Beat the Impulse Buy When Shopping

Avoid the Trap

It’s a dangerous world when it comes to shopping—colorful sale signs, overly peppy salesmen and the ever-so-enticing point-of-purchase displays.

Okay, so maybe dangerous is a stretch, but everywhere you go marketers have made a career out of stirring your impulse to buy. The danger doesn’t revolve around an advertising conspiracy; rather it involves your budget and the potential harm it can have, including debt.

Military members run the same risk of debt as everyone else, but they may also have additional consequences to face: lecturing from chain of command, loss of recommendation for promotion, and in extreme cases, discharge.

How Bad Can it Be?

The Marketing Science Institute found that 60 percent of all purchases are unplanned. In fact, according to a ShopSmart Magazine poll, 60 percent of women who were attempting to rein in their spending made an impulse purchase, (39 percent of which were in the last month). The average price wasn’t a simple cost of a soda at checkout; it was $108.

Reasons for Impulse Buying

The top three reasons found in the ShopSmart poll were the products were a great price/on sale, they were irresistible or they may be needed someday.  Other spur-of-the-moment splurges can be the result of a stressful day, a social outing with friends or desensitization to using a credit card.

Impulses are EVERYWHERE

Most people expect temptation when they go to the mall or major retail store, but simply supply stores can be just as risky. For instance, military stores may have a lot of items for protection, but they don’t protect you from impulse traps.

Some popular military store impulse buys include: headgear like bandannas and hats, lighters, mugs, sunglasses and non-military socks. John Herron, of John’s Military Surplus found women especially go for the dog tags and apparel. Stores like his are finding the average price of impulse purchases have risen above the $15 mark—definitely a cost that can add up over time.

Ways to Avoid the Trap

Fight the good fight for the sake of your budget. Here are a few tips to combat the urge to splurge on a whim:

Wallet-free Window Shopping

The extra time it takes between you finding an item you can’t live without and getting home to grab your wallet can save you some cash if you suddenly have a change of heart during the trip.

Pocket Notes

When you find an item that deviates from your initial shopping goals, write it down or log it in a cell phone. The time it takes to write it down can not only alleviate some of the urgency, but you can also use it to make a 30-day list. You can use that list to plan for a purchase in next month’s budget, if the product is still worth it.

Plan a Route

Marketers know any extra time a consumer spends in a store is money for them. Walking every aisle in a store can add 10 percent or more to your bill as opposed to walking just some of the aisles. Bring your shopping list and plan a route to hit only the necessary parts of the store and get out.

Use Cash

Using cash gives you a visual of your work efforts being spent. It’s an emotional connection that can reduce a receipt by 12 to 18 percent. Not only that, cash also has the benefit of being interest-free if you do give into temptation.

Photo courtesy Muffet