Impulse Shopping: How to Fight the Urge to Spend

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Nothing in a store is placed without careful planning. Every aisle, every display case, and every candy bar or discount sweater is strategically placed to lure consumers in and make money. While some stores focus more energy on strategically placing products than others, almost every store you enter will have impulse items that are designed to make you spend money you didn’t intend to spend. Two dollars here and five dollars there might not sound like a lot, but it all adds up.

If you frequently impulse shop and fail to keep track of your purchases, impulse spending can wreak havoc on your budget. If you understand how stores target consumers, it can help you to recognize impulse buying and stop doing it. Here are a few ways that stores attract customers to impulse items, and some ways you can stop spending your money on things you didn’t plan to purchase.

The war against your senses

The more money you spend, the more the owners of the stores will make, so it makes perfect sense that stores are arranged in order to entice you to spend more. According to Money Crashers, stores are designed to appeal to your senses. The layout of a store encourages you to spend money: often there are greeters or sales near the front of the store that help draw you in.

Your sense of smell will also be attacked at the grocery store as you enter the bakery or prepared food sections (the same is true of the food court at the mall). Convenience items are often in the center of the grocery store, so you have to pass by several other aisles or items in order to get to them. The same is true of the checkout corners, which force you to go back to the front of the store in order to pay.

The power of marketing

A study by global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney found that 40% of shoppers spend more money than they had planned in stores, which suggests that impulse shopping is a large market. In addition to targeting your senses, there are other ways that you as the consumer are targeted through marketing.

Some marketing is actually specifically designed for impulse shoppers instead of those who are considered rational buyers. In addition to the psychological ways that stores target buyers, there are also external marketing strategies which include promotions and the store atmosphere – discount or sale items are one effective way of encouraging consumers to impulse shop.

If we come into the store planning to purchase a gallon of milk, but then leave with three other items that we found on sale, this sounds like a great deal. It’s important to recognize that the store is trying to get you to spend more money, and a sale item isn’t always worth your money.

The way to curb impulse shopping

If you enter a store to buy three items, and you come out with four more sale items that you actually will use in the future, you probably got a good deal. However, it’s important to understand and recognize the way that stores are set up to get us to spend more. If you look at the sale rack full of pants at a men’s clothing store and you admit that you came to the store only to purchase a shirt, then you might be able to walk away from the sale. As great as a sale is, if you purchase something you don’t need, then you are wasting money, and even if you purchase something you might need later, doing so regularly will quickly add up.

Always bring a list with you when you go shopping. Stick to your list. It can also help to give yourself a set amount of time to think about a bigger impulse item. If you still want it in an hour, or a day, you can always go back.

Shopping online is another way to curb impulse shopping. The A.T. Kearney study found that only 25% of consumers reported online impulse shopping. It’s much easier to walk into a store and see several impulse items than it is to get sidetracked when purchasing the specific item you want online.

If you really enjoy impulse shopping, then you can consider adding it to your budget. Just make sure you allot a specific (reasonable) amount to your budget, and that when the budgeted amount is gone, you don’t pick up any more additional impulse items.

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