4 Ways to Stop Impulse Spending

Distinguishing between needs and wants is a tricky area of money management, largely hindered by impulse spending.

And most of us have succumbed to the notion of unplanned purchases, whether in the grocery store or walking down the aisles of our favorite clothing store. Right then and there, we see an item and think to ourselves, “I must have that,” without considering the costs or financial consequences of buying something we don’t need.

To keep your spending in check, here are four ways to stop impulse spending.

1. Stick to cash or debit card

You’ve probably heard this many times, but when you think about it, it makes total sense. Paying for items via credit card doesn’t allow us to psychologically realize exactly how much money we’re spending. There are no boundaries with credit cards (besides the actual credit limit, but many times we don’t remember what our credit limit is). The cashier swipes the card and gives it right back to you so you can keep spending. With cash or a debit card, you’re actually removing something tangible from your wallet or directly from your bank account, so your spending is limited to money you actually have on hand.

Shelling out five twenty dollar bills for a $100 pair of jeans just might make you reconsider that purchase, put the money back in your wallet, and get out of the store!

2. Avoid daily deal sites

Have you perused the deals on sites like Groupon and LivingSocial? The offers can be pretty tempting. From restaurants to trips to Europe to spa treatments, you can find a deal for just about everything on these social couponing sites.

Unless in you’re in the market for something specific – maybe a small kitchen appliance or a deal for a restaurant in your area – stay off these sites. Think about it: if you stumble upon a sweet deal on a gym membership, you might feel tempted to take advantage of the deal. What if you never went to the site – would joining a gym even be on your mind? See how these sites can exacerbate impulse spending?


3. Unsubscribe

Any time you subscribe to a store’s email list, they’re going to inundate your inbox with sales and special events to try and lure you into the store. So if you get an email that the store is offering 25% off dress shoes, but you already have three pairs, that email might prompt you to stop by the store to try and purchase yet another pair of shoes that you don’t need.

The solution? Unsubscribe from emails that will tempt you to spend money – it’s that simple.


4. Stay away from department store credit cards

Another tool that causes us to spend money is having a wallet filled with department store credit cards. With these cards, the retailer will give you a 10-15% discount when you buy something in the store using the card. This can be helpful if you’re about to start a new job and need to buy some dress clothes.

But now when you walk into the store, every item you want to buy will seem even more attractive and tempting thanks to this discount.


Scott Gamm is the author of MORE MONEY, PLEASE and founder of HelpSaveMyDollars.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. He studies finance at NYU Stern.

This article has been posted for your edification.  The views expresses in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Higher One, Inc. In addition, the posting of this article by no means represents an endorsement by Higher One, Inc. of any of the products or services that may be included therein.

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  • brentwayne

    Hi Mary,

    I recently wrote an article about financing your college through home equity loan which I would like to contribute to your blog. Do you have an email where I could pobably send it over for your review?