If you haven’t heard of this before, it’s pretty much just like it sounds—you don’t spend any money on whatever items you’re trying to buy less of.
You still pay for essential things like your rent or mortgage, regular bills, utilities, and groceries. But you don’t spend money on things like clothes
We have a lot of power in the choices we make about the things that we purchase and why we purchase them. Instead of using that power to fuel impulse purchases, why not use it on things we intentionally want to add to our lives from brands that do good? Your wallet and the Earth will thank you.