Woman with shopping bags - ways to avoid impulse buying to improve financial future self

How to Stop Impulse Buying

The Cost-of-Living Crisis

Here we go again on the Cost-of-Living Crisis – how on earth is it all going to end and how collectively will the UK get back to a nation where the majority of working people can afford to live sensibly – buy their house, pay their bills, have a life?  Now even the relatively wealthy middle classes are being affected by the soaring costs of inflation with fuel and food at the heart of the problem.

There are so many worrying issues contributing to this mess that we personally cannot control – it is a global hurricane – but what we can control is our own behaviour;  get our own house in order, batten down the hatches and hope for better days.

Impulse buying – where to start

A good place to start is by recognising and confronting that fair-weather friend the Impulse Purchase.  You may be very disciplined – a list maker, a planner, and a saver – but most of us are not.

We’ve all been there……… you pop into the local store for a couple of staples forgotten in your main shop (no list!) that you really can’t do without – some milk or bread, or something that wasn’t in stock. You whiz round buying this and that and when you get to the check-out you find that you’ve almost done another full shop; the two-for ones, special offers, newly-in, limited availability items have seduced you again. Once more you have blown your weekly shopping budget.

Women shopping for cosmetics. How to control impulse buying. Financial planning for women.
Impulse buying and what you can do to avoid it.

Confessions of a shopaholic – The Impulse Buy

This tendency to impulse buy can take a more sinister turn when it comes to more luxury items, particularly if you are semi-addicted to clothes or beauty products (who doesn’t need 30 lipsticks or matching handbags?)

The lovely boutique that I used to frequent, thankfully more often than I do now, offers an out-of-this world experience – champagne, canapés and stylists in order to help me impulse buy. The atmosphere created, leads me into a state of well-being.  I am not exactly  sure what hormones are at work, but I suspect dopamine, endorphins, serotonin and adrenaline are accomplices with the champagne, and I am effectively a sitting duck.

I look at the wonderful clothes, select an outfit or two and I don’t add up the total cost – ‘it can’t be that bad can it – it’s only a couple of skirts and a top?’.  Then comes the shock at the till and reality sets in. ‘That can’t be right!’  I surreptitiously study the receipt –  ‘has something been rung in twice?’ No. I am too proud and embarrassed to change my mind.  On the way home I debate the questions ‘Am I worth it?  Or am I crazy?’  Before sneaking in the huge pink bag swiftly to the back of the wardrobe. When wearing the said items, I can legitimately say ‘Oh I’ve had it ages, I saved over £500, it was in the sale’  – rather than ‘ I spent £1500’.

Impulse shopping, drinking champagne at the boutique. How to get better Financial habits around your money.

The psychology of shopping

Retailers – they’re all at it though – playing on all of our senses, from the luxury boutique to the supermarket.  They all have well-researched methods to encourage us to buy more, from larger trolleys, the smell of fresh bread, the positioning of goods on the shelf (aka shelf psychology).

You are more likely to buy what is at eye-level, so that’s where the more expensive items are placed. Lighting enhances the colour of fruit and vegetables and did you know that bananas are grown to a specific pantone number to make them more attractive to purchasers?  For example, bananas with Pantone colour 130858b (vibrant yellow) are less likely to sell than those with Pantone 120752 (buttercup).

It is also a woman thing

The more you see the more you buy, it is probably unfashionable to draw the distinction, but men are generally much more adept at the ‘boomerang effect’ where they just buy what they need and head back home’. Finally, there is the music which is well-researched to give you that feel-good factor – and is it me but are more people singing along and rocking to Stevie Wonder down the aisles since lock-down?

Woman trying to avoid impulse buying at the supermarket. How financial planning can help.
Top tips to avoid impulse buying when out shopping

‘Impulse Buying’ – Be kind to yourself

So from the mundane to luxuries – we all have our thing – it may be clothes, handbags, buying for your children; less likely for us technology and cars, but over time these impulse purchases can cut heavily into our finances and can make the difference between being financially balanced or not. 

There are ways to help you cut out the excesses

– use a smaller trolley, shop less frequently, if clothes are your bête noir, try limiting your choices by working out a colour palette or you could try body typing so that you know what suits you and you can be more focused in your shopping habits.  Whilst these methods are helpful stylistically, when it comes to finances we all know that, like trying to lose weight with a fad diet, there is no panacea other than discipline and restraint. That ladies I am afraid is what it boils down to – your will power.

If things are tough, you have to work out your priorities, shop smart and be brutally honest with each purchase. Ask yourself with each purchase ‘is this a necessity or a luxury?’

Read our blog ‘A Guide to Financial Wellbeing’

5 Top Tips to help with Impulse Buying

I am not preaching sobriety here. We all need to have some fun and reward in our lives, but just a little planning can go a long way to making sure that you don’t blow up the future. Also, like a diet we don’t need to be too ambitious, but put something in place that might work. Here to get you started is a five-point plan:

  1. Plan your spending – shop less frequently, make a list and stick to it
  2. Be aware of your particular weaknesses – avoid shops and online sources that encourage you to impulse buy – unsubscribe
  3. Put online purchases in your basket and leave for 30 days, see whether they then still have the same appeal when you return to them
  4. Consider a ‘no-buy’ challenge for a predetermined period and see how much you save
  5. Reinvent your current wardrobe, recycle goods and have a good clear out of unwanted ‘stuff’ – but not to make room for more!

Learn more about your financial habitudes

If this is all too much of a challenge, and one you think you are likely to give up on, like a bad New Year’s Resolution, the good news is that we are here to help.  At Women’s Wealth we have created an environment where women can feel confident about discussing their financial blind spots and we can help you plan for a better financial future. We are here to support you on your financial  journey.

If you would like to more fully understand your financial habits, you could join us on one of our free Habitudes sessions – trust me this is such fun and so enlightening in identifying your financial type. Or reach out to us directly for an initial chat with one of our advisors.

You might like to join our FREE Enable Membership on the Women’s Wealth Network – a community hub for taking your financial knowledge to the next level!  Here you’ll find free online courses, downloadable resources, and live webinars to help you boost your financial savvy!

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