How to Avoid Shopping on Impulse, According to Science

How to Avoid Shopping on Impulse, According to Science

This post was written by John, a digital nomad and freelance writer

Buying stuff can be fun, so long as you are in control. But when shopping takes control of you, it becomes an addiction like any other.

We’ve all heard of the phrase ‘retail therapy’, but it is a concept that belongs firmly in the same category as comfort eating. It’s fine from time to time, but not healthy when it becomes your go-to method for dealing with emotional problems.

The Diagnosis of ‘Impulse Buyer’

Psychologists and sociologists have identified a range of symptoms that may mark you out as not just an eager shopper, but a shopaholic. But thankfully those boffins have also come up with some remedies.

If you find that a hard day’s work, a family argument, or just plain boredom tend to have an instant impact on your credit card bill, it could save you money and guilt to work through some of these solutions before things get out of hand.

If, alternatively, you’re not quite sure if the diagnosis of ‘impulse buyer’ applies to you, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to figure out where you stand.

  • Do you buy things without thinking about whether you truly need them?
  • Does touching something make you want to buy it?
  • Does money in your account automatically trigger your urge to splurge?

If the answer to any of this is Yes, then either you’re a spendaholic – or close enough to it that you should probably think about these remedies all the same.

Shopping Hacks Using Self-Discipline

You can start by creating a new connection between your brain and the hand with which you pay for goods, by leaving the credit cards at home and vowing only to pay with cash. This has actually been shown to change the way your brain responds to purchases.

Credit cards are just too abstract. You need to see the green change hands if you’re to get that painful twinge that spending unnecessary cash can give you.

This approach can be backed-up with a little self-discipline.

Simply, stop buying things there and then: and if this seems difficult, create a deal with yourself. A ten-minute rule. Whenever you see something in a shop that you’re about to buy, walk out of the shop for at least ten minutes. If, after that time, you still want the item, well – that’s not perfect, but at least you tried. Heck, maybe this item is even worth it!

Another great discipline, which has been shown to cut spending by 30%, is to always shop with a list.

If you see something else that tickles your fancy, don’t buy it now: add it to the list for next time. Hopefully, before you make that next trip, you’ll see the error of your ways and draw a clean line through that tempting product.

If your weakness is online shopping, there are other techniques you can use to reduce your bill.

For a start, stop shopping on touchscreen devices such as phones and tablets.

Touching a picture of an item actually makes you more likely to buy it. It seems that the act of touching tricks your brain into feelings of ownership.

Delete your shopping apps, and make all your online purchases on a laptop or desktop.

Even on these computers, though, make sure to switch off one-click shopping and always delete your credit card details from Amazon and all the others. You are more likely to back out of making a purchase if you have to enter your credit card details manually.

If these sound like the kind of tips you need to get you back on the straight and narrow, try working through the infographic below.

You’ll feel much better when you’re in control of your shopping impulse, and find yourself saving a whole lot of money to spend on… well, you can decide that later. Much later.

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