8 Ways to Stop Impulse Buying

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8 Ways To Stop Impulse Buying

Most of us have given in to impulse buying but it can really waste money and cause debt. These easy tips will help you stop impulse buying and save money!

8 Ways to Stop Impulse Buying

Impulse buying– We have all been there and done that. We’ve seen so many products we just can’t do without. We all know that impulse buying leads to collecting things we don’t really need or want, but it can be difficult to resist. That salesperson tells us that their vacuum cleaner will radically change our life and make it easier. We’ve been prompted to wonder how in the world we ever cooked without that chopper, blender or juicer.

Then there are the beauty products (who doesn’t want to look 20 years younger?) or the exercise machine that will help you to lose weight and have the body of a 20 year old. They forgot to mention it will only do that if you use it and not just store it under your bed. Maybe that is why one of the first things they tell you is it is how easy it is to store…. because they know that’s what most people will be doing with it. : )

Don’t forget the trips to the shops and malls. What fun! That outfit is to die for and is 50% off. I really need to get it now because it will never be this price again… except maybe next week when they are desperate to get rid of the other 100 identical dresses and put them on sell for 75% off.

We are bombarded every day with advertising full of pressure to make impulse buying decisions, which can really get us into trouble. As with anything if you struggle with impulse buying, you need to admit you have a problem. Here are a few signs to help you determine if you might have a problem:

  1. When you are upset, do you go shopping?
  2. Is your house full of items you thought you had to have but are now sitting all over your house still in the original boxes or hanging with the price tags still on them?
  3. Do you spend more time during the week shopping (that includes TV, Internet shopping and garage sales) than you do cleaning your house or spending time with your family?
  4. Are your credit cards maxed out with things that aren’t life and death needs?

If you said yes to even one of these questions, you may have a problem with impulse buying. Here are some easy things you can do to help overcome it:

  1. Use cash. I know in the day and age of credit cards this will seem weird and difficult at first but it is one of the best ways I know to control spending. Credit cards are the one thing that mist enables impulse buying. If you use cash, you can see exactly how much you are spending more easily than you can with credit cards. Credit cards make it easy to spend too much without really realizing it.

    If you leave home with only the amount of cash you need for your shopping trip you can’t overspend and you carefully watch every item you buy. This isn’t as hard as it seems. You only once need to arrive at the cash register and be embarrassed at having bought too much to learn never to do it again. : )

    I am not saying you need to do this for the rest of your life, but it is good to do it for a month or so until you break the habit of impulse buying.

  2. Don’t take anyone with you. You know good and well your girlfriends, sisters, mom or kids will tell you, “Oh that is the perfect dress for you! You need to get it.” Am I right or am I right????
  3. When shopping for major items, do your homework. Check out prices and check out different brands, whether you’re shopping online or in regular stores.
  4. If an item costs more than $20 (other than something you buy on a regular basis, like my medicine) go home and think about it overnight. We so often think, “It is only $10 or $20, which isn’t that much,” but those purchases all add up to hundreds and eventually thousands of dollars.
  5. I once read that you shouldn’t buy anything, no matter what a great deal it is if:

    You can’t afford it.
    You don’t need it.
    You need something else worse. (like paying bills)

  6. Be careful of sales because they are a big cause of impulse buying. Only buy something on sale if you have carefully studied the prices already and you need it. Our grocery store here has a lot of 10 for $10 sale which, at times, sounds like a great deal but I have watched and I can get some of the items for $.75 someplace else, so be careful.
  7. When in doubt, don’t buy it.
  8. Find other things to do besides shopping. When you are upset, do some volunteer work. This helps you put your problems in perspective. Instead of meeting your friends at the mall for a day of shopping, have them over for a cup of coffee or tea. Not only does this help you control your spending but it will motivate you to clean your house. : ) You could also ask them to go for a walk or bike ride. Not only do you save money, but you can get in shape.

The bottom line is control your money, don’t let it control you and think, think, think. Don’t feel, feel, feel when it comes to money


For more money saving tips check out the Dining On A Dime Cookbook and Dig Out Of Debt.



  1. Bea says

    I sometimes think “Malls” are set up to be a temptation. They are climate controlled and that makes it easier and more comfortable to shop in all kinds of bad conditions, so people tend to go “looking around” as a past time. It’s too convenient. I use to go to the Mall on Saturdays to look around and relax and see what’s new, but that is a big mistake. It’s too easy to find things I don’t need. I have changed quite a bit and don’t even like Malls anymore. I prefer stores that are outside and further apart and smaller in size. I found since I quit “hanging out in malls” on Saturday I spend less. I only shop when I specifically need something and then go in and out of the store. Less “looking around” saves money and lessens temptations.

  2. says

    I completely agree with the when in doubt don’t but it. This also works for decluttering your home, when you have to think about whether or not to get rid of something, it is probably something just adding to the clutter. The best part, no matter what your financial situation these are good things to live by because maybe the money could go to a better use, like donating food. Happy Monday!

  3. rose says

    oh jill i think you wrote this just for me! … hehehee 😀 … i am addicted to ebay… i am bidding and of course losing my bids bc they are sooo low… but its addicting (like gambling!)…
    granted, my latest bid is for a sewing machine … i need one bc i dont have it … and wouldnt you know it, it has hello kitty on it! … i literally love hello kitty! … and guess what else? bank of america has debit and credit cards with hello kitty on them… in fact, i just told my hubby i need one (debit card of course!) and he says “rose that is fine but with what money will we be opening an acct so you can get your hello kitty card?”… hehehehehe 😀 poor hubby!…
    and hte sewing machine? well i do need one and this is used (which is fine) … i am supposed to be getting a sewing machine soon bc the young lady my daughter knows wants to sell hers but i havent seen her in 2 weeks…
    i know i know… hubby is hoping i lose the bid adn get hte sewing machine from the young lady bc then no more hello kitty talk! … hehehehe poor hubby! …. 😀 😀 😀
    but this is great advice and i do need to keep myself in line about stuff… i normally am very good about things but ever since i went on ebay to originally look for a sewing machine i just got addicted…
    oh and yes i did win the bid for the marie osmond doll (which actually was my b-day present but the doll i won is so inexpensive compared to what she is originally priced at full price … and everyone chipped in for this for my b-day, so i felt good about that: just so you know, doll was with shipping less than $50 and this doll normally retails for like over $150 PLUS shipping, so i think it was a good thing bc i just love marie osmond dolls and it was my b-day present and everyone chipped in so it wasnt too much of a strain for everyone… and it was something that i really wanted)…
    but yes, this is excellent advice… adn i normally leave my debit card (we dont have credit cards at all! we do have a debit card that hubby holds but that has only emergency money on it, not much but it is something)…
    thanks for posting this jill… i know i definitely needed to heed this advice esp today! …
    thank you thank you thank you for all you do ! 😀
    ps sorry so long… 😀

  4. rose says

    i just re-read what i typed … and oh my! i sound like i am having a sugar rush…
    ehhehhehee… sorry about that…
    but it is still a great post you wrote jill …
    thanks again …
    rose 😀

  5. jill says

    Just be sure to stay away from the sugar before you go shopping Rose. It could be dangerous. : ) : ) : )

  6. rose says

    hehehehe.,… yes ,… that is sooo true! 😀 …
    hope all is well with you and hte family jill… 😀

  7. jill says

    Thanks for asking Rose. We are doing really good. We are working a little harder then usual because we are totally redoing the Web site which means we have to copy and paste thousands of tips, articles and blog posts from all the past years. It is a job but we thought the new site would make it easier for everyone to find everything.

    Thank goodness we aren’t all down with the usual colds, flu etc. Hope you are getting better and better from your surgery because it sounds like you have been busy too.


  8. rose says

    oh i am fine… just trying to get over this cold i got when i was on the paper route… thank goodness my son is officially the paper person in the family… last nite was the first nite in i think in the 2 months i was on that route… and just to let you know, i do not wish to do that kind of work again… it was a nice break but after a while now i know why i quit (after 17 yrs)… i am just sooo run down… and hte cold didnt help either…
    other than this, we are all fine… just trying to get back in the swing of things at home…
    thanks for asking jill…
    i didnt win the bid on the hello kitty doll so hubby got his wish ,,, i am hoping to get htis other machine bc i really need to start mending all of these clothes… and i am hoping to be able to put new zippers in my son’s jeans… i could go out and buy new pants for him at $10/each but these jeans are still in good condition and it would be a big shame to just not repair the zippers…
    we are trying to reuse, recycle and be more thrifty this yr… esp with the leftovers…
    just trying to save as many pennies this yr as possible… like everyone else…
    thanks for all the help and guidance you adn the rest of your family offers to all of us…
    i know i greatly appreciate it…
    try to stay warm and safe… 😀

  9. rose says

    what i menat to say is that last nite was the first nite in the 2 months since i have been on that paper route that i finally slept all nite and not get up and down for whatever the reason…
    hehehee 😀 sorry about that 😀

  10. Susan says

    Your advice as always is so good Jill. One thing extra that I have found useful is to try to work out how much time it takes to earn the money to pay for something that I want (rather than need) not forgetting to take into account tax as well. It helps bring it home how much faster/easier it is to spend money rather than earn it and that usually puts me off buying that “must have” item…
    PS I am not whiter than white. I have some bad habits which I am working on…(buying sewing, craft materials)PPS A belated thank you for the popcorn advice. A big improvement thank you Jill and those who commented.
    I am glad to hear you and your family are well.

    Susan (from England)

  11. says

    I am quite frugal but shopping is an area I have trouble with at times. I am usually good when at home but when I travel (which is 4-6 times a year) it’s much easier to just say “Well, I won’t be here again for awhile so I might as well buy THIS!”. I always visit bigger cities which have way more cool stuff than where I currently live so it’s tough to say no.

    I was fed up with my spending on trips so one trip I brought $100 with me and told the friend I was visiting that we had to stay within this budget. So we went thrift shopping (to satisfy my craving!) had coffee dates in his car while he drove around and gave me a tour of the area, went to a craft show and watched rented movies for entertainment. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever had. He also loved the challenge and did it with me.

    I agree that most of us have too much junk too. I am still trying to hold off on this miracle anti-aging cream I want to buy. I am going to use up the samples I have of others and save up for the cream I’d like to have! Thanks for posting this by the way, it actually made me close a window for something I wanted to buy online but didn’t need!

  12. says

    don’t know if this works as an anti aging thing or not. But friends have tried it.
    froth up an egg white and put it on the wrinkles in the morning.
    supposed to tighten the skin.
    I was a teen working with older ladies way back when and they swore by it.
    Now the age I am I am not going to get wrinkles LOL
    I am lucky living in a small town with few shops that tempt me. Also being housebound most of the time I do not impulse shop.
    But when we go to the city we stock up on things and get things we have put off buying. Not really impulse buying but lots of fun. One trip a year is devoted to getting groceries and then the fun of wandering through the bead stores for my husband and kitchen and house ware stores for me. I would like to start going back to the lumber stores to re start my hobby of wood working.
    My husband does the bead necklaces and the women there keep pointing out things to me and I say talk to him. Get some funny looks. He is 6’1 and has big hands. But it is his hobby.
    Me with my little lady like fingers and obviously female get the strange looks when we are in hardware stores and I admire the saws and chisels.
    Our big toys are guns. We have started selling a few since our gun case is too full. But we use them all but are cutting back on buying any more.

  13. says

    My cat sent that reply before I was quite through with it.
    I know impulse buying is not a great thing but with a bit of planning it can be made better.
    I budget for the necessities but add an extra $25. for which I don’t really have to spend. That is weeks when the bills are paid and all expenses are accounted for.
    The extra is for just stuff I don’t need but figure it would be nice for something kind of special. Like if steaks are on sale or look really good, as my husband is a carnivore at heart. Or it is a book I think he would like here in town. That rarely happens but occasionally. Or it could be a couple balls of wool or new needles for me.
    When we go to the city we plan the trips on the pay period where my husband gets an extra pay cheque for the bonus the mines pay the bonus for production. Usually it is around $2000. Half goes to savings and bills and the rest goes to fun stuff. Like a motel room overnight dinner out and wandering. We spend quite a bit of money but the bills are always paid so we feel justified. Is it impulse buying? In a way it is but in a way it is just getting things we can’t get in town.
    We are not living extravagantly our house is too small and awkward shape to buy furniture even though the stuff upstairs sure could be replaced. But getting a long chest type dresser it would not fit up the stairs. So we haven’t replaces it in 25 years of living here. It was too hard to get it up there and now it would be impossible without taking out stairs or walls. Don’t know how we will get it out.
    Plus most of it has a lot of memories.
    So I guess what I am saying is you can plan for small impulse buying.
    We keep looking in furniture stores to get a new couch but so far we can’t find one that will fit through doors and over stairs to get into the living room. But when we find one we like we will get it. 5 years of waiting isn’t really impulse buying is it?
    We do buy a lot of camping and out doors equipment but my husband justifies it because he is trying to make sure I can go out and do what I love to do in the summer. We have 2 canoes for days that I can go out but not help with the paddling and one for days that I can help and go to more out of the way places.
    Sometimes impulse buying is really good.
    4 years ago we were driving to go to the grocery store and saw a Safari van for sale. We stopped and looked at it and the man came over and said that it had new work done just the week before (it was the salesman from the place where the work was done) He gave us the name of the seller and we bought a van for $2000. It didn’t have a dvd player and that was why he was selling it. It still runs great and it can go into the bush and back roads and I can sit in it for hours instead of minutes. We take it on long trips.
    We know it was an impulse but it was such a good impulse.
    We have an account for big impulse buying and plan for small impulse buying.
    So I think if the buying isn’t putting you into big debt by nickle and dimming you to death I don’t find it a really bad thing. But if it starts to put a strain on your marriage or your debt load then it is time to reign it in.
    Plan for the impulse and you should be ok.

  14. Bea says

    I think Grandma has a point. Nobody is saying you can’t buy “fun” things. It’s just that if you are always using a credit card, not cash, and the balance or balances keep increasing, and you dread seeing the bills every month, then it’s probably time to reevaluate your “fun” purchases. A real good sign is if you hate bill collectors because they keep calling your house asking you to pay your bills and you feel put upon and think they are harassing you. Then you know you need to rethink your spending habits.

  15. rose says

    grandma: someone told me also to use prep H on wrinkles (a fresh tube, never used, of course)… we never did this so i am not sure if this works or not…

    i will have to try your idea tho…

    thanks for sharing 😀

    rose 😀

  16. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    Of course malls are set up to be tempting. That is the entire point of their existence. Merchants spend millions of dollars learning how to set them up to extract the most cash from our wallets. So I avoid them. I also toss all sales flyers in my recylcle bin before reading them. You could also go to one of the stop junk mail sites and have them not mailed to you. I am amazingly thrifty so I can be generous to those in need.

  17. Shannon says

    I wanted to share my way of saving money. Every Sunday we used to get the paper and I would fan through the ads and sales. Then in 2008, I was laid off and the threat of losing my house was hitting way to close to home.

    Right away, I stopped the newspaper subscription (even though it was only on Sundays, saved $$ there) which stopped me from looking at the ads and thinking about all those items on sale. Now I purposely stay away from the stores, shops and malls to resist that impulse buying.

    We cut up the credit cards, haven’t used a one since 2008 and am working on getting back on track with paying cash, eating in and finding cheap or free things to do. Plus lots of help from tips on “Living on a Dime” website!

  18. Jan C says

    Since my husband got disabled and had to stop work, I stopped going to Malls and stores all together. I have my groceries delivered. I order on-line and cannot be tempted by any specials I happen to pass at the market. There is a $5 or $6 delivery charge, but I figured I have saved that off the bat. I only get what I order, and if a forgot something then it just waits till next time I order. I look at the on-line clothing catalogs, and pretend to order, but by the time I am finished I get so mad that they are charging me half the total of the order for shipping charges that I just cancel the order. Why spend $7.95 to order a blouse for $10, that I really didn’t need anyway. thanks for all your tips, it really helps to know that there are others out there struggling just like me.

  19. rose says

    my friend has problems with the impulse buying .. and i love her idea (i also like the idea of having the groceries delivered to the door too but thats not available where we live) ..
    she makes a list and has her son and or hubby go shopping .. and this has worked for them ..
    my son would do that for me but he is an impulse buyer and so is my daughter .. so its really up to me to do the food shopping …
    and shopping at walmart is hard bc of the different products and clothes too .. but alot of things i get at walmart are cheaper (or if i have to get hubby’s meds, that is where they are filled and bc of his ins and the prices, they are the best priced) ..
    its hard but that is one of the reasons why we dont get the sunday paper anymore either .. in fact when we delivered the paper i stopped looking at all the ads .. and esp around the holidays.. all those ads! .. and forget about black friday ads!

  20. Toni says

    Hi Jill,

    I started following this website around the first of the year. I am so glad I found this. Your advice and ideas are so common-sense and practical. Most of which I wasn’t taught when I was young. This particular subject really hit home at my house. I have several impulse buyers in my home. Including myself of course. Although, since i discovered L O A D, I have been working hard on making changes here. Can’t wait to see what’s next. Personally I think you and or Tawra should be teaching an Economics/Home maker Class to the High School students, they all certainly would benefit from your life’s lessons.
    Thank you for all you do & God’s best to you and your family.

  21. Donna Friend says

    When I was a younger stay-at-home Mom, I would go to the stores to get out of the house. Yes there are free parks & the library & other places to go.Stores are inviting, & now you can even sit down & eat at the Walmart &Target.Many people are too busy to find time for you when they work & you have so much of it on your hands, I didnt have alot of money so I couldn”t spend alot of money. I used the time to compare prices, teach the children about money & the cost of things & let them pick out things on our list.Now empty nest leaves me wanting to go & spend $$$.I have nver been like this, your tips are helpful & put some things in perspective.

  22. michelle f. says

    I really love this article and your website! I just wanted to raise awareness about hoarding, if I may. I live with a hoarder(hubby) and no matter how much I ask, he goes shopping and buys something on a daily basis. He can not stop. The only things that have helped are his willingness to change, al-anon, and other twelve step programs. I wanted to let all those who are struggling in similar situations know that they are not alone and that they can set limits with help and compassion for the hoarder. Best of luck to all.

  23. Jeanne T. says

    This article convicted me, as difficult as it was, to cancel a purchase at one of those shopping networks to which I have become addicted. Yes, addicted. Yes, we have actually used all those kitchen things we bought, but a friend of mine gave me an appliance, the one I cancelled, to try out for a week first. I am going to use it every day to see if I really like it. It is now $40.00 more than than it was last Sunday, but I have to pay my debts first. There will always be another “special price” when I can truly afford it.

    • says

      Way to go Jeanne. I do so love it when our readers write to let us know they are trying to change and fix things. I always say half the battle is recognizing that we somethings need to change the way we are doing things. I so much would rather hear someone say I see what I am doing wrong, am trying to change and even fail once in awhile then to see someone spend the rest of their lives making excuses for their behavior.

  24. Susan L says

    Thank you Jill for this very informative essay. I have recently(this week) decided that I have been to easily led astray in my spending. I find it hard to tell my kids(teenagers) that we can’t eat out. I have given the debit card to my husband who is a truck driver and is home only a couple times a week. (we are blessed that he isn’t gone long haul). I told my son 19 that it is like someone giving up cigarettes or alcohol. It was an addiction and there are withdrawl symptons. Haha.

    Thanks again for this essay. It helps to know there are others out there with the same problem. In this way, I do not want to be unique.

    Lots of love to all of you and thank you Jill for your wonderful advice.

    Susan L in Woodstock,NB

  25. Sheri says

    Doing my grocery shopping every other week has helped cut the food bill. We actually finish the produce before getting more. It doesn’t go bad as much. Summer is a different story. Produce goes bad quicker. Most of my fruits go in baskets on the table. My refrigerator doesn’t have enough room for two weeks worth of fruit and vegetables for seven people.

    On the other hand, I do see great value in opportunistic shopping. We have a store called, Grocery Outlet. Some of the best deals don’t last long, so I stock up! Sometimes the grocery store has super savings on an item. One week, it was oranges for 10 cents a pound! I bought a whole box! My family enjoyed them and we shared. My family is learning to enjoy what is on sale, because that is what we can afford.

    Fabric, on the other hand… Well, I have such great plans! In fact, I should take care of one of those plans today! At least fabric doesn’t go bad, and I could sell it, if I choose to, either as fabric or made into something…

    As for malls? I only go when someone needs shoes. Clothes I can find second hand, if we need them, or I can make them from all that fabric I have invested in! ; ]

    Better go! Have stuff to do!

  26. Mary Jane says

    Amen to the throwing out of mail order catalogues and flyers. I don’t do a lot of mail order purchases, but can often find an item or two that I think I could really use, if I go through the catalogues. Last year, I decided that I would just throw out the catalogues when they came in. If I genuinely needed the items that I liked and thought I wanted, then chances are good they would show up in a following catalogue , and maybe even at a reduced price. I discovered that I either lost interest in any coveted item, found a reasonable and much cheaper substitute elsewhere, or found it at a reduced cost later on in a sale. Mostly, I lost interest. Out of sight, out of mind.

    • says

      Glad you made this point Mary Jane. Some things are very obvious to us where we spend our money and such but we sometimes don’t realize how tempting things like these catalogs can be. I try to tell people who are trying to get out of debt not to go to the mall every weekend just to window shop. It is too tempting. We would think it was awful if a recovering alcoholic went to the bar to “hang out” with his friends each week end because we know what a temptation it would be but yet people who are trying to get out of debt and stop spending spend hours at the mall, wal mart or even like you said browsing through catalogs. So thanks for reminding us.

  27. melissa says

    I love online shopping. It’s convenient and for the most part stress free, while regular shopping can be pretty stressful for me sometimes. I get a lot of items from WalMart.com, free shipping only, and delivered to my door, and stuff I regularly use or occasionally need. But I see many other items online I think I’d like to have. It used to bother me when I’d close the page, just so I wouldn’t look at it any more, but still be wanting to have it. Then I started looking at the reviews and realized something. If I sort the reviews (you can do this) ‘Low to High’, and read all the low/negative reviews first, I end up not wanting the item, not feeling let down because I know I shouldn’t buy it. I feel great because I know I didn’t need it, and whatever it is it usually isn’t as terrific as the site made it out to be.

  28. donnab says

    Hi Jill:
    One thing that helped me, is taking inventory of what I already have (I tend to be really bad with going to the fabric store). after looking at my stash, I realize I already have what I need for most any project and I have more than I can probably sew in my life time, I try to sit at the sewing machine rather than start the car to go shopping! saves my gas this way also.

    If I need a pattern, I head straight back to that section in the store, get what I need, and I don’t detour toward all the temptation!

    donna b.

    • says

      Love my stash and I know how tempting it is at a fabric store especially when I have a 60% off coupon. I heard a quilt teacher once say if you find a piece of fabric you love to buy 1/2 a yard of it. That gives you plenty to do something with it but not so much you will have a bunch left over. I myself make a lot of scrapy quilts. What I do is when I see a fabric I love so very much I will buy 1/4 of a yard and use my 50%-60% off coupon so I spend very little but I have a little piece of it to enjoy.

      • donnab says

        I was lucky enough to have a cousin who goes through stages of interest in various hobbies. when she decided she didn’t want to quilt anymore, she gave me 2 trash bags full of fabric pieces, all sizes, from really small to really big. I’m going to be using those for a long time! I immediately washed everything I liked, and got rid of the stuff that was old, musty and in bad shape. I ended up with a LOT of quilt fabric!

        • says

          That is so great when you get something like that. That is why I tell people who tend to drag their feet at getting organized to take some of that stuff you aren’t using and to give it to someone who will use it. Unless you have been on the receiving end you will never know how much that can mean to someone to get those things.

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