Managing Your Impulsive Buying Habits

If  you  have  been  considering  buying  a  tablet, you  have  for  sure  heard  that  RIM  dropped  the  prices  of  their  playbooks  by  $3oo  dollars. Like  many  people  I  was  very  tempted  to  go  right  to  the  closest  shopping  center  and pick  one  up, but  I  didn’t, because  every  store  I  went  to  was  already  sold  out. While  my  weekend  experience  doesn’t  lend  me  the  most  credibility  for  managing  impulsive  buying, I  have  learned  a  few  tricks  to  keep  this  bad  habit  in  check. I  do  admit  I  am  known  as  the  “impulsive one”  by  my  friends, and  they  will  talk  to  me  before  they  talk  to  my  wife  if  they  want  to  go  out  and  do  things. Impulsiveness  can  be  fun  at  times, but  it  has  a  way  of  surprising  you  at  the  end  month  when  that  credit  card  statement  comes  in  the  mail.

See -Through  the Advertising

Today’s  marketing  machines  are  really  quite  brilliant  when  you  sit  back  and  look  at  them  in  an analytical  light. Almost  every  product  advertised  promises  to  improve  your  life  in  some  way  shape  or  form. When  people  buy  a  product  they  get  what economists  call  “utility” (if  Economists  were  content  with  not  trying  to  over  complicate  a  concept,  they  could  have  have  just  used  “satisfaction,” but  they  didn’t  so  we  are  stuck  with  utility). People consume  to  gain  utility. The  funny  thing  about  consumption  is  that  studies  done  to  measure  a  person’s  overall  level  of  happiness  have  found  that  a  person  doesn’t  get  any  happier  with  the  more  products  they  own. Once  the  basic  necessities  are  covered, additional  purchases  don’t  correlate  into  increased  happiness. This basic  necessity  has  been  determined  to  be equivalent to  about  a  $10,000  salary.  Advertising  at  its  core  is  designed  to  make  us  feel  dissatisfied  with  our  current  status, and  offer  us  the  promise  that  we  can  buy  ourselves  out  of  our  current  state  into  a  happier  one. Unfortunately  this  cycle  never  ends  because  we  never  learn  to  become  satisfied  with  what  we  have. My  point  in  all  of  this  is  that  if  you  are  not  happy  with  what  you  have,  you  are  probably  not  going  to  be  happier  with  more  stuff. Reflecting  back  on  my  university  days,  I  am  really  not  that  much  happier. Despite  having  way  more  stuff  and  a  steady  income,  I  can’t  honestly  say  I  am  happier. I  actually  think  I  was  happier  back  in  university  because  things  were  simpler and  I  was  always  around  my  friends.  Take  a  moment  and  think  about  this  for  yourself.  I  would  like  to  hear  what  you  think.

Impulsive  purchasing  starts  with  seeing,  hearing, or  experiencing  a  new  product. Another  way  that  I  keep  advertising  from  getting  to  me  is  to  make  fun  of  the  advertisement, or  pick  it  apart.  It  can  be  entertaining  and  if  you  have  a  partner,  it  can  be  a  source  of  conversation.  Once  you  get  in  the  rhythm, a  lot  of  the  advertisements  are  quite  ridiculous, but  effective (the Axe  commercials  for  instance). Another  way  to  combat  advertising  is  to  limit  your  exposure  to  it. This  is  easy  for  me  because  I  only  grew  up  with  CTV  and  CBC, and  never  really  became  attached  to  TV.

Make a List of Needs and Wants

Making  a  list  of  what  you  need  and  what  you  want  is  the  quickest  and  easiest  management  technique. Be  honest  with  yourself  when  you  make  this  list. Your  “Wants”  list  should  be  much  larger  than  your  “Needs” list. When  you  get  the  urge  to  get  some  utility  with  a  new  purchase, a  quick  check  of  the  list  might  be  enough  to  snap  yourself  out  of  the  impulsive  mood. You  can  use  these  lists  not  only  to  limit  your  buying  but  also  to  focus  it. After  compiling  the  list  and  prioritizing the items,  when  something  on  your  “Needs”, or  even  your  “Wants”  list  appears  on  the  weekly  Future  Shop  flyer, you  can  go  out  and  buy  it. By  having  it  on  the  list  in  the  first  place  means  you  have  had  to  think  about  it, and  rationalize  the  purchase. You  also  will  become  more  aware  of  the  products  and  deals  out  there, hopefully  causing  you  to  look  around  for  the  best  deal. This  is  about  as  close  as  the  modern  urban  man  can  get  to  hunting, and  yes  it  does  feel  good.

The Playbook is  clearly  a  “Want” item  for  me. I  have  been  considering  a  tablet  since  April. Given  the  current  price,  it  has  jumped  to  the  top  of  my  list. There  are  other  things  on our  list  as  well, like  a  food  processor, but  they  are  less  fun  for  me. I  use  the  lists  to  prioritize  purchases  and  practice  a  little  budgeting with  the  things  I  want  to  buy.  If  I  have  an  impulse  to  buy  something  I  add  it  to  the  list.  If  I  still  think  I  need  it  after  a  few  days  it  stays  up  there, anything else gets  erased.

Stay Unemotional

Advertisement  is  playing  to  your  emotional  needs, not  your  rational  needs. Ask  yourself  immediately  after  you  feel  the  urge  to  go  and  buy  something  “Do  I  need  this?” or  “Have  I  been  thinking  of  buying  this  for  a  long  time.” If  the  answer  is  “No”  to  both  of  these  questions  you  should  tell  yourself  to  stop  right  there. If  one  of  the  two  is  “No,” then  you  can  consider  the  purchase  a  little  longer. Going  back  to  the  argument  that  we  really  truly  don’t  need  anything  over  the  basics,  yes  you  probably  don’t  need  it,  but  buying  something  is  fun  and  there  is  nothing  wrong  with  enjoying  it. Just  make  sure  you  can  afford  it.

In  my  case,  my  laptop  is  getting  a  little  old. I  have  had  to  replace  the  battery  and  the  hard drive  already, plus  give  it  some  more  RAM  so  it  could  run  a  newer  OS. It  still  works  perfectly  well  for  what   we  use  it  for, and  I  have  a  desktop  that  I  use  for  the  more  demanding  tasks. Strictly  speaking  I  don’t  need  a  tablet  in  addition  to  the  laptop  and  desktop  that  I  already  have. However, my  laptop  will become  obsolete soon, if  it  doesn’t  break  before  that  happens. So  I  have  been  looking  at  a  tablet  as  my  laptop  replacement, and  have  been  waiting  for  a  good  price  to  come  along. So  I  don’t  need  a  tablet, but  I  have  been  thinking  about  one  ever  since  I  lost  everything  on  my  laptop  hard  drive.

Everything  is  always  on  Sale

One  of  the  biggest  reasons  why  I  feel  the  need  to  go  out  and  buy  something  right  now  is  because  I  see  it  on  sale  and  think  that  I  will  never  get  a  chance  at  this  deal  again. The  truth  is  that  the  item  you  covet  will  be  on  sale  again,  or  a  very  similar  product  will  go  on  sale  next  week. This  is  hard  to  convince  yourself  of  once  you  are  in  the  mood  to  go  and  get  some  utility,  so  I  recommend  picking  an  item  and  watching  how  often  it  goes  on  sale. My  favorite  is  mattresses. The  concept  that  everything  is  always  on  sale  came  to  me  through  a  review  website  when  I  was  shopping  for  a  new  bed. After  I  bought  my  mattress  I  continued  to  follow  the  sales  for  awhile  to  see  how  true  this  was. It  wasn’t  always  the  same  brand  or  company, but  there  was  always  a  mattress  on  sale  in  every  category. Try  one  of  your  favorite  products  and  see  for  yourself.

The  playbook  is  on  sale  now  until  Black Friday weekend, but  Boxing Day  is  just  around  the corner. If  I  don’t  get  it  this  weekend, I  will  wait. Plus,  I  am  pretty  confident  that  the  price  won’t  go  far  from  it’s  current  offering  seeing  how  RIM  lowered  it  in  part  to  compete  with  the  Kindle  Fire  that  is  due  to  be  released  soon.

Keep  Your  Wallet  At  Home

This  might  work  only  for  me, but  if  I  am  going  out  for  a  walk  with  my  wife  I  leave  my  wallet  at  home. My  reasoning  is  that  if  I  am  leaving  the  house  without  the  intention  to  buy  something,  I  obviously  don’t  need  anything. This  extra  pocket  space  that  I  have  does  so  much  more  than  allow  me  to  carry  more  of  my  sweethearts’ belongings, it  puts  the  money  in  her  control. She  is  less  impulsive  than  I  am  so  if  I  see  something  that I must  have, I  have  to  beg  her  for  it. Having  someone  to  slow  you  down  and  discuss  if  you  really  truly  need  that  new  product  can  often  stop  you  from  a  regretful  purchase.

Create  an  Impulse  Account

Putting  a  little  money  aside  from  every  paycheck  into  a  separate “impulse account”  can  go  a  long  way  to  managing  your  cash flow. It  also  acts  as  an  immediate  check  because  if  the  account  is  empty  you  can’t, or  shouldn’t, buy  anything. Putting  $50  a  paycheck  can  build-up  fast  and  can  leave  you  more  satisfied (and  less  guilty)  with  your  purchase  because  this  is  what  this  money  is  for.  ING Direct  is  great  for  this  because  they  will  automatically  transfer  the  money  to  this  account  for  you.

I  do  this  for  renting  vehicles.  I  don’t  own  a  car  and  when  I  do  need  one  I  just  rent  one. I  know  it  is  much  cheaper  to  rent  than  to  own  a  car  in  my  situation, but  it  costs around  $200  a  weekend. This  is  a  big  mental  barrier  for  me  which  has  caused  me  to  just  stay  home  instead  of  going  to  visit  friends. By  putting   little  money  aside  into  a “car fund”, I  can  rent  a  car  guilt  free  because  that  is  what  the  money  is  there  for.

Do Not Upgrade

Upgrading, spelled  with  two  ‘d’s’  to  enforce  that  this  should  be  avoided  at  all  costs. Upgrading  is  everywhere  now  because  retailers  know  we  are  so  susceptible  to  it. It  is  usually  not  worth  your  money, much  like  the  warranty  at  Future Shop,  and  it  always  results  in  you  spending  more  money  than  you  previously  planned  to. Upgrading  happens  fast  and  always  just  before  you  can  claim  your  prize. I  typically  give  myself  a  little  pep-talk  before  I  go  into  a  store. “I  will  buy  product X, no more, no less”. If  you  go  out  to  buy  something,  know  the  sticker price  you  are  going  to  pay  and  stick  to  it. Do  not  accept  any  compromises  as  they  will  only  hurt  your  wallet  and  leave  you  less  satisfied  in  the  end.

This  weekend  the 16GB  Playbooks  were  sold  out, but  some  stores  had  some  32GB  Playbooks  for  $100  more, and  64GB  for  $200  more. I  get  32GB USB  sticks  given  to  me  for  free  at work, so  paying  $100  more  for  the  amount  of  memory  is  clearly  not  worth  it. At the  time  it  sure  was  tempting though. Probably  the  only  thing  that  saved  me  was  the  look  of  disapproval  I  would  have  received  when  I  got  home (the  pep-talk  helps,  but disapproval  is  way  more  effective). Don’t Upgrade!

The  biggest  sale  weekend  for  Americans  is  almost  here, and  Boxing  Day  is  only  a  month  away. It  is  fun  to  get  caught  up  in  the  spirit  of  it  all   and  to  walk  away  with  a  great  deal  is  an  amazing  feeling. The  feeling  is  better  if  you  have  been  planning  to  buy  the  item  for  a  long  time  but  have  been  waiting  for  the  right  moment. As  for  me, I  am  going  to  Future  Shop  tomorrow  to  see  if  they  re-stocked  their  shelves.  It  is  the  16GB  playbook  for  me  or  nothing. Wish  me  luck,  and  happy  shopping  this  weekend.

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12 years ago

I find as I mature, sounds so much better than get older, I make fewer impulse purchases. I just don’t feel I need a lot of material things.

12 years ago

Yup, maturing, and getting more distinguished right?

12 years ago

Yeah – absolutely agree. I feel like you just shared my mottos for buying things. :) I especially like your point about seeing through advertising schemes. When you do that, you are ahead of the game. :)

12 years ago

Steve jobs legacy will be making us want something that we do not need. Yes, the tablet is noce, but do you really need it? You can convince yourself you need everything if you try.

12 years ago
Reply to  krantcents

HAHA! Love it KC. Jobs was a brilliant guy, no doubt, but I’ve been sharing this opinion with a few other people and they look at me like I’m crazy. It appears that everyone has been caught up in Apple mania (hey at least they’re keeping the economy afloat). The tablet is definitely not my cup of tea either!

12 years ago

There is so many things I want and many times I have to force myself not to get them. I agree that it is very tempting. Even though I want to get all these new items, I really do not need it. For tabloid, I have laptop so I really do not need it. Even a new car, I want a new car because I am currently drove my car for 6 years. But I realized I can drive longer and save money because there is nothing wrong with my car.

12 years ago

I find my problem isn’t the impulse buys it’s the semi-impulse buys. Things I will buy anyway and happen to stumble upon while out and about. Good thing I always buy with cash and have the money set aside.

12 years ago

Good call on staying away from the playbook. RIM products – I just can’t trust them due to the company faltering so much.

Barb Friedberg
12 years ago

I have way too much stuff and I’m still not unpacked from a summer cross country move. I don’t want to buy anything else until I unpack what I have :)

12 years ago

Delayed gratification is a tough skill to learn, but it is an important one if you want to keep more of what you earn. I recall reading somewhere that a god rule of thumb is to wait a day for every $100 you spend and consider if you really need it.

Good advice.

12 years ago

Definitely agree Shaun, thanks for the comment.

12 years ago
Reply to  Barb Friedberg

Probably a good idea Barb.

I have been patting myself on the back lately with controlling my impulse buying. I have really wanted a new iphone and ipad but I still haven’t bought one. I technically don’t need one at all. It would be soley a want.

As I get older I do find it easier to maintain this self control and set spending priorities.

Great tips! I really like the impulse account. My hubby and I have done something similar- it is called fun money. It is money allocated in our budget for frivolous purchases and can be used on whatever we want.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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