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Impulse Buying: How to stop and why we do it

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

Realistically speaking, impulse buying can be fun (sometimes). However, it may not be so fun to realize how much spending money adds up to over time. Impulse buying is widespread and normal for everyone. However, there are ways to mitigate this from happening each time. 

What is impulsive buying?

Impulsive buying is a term used when you buy something you did not plan to. This can be anything from buying a candy bar at the checkout counter or buying a new piece of clothing. Anyone can participate in impulse buying, either in brick-and-mortar stores or by browsing the web on their phone. 

Why it happens 

Impulse buying can happen at any time of the day. Typically when it does happen, you have an urge to based on your love for shopping, low pricing, and emotions. Various factors influence buying something you don’t actually need. For example, in retail therapy, a feeling where spending money makes you feel better tends to be a big reason for impulse buying. While retail therapy doesn’t necessarily fix our problems, it distracts you from them. Although it can be healthy from time to time, it may not be the case long term. Making decisions based on your emotions makes you feel like you have control over everything. 

There’s a sweet deal— by default, your mind tells you that you need it. It’s fair that nobody wants to pay full price for something or even for shipping costs. However, this marketing tactic that businesses do can be dangerous for your wallet. Hearing the words “discounts” or “free shipping” almost triggers your brain to place that order. 

Shopping is a hobby at heart—and that’s okay. 

The action of being able to buy something gives you a moment of excitement. It is a fun activity, and one finds extreme pleasure in acquiring something new. Sometimes, we buy based on how attractive the packaging looks. Other times, we may just be looking for a reason to reward ourselves. 

But how can we avoid impulse buying? 

Set a budget.

Setting a budget ahead of time almost forces you to buy only what you need. It helps tell you where your money should go each month so that you can follow the plan as best you can. Regardless of how you plan to budget your money, separate it into different categories. This way, you can set aside a small budget to buy something inexpensive from time to time so that you are not entirely restraining yourself from impulse buying. 

Wait it out.

Impulse buying happens when we expect it the least. In other words, it means that you usually don’t actually need it. Give yourself some time to rethink and recollect your thoughts. Also, be wary of deals that are only valid for 24 hours. Don’t be rushed into making a purchase because of a countdown! Remember the offer, save some money, and be ready for it next time if you can’t afford it right now. A sale usually happens more than once anyway.  

Use cash instead of a card.

If you are worried about impulse buying, try bringing cash with you and leaving your cards behind at home. It creates a cap on the amount of money that you can spend and restrains any temptation so that it is impossible to buy more even if you really want to.  

Overall, it’s important to realize that impulsive buying from time to time is completely fine. It’s fun to treat yourself now and then if it is within your budget and makes you happy. Impulse buying, on the other hand, becomes a long-term problem when it becomes a habit for dealing with life’s minor ups and downs.

Erica Su

Toronto MU '24

Erica is a Creative Industries student at Ryerson University specializing in business and communications. During her free time, she loves to cook up a storm in the kitchen, play 8 ball pool, and re-watch her all-time favourite shows such as Selling Sunset.