Curb Your Shopping Habits, Recover From Huge Impulse Buys

by Guest Blogger on 2008-09-1818

Do you want to improve your shopping habits? Find out how to get over a huge impulse buy.

How many times have you been suddenly compelled to make a purchase you didn’t plan? If you’re like me, the answer makes you shudder. It’s not that we’re weak willed, it’s just that the entire system has been set up to make us constantly consume. Whenever you walk through a department store, for example, you can be pretty sure that everything you see has been placed where it is with the sole intention of getting you to want to buy it. Signs are intriguing and persuasive. Registers are inviting. Merchandise is appealing.

In other words, nothing is where it is by mistake. Someone was paid very well to figure out where everything should go and how things should be presented just to make sure that you open your wallet. Do you know the old saying that every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings? In a similar fashion, every time you make a huge impulse buy, a marketing executive does a silly little happy dance.

Impulse buys happen. One day you suddenly decide that it’s time to trade in your old car and get a new one. While walking through the mall, you come to the conclusion that a new home theater system is a great idea. You’re shopping for a rug when you get talked into signing up for a complete redecoration project for your kitchen. C’est la vie.

These things happen, and although it’s best to avoid situations like these altogether, here are the things you should do to take stock of a sudden unplanned purchase:

too much shopping, overspending, stop impulse buys
Photo by Brave New Films

Tactics To Recover From A Huge Impulse Buy

#1 Take it back.

While there are some items that you won’t have much luck returning, some things can indeed go back. Even some car dealerships allow buyers a couple of days to change their minds and return their newly purchased cars. If you find yourself really suffering from buyer’s remorse, check the paperwork that came along with your item and see if you can undo the purchase.

#2 Pay it off ASAP.

If your impulse purchase was made with instant credit, there is a good chance that you will pay a really high interest rate unless there was a promotional interest rate attached to the buy. What’s worse than buying an expensive item on impulse? Paying 23% interest on the impulse buy for the next few years. Pay off the purchase as soon as possible, or transfer the balance to a more forgiving credit card.

#3 Sell the item.

If you find that the item you purchase on impulse puts you into a financial bind, then you may want to consider selling it to relieve the burden. Ebay or Craigslist may be your salvation, though you might have to take a loss on the sale. Depending on how thinly stretched your budget is, this might be the only option. Consider yourself lucky if you’re able to recover your full purchase price for the item when you sell it.

#4 Learn from your mistake.

Whether you wind up keeping the item or getting rid of it, consider the whole situation as a learning experience. Figure out what prompted you to make the purchase in the first place and then avoid situations like that in the future. The fact that you eventually recognized that the buy was on impulse and probably not a good idea is a great sign that you might be able to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

If you wind up keeping the item because you can afford to, then enjoy it. Don’t let the new stereo or car or whatever it is become an annoyance because it reminds you of a weak shopping moment — even the best of us get suckered in once in a while. Ultimately, however, you should never forget that you were manipulated into making that purchase, and use the whole snafu as an important lesson. Don’t get fooled again! Next time, you may not be able to forgive yourself so easily!

I am pleased to present this guest article by Jonathan, from Master Your Card, a blog that focuses on one of the most ubiquitous yet misunderstood financial tools we own: the credit card. If you like his guest post please check out his website and consider subscribing to his rss feed. Thank you Jonathan!

Copyright © 2008 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

carla September 18, 2008 at 2:22 pm

When buying something online, I always check the store’s return policy before pushing “shop now”. That really helps.

Lilla September 19, 2008 at 1:07 am

nice post; comprehensive, well written and very informative. i love when ever i buy stuff online i always check on mcafee to know either the site is fake or not.

Paige September 19, 2008 at 5:51 am

A friend of mine started buying only on cash in places like Kroger and Trader Joes. She said that it helped her to control her impulse buys because the sight of real money going out of her hands made her think more, than using the plastic card.

Budgets are Sexy. September 19, 2008 at 9:11 am

what if you blew it on a trip to Vegas on the black jack tables? haha…guess #4 (learning from your mistake) would work here, but dang that would suck.

great post though, sorry i don’t have anything productive to add…it’s Friday!

Silicon Valley Blogger September 19, 2008 at 9:28 am


That’s a fabulous idea actually. When I see myself actually handing out the cash, I feel a slight twinge of pain. 😉 That’s a really good way to psyche yourself out.

@Budgets Are Sexy,
Thanks for your comment. I know what you mean by Fridays, 🙂 either way, have a good buy… I mean weekend!

CMOE September 19, 2008 at 10:13 am

We have such a different mentality these days because of credit cards. We may not have the balance in our check account to purchase what we want but no worries we’ve got our card so we’ll worry about it later. I’ve noticed I am much more likely to impulse buy if there is someone shopping there with me. They often get excited about the purchase and so I find myself justifying that we really do need it.

Curious Cat Investing Blog September 19, 2008 at 12:21 pm

Good advice. Avoid impulse buying for stuff you don’t need. Especially that you can’t afford. But buying some stuff you can afford is fine – enjoy it.

DivaJean September 22, 2008 at 8:13 am

I heard a doozy this morning on the elevator at work. Someone was talking about her credit card bill at a local dept store. She indicated that she went in to pay off $100 on her credit bill- but then turned around and charged $200 on new shoes.

And people wonder why the credit mess and the economy is the way that it is….

Silicon Valley Blogger September 22, 2008 at 8:29 am


I know quite a number of people who have the same predilection, and you can consider shopping as their “vice”. I suppose as a “vice”, it’s not as bad as other stuff you can get into, but still…if unchecked, it can become quite problematic.

How many new pairs of shoes do we really need?

Mary@SimplyForties November 16, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Leaving the credit cards at home insures those impulse buys won’t be too big!

NYGUY December 24, 2009 at 11:32 am

I cut up one of my credit cards after paying it off this morning. I just moved into a new place and find myself spending more than I earn. Starting to feel like all my years of being frugal has been washed out by all the nice new things I’m buying for the new place.

While I twing at times, I know I can dip into my savings and pay off my debt….so for now life is short and I’m enjoying the change and new apartment in my life.

Karen May 21, 2012 at 9:32 am

A lot of people are in trouble because they can’t say “NO” to anything. What purchases are you foregoing and what are you doing to stay out of debt trouble? It’s the small purchases and innocent “buys” that result in big debt for some people. Debt can be amassed so easily if you don’t keep an eye on it.

Stacey May 22, 2012 at 9:29 am

I would use credit cards to pay for necessities only! My husband and I have had our share of card debt and problems. But our days of impulse spending are over. Once we get back on our financial feet, we never intend to find ourselves in a precarious position. Besides, unexpected illness and loss of work have led to our current quandary and we have been ill-equipped to remain afloat. There are several things we will do differently in the future when we face dire financial straits.

Extravagant gifts are out of the question: we have all learned crafting in our spare time!

Every purchase must be recorded in a journal, from new jeans for Mom to sneakers for the kids. Before we buy anything, we pragmatically price the items we need, in order to get the best deal. Say no to impulse shopping.

Last year, we qualified for heating assistance but this year, I’m earning a few dollars over the qualifying level. So we turn down the heat all day when nobody’s around. We also keep the heat lower and carefully budget for it. On occasion, we order 100 gallons of oil rather than fill the tank. It saves us money for the time being, while allowing us to stay warm without having the pipes freeze.

Recently, we took advantage of affordable deals and sales to secure an Internet, phone and cable package. The alternative would be to turn off these services completely.

We no longer eat out at restaurants and we don’t plan to, until our debts are paid. Instead, we cut a coupon for a Friday pizza that costs under $10. It gives me a break one night a week from cooking and it’s an affordable way to celebrate the end of a busy week. Afterwards, we play cards or Scrabble, rather than go to a movie. We still have a fun-filled family night without breaking the budget.

Walks in the park are free and don’t involve the temptation of impulse shopping. We take those walks rather than hang out at the malls. But where do we shop? We visit outlets and free-standing stores with coupons at hand, so we are not lured into any other store. We also use shopping lists to keep us on task and to help us avoid making unexpected purchases.

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