Why We Impulse Buy and How to Stop

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We’ve all been there where we tell ourselves we’re going to pop into the shop to buy something specific and necessary, like bread or laundry detergent. But we end up leaving with other items we don’t need but couldn’t resist buying.

What is Impulse Buying?

An impulse buy is any unplanned purchase that you haven’t budgeted for. It can be something small like a coffee, candy bar, or a large purchase like a new TV or car. Grocery stores and shops do an excellent job at getting people to make impulse purchases by strategically placing small ticket items like chocolates, candy, and lip gloss at the counter so that customers are tempted to grab them while waiting in line.

Why We Impulse Buy

It’s often assumed that women make more impulse purchases than men, but this is not true. Everyone impulse shops, but the kinds of things we buy may vary. Typically when women make an impulse purchase, it’s for a low-value item, whereas men tend to spend more on impulse buying.

We are driven to make impulse purchases for several reasons. Some of these reasons include:

  • Our emotions
  • The fear of missing out
  • Decision fatigue
  • The love of shopping

We often buy things based on our emotions. If you’re having a rough day or feeling stressed, you might decide to lift your spirits by purchasing a chocolate bar, coffee, or a new dress. Conversely, people buy things to treat themselves or as a reward. For example, you might buy yourself something small when you stop at the grocery store after work because you aced your presentation.

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People don’t want to miss out on a deal, discount, or free gift with purchase. This is why it’s hard to resist buying something on sale or discounted because people don’t want to lose out on a bargain. The same applies to items that are only available in limited supply or for a limited period.

Even if an item is not something a consumer would ordinarily be interested in, when it’s marked as a limited edition, people are eager to buy it. They do so because they’re afraid that if they don’t, they won’t have an opportunity to buy it in the future.

Decision fatigue occurs when consumers’ minds become tired after making many decisions. The ability to make good decisions declines, which causes people to impulse purchase. They are too exhausted to consider whether they need the item and whether or not it is a worthwhile deal.

People who impulse buy because of decision fatigue usually shop in the evening after work and a day filled with making decisions. Another example of decision fatigue in impulse buying is when people shop when they’re lacking sleep or stressed.

Another reason is simply the love of shopping. For many people, shopping makes them happy, especially since when people impulse shop, they reach for things that bring them joy.

When you do something you enjoy, like shopping, your body releases dopamine, a hormone responsible for happiness and pleasure. People may continuously make impulse purchases to get the dopamine hit, which could lead to a shopping addiction.

How to Stop Impulse Buying

Occasionally buying something on impulse isn’t a bad thing and won’t do much damage. But if you’re on a tight budget or feel you impulse buy too often, you can do a few things to stop impulse buying. Try the following:

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Draw up a Budget

If you don’t have a budget, you won’t have a clear idea of your expenses and where your money should go. Draw up a monthly budget that includes everything from rent and utilities to entertainment. Once you have your budget, you must commit to sticking to it. If something is not on your budget, fight the urge to buy it.

Make a List Before You Go Shopping

When you shop without a list, it’s easy to put lots of unnecessary items into your cart that you don’t need. Before you go shopping, draw up a meal plan for the week, check on household items that you might need, and add everything to the list. You know precisely what you need and are less likely to impulse buy when you have a list.

Avoid Shopping When You’re Emotional or Tired

Don’t go shopping when you’re feeling upset because you’ll likely buy something to cheer yourself up. Shopping when you’re happy or excited can also lead to impulse purchases because you’ll be tempted to treat yourself.

When you are tired or stressed, you’re not in the frame of mind to make the best decisions, leading to unnecessary impulse buys. The best time to shop is when you’re in a neutral mood and well-rested.


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Praveen Saraswat
Praveen was born in India. He began writing in 2018, he lives in Agara. He has contributed lots of articles to Scoopearth and another website and the first time he published an article at Scoopearth