Since the reasons behind impulse shopping can be varied and extremely complicated, ways to combat the problem are equally diverse. But here are some strategies from Dr. David Krueger, author of The Secret Language of Money: How to Make Smarter Financial Decisions and Live a Richer Life and consumer activist Christopher Elliott:
Pause between the decision and the actual purchase. “The delay can help disconnect the dopamine release,” says Krueger. Take as much time as needed to be able to clearly decide whether the buy makes sense or if you genuinely need it.
Examine the consequences. One woman who’s often tempted to buy candy in the checkout line says she first reads (and is often appalled by) the item’s ingredients and nutritional breakdown. The goodie usually ends up back on the rack.
Pay with cash. Debora Griffin, 52, an El Dorado, Ark. jewelry artist, never takes credit cards when she goes to a bookstore: “I can’t stand to be cashless. If I make myself use cash, I won’t overspend.”
Bring along a cheapskate. A cost-conscious companion can help talk you out of unnecessary spending.
Keep track. Benson recommends writing down everything you buy and assigning a numerical “necessity value” to each item (the greater the necessity, the higher the number). If the money spent is huge and the necessity figure skinny, that suggests impulse spending.
Don’t play into a child’s spending tantrum. “Abandon your shopping cart and walk immediately out of the store,” says Elliott.
Lower the limit on your credit cards — the less available, the less you can potentially spend. If that doesn’t work, give them to someone else or cut them up completely.
Commit to returns. “If you haven’t opened a package within a week, promise yourself to send it back,” says Boterf.
If an online deal seems just too tempting, fill up your virtual shopping cart. Then, snap off the computer. “This trick fulfills my impulsive desire to shop without spending any money,” says consumer authority Andrea Woroch.
Don’t beat yourself up. Impulse spending doesn’t mean you lack willpower or discipline. But turning off the desire to buy something, no matter if it’s a 50-cent bag of peanuts or a $500 set of speakers, can be tough. Says Krueger: “Sometimes, the hardest thing in the world to do is to do nothing at all.”