Controlling Impulses

12 Tips for Curbing Impulsive Shopping

Eileen Bailey Nov 15, 2012 (updated Mar 14, 2014)
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Determine if you have obsessive compulsive disorder
Determine if you have obsessive compulsive disorder
Studies have shown that those with ADHD have a higher rate of OCD and impulsive spending may be one sign of this. Talk with your doctor about other indicators of OCD to find out if this might be contributing to your impulsive spending.
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Accept that you have a problem
Accept that you have a problem
Acknowledging a problem is always the first step to controlling it and impulsive spending is no exception to that rule. Once you acknowledge that your shopping habits are causing problems for you and your family, you can look for solutions.
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Never go shopping without a list
Never go shopping without a list
You have heard it many times, but before heading out the door, whether grocery shopping or gift shopping, make a list first. Once at the store, buy only what is on your list.
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Use cash instead of credit or debit cards
Use cash instead of credit or debit cards
It is often more convenient to pull out a card to pay for your items, but that convenience can contribute to impulsive spending. You may think twice about a purchase when you have to watch your cash disappear.
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Only take enough cash to cover your expected purchases
Only take enough cash to cover your expected purchases
Use the list you wrote to estimate how much cash you will need and take only that amount with you. Leave your checks, credit card and debit cards at home. Any additional purchases are going to take the effort of going home, getting your debit card, going to the ATM and then back to the store. This long process will give you time to think about whether you really want to make the purchase.
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Determine if your problem is worse when you are alone or with others
Determine if your problem is worse when you are alone or with others
For some, social shopping, with the “oohs” and “aahs” of friends over a lovely piece of jewelry or an expensive sweater will drive you to buy the item, even if you can’t afford it. For others, having someone along can help curb your impulsive shopping. Decide which situation is more likely to cause you to buy impulsively and do the opposite.
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Wait 24 hours before making any purchases over a certain amount
Wait 24 hours before making any purchases over a certain amount
Your limit might be $50 or $100, depending on your situation. Just stick to the practice of thinking long and hard about any purchase over a certain amount. If you have a shopping partner, you might want to make a rule that neither of you can make a purchase over your set limit without talking it over first.
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Keep items in original packaging or tags on clothes for a few days
Keep items in original packaging or tags on clothes for a few days
This gives you time to decide if you really want to keep something. You can return anything that you don’t want.
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Know your shopping triggers
Know your shopping triggers
Are there certain stores or websites where you just can’t resist buying something? Are there certain times when you are more prone to shop impulsively, such as when you are feeling down? The more you understand what triggers your impulsive shopping, the better you can try to avoid these situations.
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Make a list of low-cost activities you enjoy
Make a list of low-cost activities you enjoy
When you feel the urge to shop, take out your list, call a friend and head out to have fun without shopping.
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Track your purchases
Track your purchases
Write down everything you buy or use software such as Quicken or Quickbooks to keep track of every purchase. You will probably be surprised to see how much you spend on useless or unnecessary items. You can use this information to create a budget.
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Work on a monthly budget
Work on a monthly budget
Once you complete your budget, you should be able to see how much “fun” money you have each month. Give yourself a weekly or monthly allowance to use to shop. Once that money is gone, you need to wait until next week or next month for any additional purchases.