8 Ways to Stop Impulse Buying

Everyone falls victim to some kind of impulse buying. 

In the past for me, it has happened the most at the grocery store. When I’m shopping hungry and can’t control what leaps into my cart. Or if I only make a mental list and don’t have a concrete, written one. Which is why I have tried my best to curb these triggers. But honestly, if I’m not careful impulse buys can still creep up on me. 

Surveys show that almost 90% of us make an impulse buy, somewhere, somehow. (1) And this isn’t even just for cheap things. Many people admit to making impulse purchases in the $100+ range. Ouch. 

What Triggers Impulse Buying

I had this belief that impulse buying was only caused by internal factors. I seemed to forget all of the outside influences that probably account for most of the impulse purchases made. 

Just when you think you have your emotions under control, retailers come up with new tricks and marketing tactics that unravel your control.

Not only do you have to watch out for your own emotional spending habits, you also need to be aware of the tactics retailers use to suck you into making an impulse purchase. 

Personal Triggers (Internal)

Our Mood

Impulse buying happens the most when we are bored or excited. Shopping while hungry certainly doesn’t help. 


The younger you are, the more tempted you will be to make an unplanned purchase. 

Instant Gratification

When you mix wants or needs with “right now,” this can lead to random purchases. 

Subconscious Habits

You might have formed a habit that you are unaware of that is causing you to spend extra money. Such as, buying a candy bar in the checkout line at the grocery store. 

Retail Triggers (External)

Store Design

Stores will do anything to put you in a happy, relaxed, and a buying mood. By having music playing, and fragrance in the air.

Physical stores have you walk all around items that are designed for you to want to buy. Online stores do this as well with a “virtual click path”.

Time Limits/Urgency

If you read “sale ends in 12 hours” it ignites your fear of missing out on a deal. Also something like “only 1 left in stock” makes you want it even more.

30-Day Guarantee

This makes it easier to justify buying something because you could return it within 30 days. But truthfully, most people don’t out of laziness or the hassle a return can create.

Free Shipping or BOGO (Buy One Get One Free)

Because who can pass up the word free, even if you have to still pay for the item.

Targeted/Personalized Ads

I think this one is on the creepy side. Almost all online advertisements are personalized through your location, internet search history, your demographics, and more. This information is used against you to encourage you to impulse buy.

9 Ways to Stop Impulse Buying (Or at Least Reduce it)

1. Unsubscribe From Store Emails

Don’t sign up to receive store emails, especially from the stores you can’t stop buying from. All this will do is show you all of the cool things you could be buying, because, oh look they are on sale.

2. No Window Shopping Without a Plan

Never go shopping just because. That is a great way to end up with things you weren’t planning on, didn’t need and/or can’t afford.

If you are trying to find something for a specific purpose then make sure you have a list and don’t deviate. You could also only bring cash with you, a designated amount and leave your debit and credit cards at home.

3. Log Out of Any Store Account You Have

You will have to manually log in to whatever online stores you shop at, which is a bit of a pain. Since this is less convenient, you will have time to second guess your purchases. You might even decide that logging into the account isn’t worth it in the first place.

4. Use Plugin to Limit Spending

A cool Google chrome extension that helps you to curb online impulse purchases is Icebox by finder.com. The buy button is replaced with a put it on ice button. Once on “ice,” you won’t be able to buy the item until after a cooling period had passed. You can set the amount of time you want the cooling period to be.

5. Return Stuff

If you don’t like an item or it ends up not working for you, don’t just decide to live with it and it ends up collecting dust until you finally let it go. Return it. Don’t be lazy or feel embarrassed.

6. Start a No-Spend Challenge

They can be hard and potentially boring, but they do work. You can decide to focus on one category such as, clothes, fast food, or books or you can generalize and do no spending at all.

7. Change the Way You Calculate the Cost of Things

Instead of thinking in terms of how much something costs in dollars, think in time or work-hours. For example, if you earn $10 an hour and you see a $50 poster that you have to have, it would cost you 5 hours of work. Is it worth it?

8. Give Yourself a Waiting Period

Be it 24 hours or 7 days. Decide on the length of time that you are going to wait until purchasing something. This will weed out something you really want rather than something you think you want at the moment. You can do something like the 30-day rule.

Final Thoughts

Impulse buying is the worst. On your finances, and leaves you with unwanted purchases more often than not. Being aware of your own emotional state when shopping can help. So can understanding the tactics of stores and businesses to get you to shop. And so can these tips. But even with this extra knowledge, you might still fall prey to impulse buying. And if you do, don’t beat yourself up. Try again.

2 thoughts on “8 Ways to Stop Impulse Buying”

  1. Hi Amanda, one of the best ways I’ve found to control me spending is to put all my daily income (fro my affiliate marketing business) and outgoings into an Excel spreadsheet and record everything.

    The most interesting columns are the personal and business expenditures (because both are linked for me). It was a real eye-opener when I was wondering where all my money was going.

    All those impulse buys of coffees, chocolate and unnecessary treats combined with things like parking meter fees, petrol, subscriptions to a huge range of services and so on.

    It all really added up. And knowing where all the money was going made it so much easier to identify where I was really wasting money and prune those expenditures.

    Another thing I did was switch from using a credit card to using a debit card.

    Since money comes off your debit card immediately, it is more like spending cash and I find I’m less likely to splurge on some impulse buy this way that if I use a credit card where I have to worry about paying it down in a few weeks.

    • Hi Gary. Thank you for your insights. Seeing where all of your money is going and what it is potentially being wasted on can be a wake-up call and help you to change things.


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