How to cut back on impulse buying

Whether it’s a daily latte, an expensive pair of shoes or an even bigger purchase — say, the sleek new tablet you just couldn’t pass up — Americans have a propensity for impulse buying.

Eighty percent of adults said they’ve made impulse purchases in the past year for themselves, others or their home, according to an online survey commissioned by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) and conducted by Harris Interactive in August 2010.

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Many of these purchases result in regret and, unfortunately, wasteful spending. In fact, the survey found that 66 percent of adults who have made an impulse purchase this year say they later regretted that decision.

22 some tips to help you control your impulse buying

1) Stay away: Avoid the mall, Target, outlet malls and other shopping areas (especially anywhere you usually overspend). Just going there practically guarantees you’ll buy something on impulse. If you must make a purchase, make sure you buy the item you intended to shop for and not any additional items.

2) Stay small: Studies show that shoppers buy more with a bigger cart than they do with a smaller cart, which looks full more quickly — so a larger cart actually prompts more impulse buys. Match your cart to the size of your shopping list. And ify ou have only a few items, use the hand carry basket.

3) Know yourself: Understand why you shop, or your emotional spending habits. Start by thinking about your last few shopping trips the mall. Did you buy a bunch of things you’ve only worn once or twice? Or did you actually go to the mall with a mission, buy that one item, and be on your way? Are you an impulsive buyer, or do you think purchases through?

4) Use a list: If you have to go shopping, go with a list and stick to it. This will help you avoid falling prey to enticing retailer displays and coming home with all sorts of stuff you don’t need.

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5) Keep a 30-day list: If you have an urge to buy something, make it a rule that you have to first write it on your 30-day list. If, at the end of those 30 days, you still want it, then you can buy it (if you have the money). Just the act of putting it on the list (awareness) and forcing yourself to wait (delay) can make a big difference.

6) Want or need? From now on, when you see an item you think you’d like to purchase, take a moment to consider whether it is a need or a want. Do you need the $100 pair of black shoes for work, or do you want them? The answer is that you want them. And while you may need to own a pair of black shoes for work, it is almost certain there is another place you can purchase them for $50, instead of $100.

7) Return it: If you end up buying something you don’t need, return it immediately. If you feel that you are unable to return to the “scene of the crime” without either spending more or exchanging for a lower-priced item, ask a spouse or friend to run the errand for you.

8) Keep the tags on: Resist the urge to rip off the tag on an item after you buy it — it could have a defect you don’t see in the store, or you could decide you don’t like it the next day. Keep all receipts in a designated pocket of your purse or checkbook for easy recovery.

9) Be patient: While shopping, if you see something you like, leave the store for half an hour. A little time away might cause you don’t really want the item as much as you thought.

10) Time it: Curb impulse buying by following a time rule. If you wander around the store for an hour or more, it is guaranteed that you will find something to buy. Set a time limit for your shopping. When the time elapses, go to the front and check out. You’ll be less likely to buy things you don’t have on the list.

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11) Challenge yourself: Use the timer on your phone and see how quickly you can get in and out of the store. Keep a running tally, which will help you realize how much time you waste wandering around stores, and can encourage you to be more efficient.

12) Could it pass the honesty test? Would you want to hide the fact that you made a certain purchase from a friend or significant other? Would you be willing to admit how much you paid? These are just two things to ask yourself when reconsidering purchases.

13) Watch your aisles: Stores are arranged to encourage impulse shopping. If you go down each aisle, you’ll find things you want to buy. Only shop those aisles that have something you need. Also, shop the perimeter of the store. Most of the basics are out on the perimeter. There are lots of impulse items in the middle — and a lot of junk food.

14) Don’t shop when hungry. When you are hungry, everything edible looks great. Candy, chips, deli items and cookies add to the cost of your grocery bill, but provide little nutritional value. Make sure you eat before you take off to the store.

15) Sample smart: One time-tested way retailers can sell you on an item is to offer free samples. We taste and we enjoy, which leads to an impulse purchase. In fact, some of us feel almost obligated to purchase when there is a nice person handing out those samples. Enjoy the samples, but don’t feel pressured to buy.

16) Find other things to do with your friends or family: Do you hang out with people who love to shop as a pastime? Substitute that shopping inclination with a better — healthier — behavior. Find something that puts distance between you and the stores: Go outside — to a park — to the beach. Have a potluck dinner at home. Find a different way to hang out with your friends without spending money.

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17) Use cash: Leave your credit cards at home, and shop with cash. That way you know you won’t have enough money to buy extra stuff, even if you are tempted.

18) Avoid retail therapy: If you have had a bad day, the last thing you should do is go shopping. Do something else instead that doesn’t require money or add calories, like taking off time to read a book or binge-watch a TV season.

19) Get creative instead: Rather than buying something new, see how you can creatively repurpose or upcycle things you already have into something new.

20) Find a friend: Shop with a trusted friend or relative who will tell you “no” if you feel the urge to spend needlessly. You can also invite a friend to help cure his or her shopaholicism along with you. It’s easier to fight bad habits with a buddy!

21) Think long-term: Consider the long-term benefits of possibly investing this money instead. For example, rather than spend $79 on extra items each month on average, invest the money in a savings vehicle that yields an 8 percent return. In a single year, you would have invested $1,069; five years would mean $5,922.

22) Make fun savings goals: By setting goals for yourself, you can more easily cut back your spending, because you have something more important to strive for. If you want that new car by a certain date, you can’t have that sundress you’re eyeing at Nordstrom. Be sure to also keep track of how close you’re getting. When you avert the $100 expenditure, put the $100 in your savings and mark it down on your goal sheet. You can see that you are that much closer to your goal, and you will feel more satisfied that you didn’t buy the dress.

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