What Is Impulsive Buying And How To Control It

"I have to have it. This is exactly what I have been looking for," said I, pulling out my credit card to splurge on another pair of jeans.

How often do we make a snap decision to purchase a new item that we truly do not need but simply want?

If you think this never happens to you, you are probably wrong.

"88.6% of Americans have succumbed to the temptations of impulse shopping, with an average spend of $81.75 per session or $17.78 billion per year. Americans also make up to 156 impulse purchases every year, spending up to $5400 annually, or $324,000 over their lifetime." Retail Therapy and the Power of the Impulse Buy by Winnie Tran.

What is impulsive buying?

Impulsive buy is "often not be a function of reasoned action but be triggered by a more direct and immediate influence. In particular, impulsive buying entails a sudden urge to buy something without intention or plan at an earlier time." The Effect of Shopping Emotions and Perceived Risk on Impulsive Buying by Grace Yuna Lee.

Most of us experience impulsive buying at some point in time. We encounter a new temptation that triggers a strong sense of desire that overtakes reason or sensible shopping practices. We tell ourselves that this item is worth it, it is one of a kind, and our lives will be happier or better if we buy it.

And we not only desire a new item, but we also have a strong connection with a brand. We passionately identify with the brand and what it stands for, and how it is aligned with our lifestyle. Thus buying a new item makes sense; it is not random at all. By purchasing a new pair of jeans, I feel closer to the brand and its cause.

What contributes to impulsive buying?

There are a few factors.

  1. We get manipulated by words like sales, limited editions, limited stock, and a few left. Worrying about missing out on an IT item creates a fall sense of emergency, leading to impulsive buying.

  2. Facebook, Instagram, and other social platforms fuel the need to post more striking images, showing off wearing the latest trends or coolest designers.

  3. And we are more vulnerable to impulsive shopping when we are under stress or face life challenging events. Buying something new, regardless of price, offers comfort and a level of control over our lives.

How can we become in control?

First step in the right direction would be to learn about impulsive buying and understand that we are not immune to it.

Step two would be to actively practice common sense shopping techniques —recognizing that we are manipulated by marketers in stores and online. When you have a strong feeling to buy a new pair of pumps, ask yourself: why do I want it? Do I need it?

Step three would be to think critically about a price. Most importantly, will the purchase drive me into debt? If an item is not in your budget, I suggest leaving it alone. If you can afford it, think about what else can be bought with the same amount of money, like dinner with friends.

And of course, there is nothing wrong with impulsive buying if it is controlled. I love to buy an exciting new item that never crossed my mind before. But I try to keep track of my purchases for that month and think whether I still have a budget or wait until the next month.

I also know that the excitement of a new purchase passes by rather quickly. So keep it real and stay in control.


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