Mind the Moment

Using psychology to curb impulse buys

According to a recent study, Americans can blame the pandemic for one more unfortunate trend: impulse buys. The report of more than 1,000 American adults found that in January — before the pandemic hit — the average person spent $155.03 per month on impulse purchases. In April, right as the pandemic was surging, that number jumped to $182.98. Clearly we could all use a way to cut back on spontaneous purchases. One place to start? Your brain. Here are some psychologically-based tips to stop impulse buys.

Mind Your Moves

One way to curb spontaneous purchases is to be conscious of your weak spots. That means thinking carefully about your impulse buys. What category do they fall into? Maybe your weakness is running gear. Identify your weak spots and then ask yourself questions to make you more mindful of that category. Do I really need new winter tights, or will the ones I have last another season? Are my running shoes actually breaking down or do I just want a new pair? The more you think about your impulse category, the less likely you will be to make irrational purchases.

Focus on The Big Picture

Use a budgeting app or tool to help you stay focused on long term financial goals. As Money reports, research has shown that most people have a tough time prioritizing long term goals over short term goals. However, in one recent study, people who used budgeting tools — like apps — were more likely to enjoy saving than those who did not use tools.

Give In

You don’t have to completely abandon impulse buys if they’re not wrecking your budget. You don’t want to deprive yourself of something you enjoy. Everything in moderation. One way to keep impulse buys around, but in a more responsible manner, is to write your potential purchases down. At the end of every week go through the list and see if you still actually want to purchase those items. This takes some of the impulsiveness away, while also allowing you space to make buys that bring you joy.

Chris O'Shea

Chris O'Shea