In the field of consumer behaviour, an impulse purchase or impulse buying is an unplanned decision by a consumer to buy a product or service, made just before a purchase. One who tends to make such purchases is referred to as an impulse purchaser, impulse buyer, or compulsive buyer.
Personality, pleasure, and product connections can all lead to impulse buys. Impulse buying is a common behaviour today. Our culture of consumption enables us to succumb to temptation and purchase something without considering the consequences of the buy.
Bad impulse purchases are items in the $50 to $100 (Dh150 to Dh370) range. These purchases may give you happiness at first but have no long-term value. They're often completely unnecessary. Here are five strategies to help you navigate impulse spending.
Strategy #1: Wait a day or two
When you feel that overwhelming urge to spend, the thumb rule is to wait 24 to 48 hours to see if you still want an item, suggests Brad Klontz, a US-based financial psychologist.
“Ask yourself: Can I afford this? Where am I going to put it? How am I going to feel about this purchase tomorrow? How am I going to pay for this?” added Klontz.
He adds that this pause can help calm the “emotional brain” and activate the “rational brain”, the one that holds you accountable tomorrow.
If you can't bring yourself to wait, a store's return policy may prove useful should regret set in. The return protection benefit on a credit card, if available, can also offer a backup option.
When you make a purchase with the card that offers the benefit, it can provide a window of time to file a claim and receive a refund when a retailer's return policy fails.
Strategy #2: Practice safe credit card habits
Credit cards may help or hurt, depending on how you spend. Klontz said that people spend significantly more money when using their credit cards instead of cash. He suggests keeping a cash envelope to use in areas where you tend to overspend, like dining out, for example.
Also, minimise impulses by not storing credit card information on websites or apps, says Kathy Longo, a certified financial planner and president of Flourish Wealth Management, a US-based financial planning firm.
“It's much easier to be like, ‘I'll look at it later because I'm not going to go find my purse and get my credit card,” she adds. That time can indirectly make you rethink a purchase.
Once you do charge a purchase to a credit card, pay it off in full to avoid interest and save money. For large purchases, consider using a card with a 0 per cent introductory annual interest percentage rate or APR.
Strategy #3: Use curb side pickup to curb overspending habits
Many retailers have offered curb side pickup since the start of the pandemic. In Dubai, Meraas, IKEA, Carrefour, Jumbo UAE stores offer this service, among many others. Curb side pickup service is when retailers allow customers to place an online order for pick up at a local store.
When the order is ready, the consumer parks in a designated area near the store, and a store associate brings the pickup order out to the consumer's vehicle. This is one option that Lauren Miller, a US-based resident, uses to stay on track in her debt-free journey.
Avoiding the inside of the store means “you're not seeing those seasonal items and those flashy marketing strategies”, Miller adds. These can often lead to impulse buying.
Some retailers may charge for curb side pickup or require you to spend a certain amount to waive the cost. You'll have to weigh whether it's worth paying a few extra to avoid the potential cost of impulse spending.
If you have to go into a store and the urge wins, do an online price comparison of the item, suggests Longo. “See if you can find something similar at a better price or maybe on sale,” she added.
Strategy #4:. Give yourself a splurging allowance
Build a personal allowance into your budget for potential must-have purchases. When Miller first started to curb impulse spending, she gave herself $20 (Dh74) to use at each store. Over time, that amount lowered to $5 (Dh18) per store as she embraced the habit. Since she frequents only about four stores per month, the total doesn't dent her budget.
“The desire to make impulse purchases lessens, I think, because I know I have the permission to make an impulse purchase if I choose to,” said Miller.
If you exceed your allowance, take that amount out of next month's budget, or supplement it by redeeming credit card rewards for cash back or statement credit if it makes sense. (Some credit cards lessen the value of rewards when you redeem for certain options.)
But if impulse spending is constantly causing you to stray from your budget and get into debt, it may be time to revaluate spending habits or speak to a credit counsellor or financial therapist.
Strategy #5: Getting an accountability partner is proving to be a global favourite
An accountability partner can help you dissect your reasoning for a purchase. They don't have to offer an opinion, just an ear. The goal is to hear yourself talk about it out loud and make a decision that aligns with your goals and values, Klontz added.
He suggests choosing a spending limit that merits discussion. For instance, if a purchase exceeds $100 (Dh367), then it may be worth running by an accountability partner.
Another option is to use social media followers to stay accountable, which has been the latest trend worldwide. Miller, as a content creator on YouTube, documents her progress on social media platforms by sharing her plans to stick to a shopping list.
So, the current recovering economic climate could be time to recalibrate your money habits for the way life is now. Doing so just takes some planning and a healthy dose of honest communication.
Key Takeaway #1: Post-pandemic period mandates the need to reconsider spending-related values
Your values may have changed over the past year. Ask yourself a few questions: What did I start or stop spending money on? What do or don't I miss doing? What specific money goals do I have now?
Your answers can help you create a list of your current values, in order of importance, which can lead to an updated spending plan. If you have a spouse or partner, involve them in this process, too.
“Many people think this process is for those who can't save,'' Julie Quick, a US-based financial planner, said in an email. “I would argue it's for people who want to live intentionally.”
Key Takeaway #2: Match spending and saving with updated needs and wants
After reconsidering your financial priorities, you can begin to give your money specific jobs. You'll likely have a combination of short- and long-term goals, like budgeting for weekly outings while replenishing your emergency fund or saving for an upcoming major purchase.
It's in the name: A spending plan requires planning. Though it's tempting to meet up with friends and see where the night takes you, for instance, picking where you'll go in advance allows you to design social outings around your budget.
Be thoughtful about diving back into travel, too. According to statistics data compiled by lenders worldwide, airfares have been increasing since March 2021, though they haven't yet returned to levels seen in February 2020 and earlier.
“Spontaneous travel is exciting, but it can also run away with your wallet,” Vadim Verdyan, head of advice at the US financial wellness mobile app Albert, said in an email.
“Keep in mind that people usually get the best deals when they plan far in advance and the worst deals when they plan last minute.”
Key Takeaway #3: Strictly sticking to what you can afford, and if you overspend, get back on track
The outside pressure to spend is nothing new, though now you may be feeling an extra-strong urge to make up for lost time with people you haven't seen in more than a year. But all those far-flung weddings and in-person visits may be beyond what you can afford.
There's nothing quite like an enormous credit card bill to ruin the fun you've been having, especially if you can't pay it in full and end up in debt. If this happens to you, it's time to regroup and reallocate some funds.
If you were saving for something, like a vacation, by automatically transferring money to a savings account, you've already learned to live without that cash each month. This situation presents an opportunity: Apply that monthly sum toward your debt instead.
You may have to postpone or scale back your trip, but you'll get out of debt quicker without having to make too many changes to your day-to-day life.
Joshua Escalante Troesh, a US-based financial planner, recommends putting away your credit cards and using only cash or a debit card for purchases while you pay down your debt.
“We've dug ourselves in a bit of a hole - not a big deal, people make mistakes,” Escalante Troesh adds. “But let's get the shovel out of our hands.''