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How to Stop Impulse Buying

What is your biggest money challenge? Is it earning more, spending less or finally sticking to a budget? Well for a lot of people, it’s about managing money better. It comes down to the amount of money you spend compared to the amount of money you make.

Excess spending can be habitual and very hard to break. For me, a big step to reduce spending and keeping a tighter budget was when I learned how to stop impulse buying.

how to stop impulse buying view of colorful flowers on wood floor

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, see my disclosures.

But how do you know if you buy on impulse?

  • Have you ever received a package in the mail and you absolutely didn’t remember that it was coming?
  • How about headed to the store with just a few items in mind, and next thing you know you spent twice or three times as much as you planned?
  • Have you ever spent money on a big purchase, because you really wanted it (or thought you needed it) only to find later that you could have saved money by going with something else?

If you said ‘yes’ to any of these, you may be impulse buying more often than you realize. Over the years I’ve learned to scale my spending way back by really thinking about what I’m purchasing and how I’m spending my money.

I’ll be honest, I’m not perfect and some days it still happens. But I really put an effort to spend money according to my values – the things that matter most to me.

Related reads:
7 Money Habits to Make (or Break)
10 Items to Buy that Actually Save You Money
5 Crazy Money Goals and How to Achieve Them

Ways to Stop Impulse Buying

It can be difficult to stop impulse buying, because in the moment you may not even know that you’re doing it. If you think about it, you may have been impulse buying ever since you started spending your own money. Did you ever…

  • Spend your quarters in the trinket machines as you walked out of the grocery store or restaurant when you were 9 years old?
  • Add the new color of lip gloss to your bag when you were 16?
  • Say ‘yes’ to the extra taco for a $1 at the local taco place?

If you’re trying to reduce your spending or stick to a budget, you’ll have to retrain yourself. You’ve likely been making last-minute purchase decisions for years, and you’ll need to break those habits.

It’s been a process to stop impulse buying, but I’ve found that with these tips, I’ve been able to dramatically reduce my spending on things that simply don’t matter to me. Here are six ways to stop impulse buying.

1. Take a photo

If you catch yourself picking up something to add to your cart that you weren’t planning on buying, take a photo of the item and think about it. Check back later, like a day, a week or even a month and determine how you feel about the item.

Generally I’m most motivated to buy an impulse item right when I see it in the store or online. It works the same when shopping online and you add something to your shopping cart.

When I take a photo (or screenshot) of the item and really think about if it’s something I want to have, many times the feeling passes and I don’t buy the item. I’m able to avoid the expense and stop impulse buying.

2. What would you rather have?

Have you ever played the game “Would you Rather?” It’s based on the idea that you choose one thing or another but you cannot have both. Well the same is true with money.

When you’re shopping and pick up an item that you hadn’t planned on buying, remind yourself what other thing you’d be sacrificing if you purchased the item. So would you rather have the item you just picked up in the store, or something else that means more to you?

Let’s say for instance it’s a $100 purse. I’ll ask myself “would I rather have this $100 purse, or have $100 to spend on an excursion on my next vacation?” I’ll tell you 100% of the times I’ve asked myself this, I’ve passed on buying the item. Because I value spending money on experiences more than things.

Your question might be different, but just make sure it’s motivating to you! Right now: prepare your question and get ready to ask yourself next time you pick up the extra item you see in the store.

how to stop impulse shopping
Photo credit: Nikki’s

3. How many hours will it cost you?

Since most things in life are either an exchange of time or money, ask yourself how many hours of your time will it cost you? How many hours of your life will you have to work to purchase that item? Is it worth it?

For instance, let’s say you’re making $20 per hour. At 4pm on Friday you’re asked to go out for happy hour with a friend – tonight. Instead of just saying yes on a whim, you estimate it will cost you over $40. You can ask yourself “is it worth two hours of work to go to happy hour?”

It probably depends on how much enjoyment you’ll get out of it, and perhaps how good of a friend he or she is. If it is worth your two hours, you’ve justified your time and money and you can go to happy hour guilt-free. If you don’t want to spend two hours of hard work for the event, you’ve just justified your ‘no’ and stopped yourself from spending that money.

Read next:
Budgeting 101: How to Make a Budget in 3 Simple Steps
How to Stick to a Budget: 15 Tips to Win with Money

4. Stick to your list

Friend, I know you’ve heard it before. But it’s good advice because if you can actually stick to your list, you’re going to save a bunch of money. But in order for this to work, you have to actually make a list and be intentional with what you’re planning to buy (and why).

Retailers and grocers expect you to pick up that extra item as you’re rounding the corner or waiting in line. They expect you to be persuaded for the extra snack, bottle of wine or discounted accessory. It’s the same thing when shopping online and you see the ‘suggested items’ after you drop something in your cart for checkout.

So before you head out (or type in that URL) plan ahead and make yourself a list and know that you don’t need anything else. If you feel persuaded to grab that extra item, think about one of the strategies above. Remind yourself what you’re sacrificing or figure out how many hours you’ll have to work for the item.

5. Avoid your triggers

The first step in avoiding your triggers is to identify what your triggers are. Do you buy on impulse when you’re shopping on an empty stomach? Are you tempted to grab extra items on a shopping trip with a friend who spends frivolously? Do you spend every time you see a cute outfit from your favorite fashion blogger on Instagram?

Identify your triggers in the areas of your life where you do the most impulse buying.

Then determine how to avoid your triggers in order to stop impulse buying. Can you unfollow that blogger? What about a brunch with your bestie instead of shopping with her?

If you change your habits and be intentional about where you typically over-spend your money, you can avoid impulse buying and reduce your spending.

6. Get an accountability partner

If you’re really serious about sticking to a budget and are working hard to stop impulse buying, get an accountability partner. Someone who you can explain your situation to and trust to help keep you in check.

So let’s say you’re shopping for a new dress for an event. You find the perfect one (yay!) and bonus – it’s on sale for 15% off! But on the way to the checkout you find a new necklace that perfectly matches the dress.

So in this case, you’ll take out your phone and message your accountability partner. Your friend reminds you of a necklace you already own (and love) that would also go with the new dress. Your accountability partner is there to remind you that you’re serious about sticking to your goals. You know she or he is right, and you’ve decided to wear the necklace you already own.

Be mindful of your spending

It really all comes down to paying close attention to where and how you’re spending your money. So whether your financial dreams are to pay off debt, buy a house or travel the world, start spending your money with intention.

If you want to stop impulse buying, you may have to change some habits and develop new ones.

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Monday 18th of May 2020

Wow! your blog is amazing, thank you so much for sharing.


Monday 18th of May 2020

Welcome! Thanks for stopping by!


Saturday 16th of March 2019

These are great tips! I think being mindful of your spending is good advice. I like all the tips but the one that would help me most is the accountability partner. I have a friend who is very frugal and keeps me in check during our regular conversations.


Saturday 16th of March 2019

That's awesome, Jeanne! It's so nice to have friends that understand. Thanks for stopping by the blog today. :)


Monday 4th of March 2019

I love these .tips! I will definitely re-read this for future reference thanks ????????????????????


Monday 4th of March 2019

You are so welcome! Thanks for stopping by the blog today. :)

Alyssa Marie

Thursday 28th of February 2019

Excellent tips! I am definitely an impulse buyer (not big purchases but they do add up quickly) and I have been trying to get my spending and finances under control. I love that these tips are very practical and attainable for someone who is not very good at their finances. Thanks for helping me feel able to get my impulse spending under control.


Saturday 2nd of March 2019

You are so very welcome, Alyssa! Getting your finances under control is all about the little things. Every choice either helps or hinders progress. Being aware is the first step. You got this! :)

Nidhi Saraf

Thursday 28th of February 2019

This article is cery helpful and highly recommended. It made me realize there are so many places I do not need to spend.


Saturday 2nd of March 2019

Happy to help, Nidhi! Good luck reducing your spending - baby steps! Thanks for stopping by the blog today.