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Many of us have given in to the temptation to buy something we don’t need. Maybe you were passively scrolling through your social media feed when a sponsored post came up, showcasing the latest tech gadget with glowing reviews. Unable to resist, you clicked the “buy’ button for fear of missing out, only to find the excitement fade not long after, leaving you with regret and a dent in your bank account.
Impulse buying is the act of making unplanned purchases on a whim without considering long-term goals and needs. From flashy tech to trendy fashion items, impulse purchases can quickly drain your bank account and hinder your long-term financial goals.
The temptation is further fueled by social media — 49 percent of respondents in a 2022 Bankrate survey said they’ve made an impulse purchase on one platform or another. And 64 percent of those said they regretted an impulse purchase they made on social media.
Coupled with the current high-inflation environment, succumbing to impulse purchases can have even more detrimental effects on our savings than usual. But there are ways you can curb impulsive spending habits and focus on more long-term financial goals.
1. Reflect before purchasing
Getting into the habit of slowing down and reflecting before making an impulse buy can be a big money-saver.
Some questions you should ask yourself:
- Is this item a want or a need?
- Can I afford it without sacrificing something more important?
- Will this bring long-term value and satisfaction?
2. Stick to a shopping list
Before heading to the store or browsing online, make a shopping list of items that you genuinely need. A shopping list provides a clear plan for your shopping trip, eliminating ambiguity and reducing the chances of being swayed by impulses. It also acts as a reminder of your goals and priorities.
You could try using a shopping list app like Any.do or Out of Milk, which help you organize your shopping lists and even share them with friends or family members to streamline your shopping process.
3. Implement the 24-hour rule
When you come across something you’re tempted to buy immediately, give yourself a cooling-off period of 24 hours. Why? The purpose of the 24-hour rule is to create a space between the initial impulse and the actual purchase — often, the initial excitement and compulsion to buy can fade after that time period. By waiting, you give yourself a chance to reconsider the purchase in a more neutral state of mind.
During those 24 hours, you can take the time to research the item’s features, read reviews, compare prices and consider if it aligns with your needs and budget.
4. Unfollow accounts that fuel your temptation
The constant stream of captivating images, flashy ads and influencers promoting products on social media can make it incredibly tempting to click that “buy now” button without a second thought. With just a swipe or a scroll, we’re exposed to a never-ending array of products and services, each promising to improve our lives in some way. But that promise can be deceiving and succumbing to the temptation can lead to financial stress and instability.
One big step you can take to help resist the siren call of impulse buys is to carefully curate your social media feed to prevent yourself from seeing those items in the first place. Unfollow brands and promoters that consistently tempt you. You might even want to remove certain shopping apps from your phone or set time limits for those that have the strongest pull on you. Even a few changes to your social media feed can reduce the constant exposure to shopping triggers and help you save money.
5. Prioritize clear financial goals for long-term gratification
Envision your ideal financial future and set clear goals. Instead of simply saying you want to save money, set a specific target, such as saving $5,000 within the next year. Once you’ve established goals, you can fit them into your budget to align your spending with what you want to achieve in the long term.
It’s easy to give in to temporary pleasures when we’re surrounded by lures to buy stuff all the time, but reminding yourself of your financial goals and learning to wait can help you find long-term fulfillment. As you achieve smaller milestones toward your goals, reward yourself (within reason) to maintain a positive mindset and reinforce your commitment to the larger goals.
By establishing clear financial goals and prioritizing your long-term needs over short-term impulse purchases, you can regain control of your finances and make decisions that support future aspirations. Keep track of how much you’ve saved from cutting back on impulse buying — those savings can go toward a specific savings fund or be invested in a high-yielding certificate of deposit to earn money back in the form of interest.