Controlling Impulse Spending

Deborah Health Guide
  • About ten years ago, I went to a craft fair with my parents. My parents go to the type of craft fairs that have handwoven coats and custom made wood furniture. I fell in love with some custom-made leather boots. They created a mold for your feet and lower legs and made the boots from that. They cost $500 (I got the sterling silver buttons). They were definitely worth the price, but for me that was about half a month's pay. I hyperventilated the whole way home and tried to figure out how I was going to break it to my husband.


    We ADHD-ers can be somewhat impulsive. In many situations it's an endearing and even desirable quality. When it comes to spending money, not so much. Around the holidays this is particularly difficult. After all, we're prone to impulses and we have to shop. Plus, it's often easier to justify buying something when it's a gift. So at this time of year it's "Danger, Will Robinson!" All those nice, shiny things beckoning to us. Before we know it we're at the register and handing over our money. And even when we make a good purchase and can afford it, sometimes we still feel badly because we didn't buy it after carefully considering the purchase, or at least counting to ten.

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    So how do you control your impulsive shopping? To a great extent, in the same way that you would control a shopping addiction, even though they are dissimilar in cause and execution. A shopping addiction is similar to other addictions in that, if you'll excuse the oversimplification, you're trying to fill an empty space inside with something else, be it alcohol, drugs, sex or shopping. Because the act of shopping and acquiring items satisfies that need, people who have a shopping addiction often have closets full of goods that they never use.


    When I was talking to my therapist about trying to control my impulse shopping, she suggested I get rid of my credit cards. I protested that since I did much of my shopping online, that was impossible. So she suggested that I get a debit card and use that instead. That way the money comes out of your account right away, just like writing a check instead of faster. It did help a lot in that while I still spent money sometimes on impulse purchases instead of paying bills, I was spending more within my means. Also, it's been shown that using cash when you go out shopping is even more of a deterrent than using a debit card, credit card or personal check.


    I'm sure you've heard this suggestion, but it does work. Plan out all your shopping trips. Make lists and use them religiously. Don't buy anything that isn't on your list, unless it's something that you really needed but forgot to put on your list. If you see something you'd like, write it down and think about it for your next shopping excursion.


    Track your purchases and bank account with financial software like Quicken. Not only will it help you to cut down on and hopefully eliminate the number of times your account is overdrawn, but you can also categorize your purchases, which can be fairly sobering. Sobering is good. Seeing that number in black and white that represents the percentage of your money that is going to things like entertainment, dining or impulse purchases can really help to keep it under control.


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    If you want to get serious about understanding what's behind those impulse purchases, read Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill. 




    How to Control Impulse Spending

Published On: November 10, 2009