We’ve all bought something in the spur of the moment only to tuck it away in the back of our closet never to be worn or seen again. I am guilty of several of these impulse purchases. In fact, my closet currently has summer dresses I bought in 2020 during the beginning of a global pandemic for a summer that never happened!
Let’s face it, the pandemic has made us a little more impulsive than before. We are online more, which makes it easier for advertisers to target us, and can easily over do our shopping. Now more than ever, we must become extra mindful of our expenses to avoid becoming pandemic shopaholics.
If you’ve been feeling like impulse purchases and online shopping have been ruining your budget, below are 6 key questions to ask before your next purchase. But first, let’s discuss how impulse shopping habits skyrocketed during this past year.
Pre-Pandemic Unplanned Spending Was Still High
Pre pandemic, Americans were spending about $155 each month on impulse purchases. During the pandemic with nowhere to go and to cope with the added stress, many of us turned to online shopping.
Consumers spent $861.12 billion online with U.S. retailers in 2020, up 44.0% from $598.02 billion in 2019, consistent with the newest Digital Commerce 360 analysis. Online spending represented 21.3% of total retail sales last year, compared with 15.8% the year prior.
We can agree that shopping is very therapeutic, but does that make us shopaholics? Of course not. What are some of the obvious behaviors to look out for?
Here Are a Few Symptoms of Impulse Shopping:
- Being preoccupied with shopping
- Often buying things that are unnecessary and never get used
- Difficulty resisting the impulse to buy something
- Feelings of euphoria after shopping or buying things
- Financial problems caused by excessive shopping
- Guilt or remorse after a shopping spree Impulsive purchases that always involve spending far more than usual
- Shame, embarrassment, and efforts to hide shopping behavior
- Shopping in response to emotional problems like loneliness or sadness
- Spending an excellent deal of your time shopping and buying
Having identified the behavior of shopaholics, what can we do to curve this behavior? Before you swipe that card or press that purchase button, it is important to ascertain that you need it and that it fits in with your long-term financial goals. Before you buy something take a step back and determine whether you really should buy it. Here are 6 key questions to ask yourself.
1. Can I Really Afford It?
I am a big supporter of budgeting. Budgeting allows me to create a saving and spending plan that reflects my goals. So before I make a purchase, especially a nonessential item, I ask myself these questions, can I afford it, or does this fit into my budget. If it’s not within my budget, and if I haven’t planned for it, buying it’s going to throw my whole budget off. In most cases, if it isn’t in my budget, I don’t really need to buy it.
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2. What are My Plans for The Purchase?
Really think about what it will do in your life. Will this purchase push your goals forward? Will it improve the overall quality of life? This forces me to realistically plan for the item before I purchase it. Imagine being this financially savvy 3 years ago, I would have certainly passed on the purchase of a camcorder I have yet to use.
3. Will I Use it Often Enough?
Don’t buy something you will unlikely to use more than once or twice, it doesn’t often make sense to complete the purchase. There are other ways you can get what you need for a one-time use. It makes sense to borrow it.
4. Can I Borrow It?
If the item is something you won’t use much, and something that you don’t particularly care to own, it might be worth it to borrow it. If you’ll borrow something, it doesn’t add up to shop for it — especially if you’ll borrow it for free of charge or for a low cost. If you aren’t sure whether you will like a book, check it out of the library first. Instead of purchasing power tools you will hardly use, borrow them from your neighbors or family. You can check your local thrift store such as Goodwill stores for clothes and household items, you will find great items at great prices.
5. Am I Getting The Best Deal?
A good deal goes a far way and shopping for deals is key. Use, `cashback apps, look for discounts, promotional codes, or coupons of some sort before making a purchase. Some of my favorite sites for coupons, cashback, and overall online deals are: Capital One shopping, Slickdeals, RetailMeNot, Groupon, Rakuten.
6. Is it Truly a Need Right Now?
Whenever possible, delay and expense for at least 48hrs. If you can delay an expense, you’d be surprised how often you no longer want the item after a little time has passed. I would even go a step further and create a buy list. I recently did this for a few home upgrade “want” items. After 2 weeks had passed, I only purchased 2 items from that list.
Summary: Wean Yourself Off Impulse Purchases
Take the time to reconsider before you buy something. You just might find that you don’t need to buy it after all. Becoming more aware of your purchases and managing your impulse shopping habits has many benefits. Not only will you spend less time on desires fueled by temporary emotions, but you will also be left with less clutter around your house. But most importantly, you’ll be one step closer to achieving your final financial goals since that money you would have spent could be saved or put toward a more meaningful purchase
Do you shop online frequently or make quite a few impulse purchases? How do you tame your spending habits?