Everyone makes impulsive purchases from time to time. Far from being essential to daily life, some purchases are made for what we call emotional reasons, such as celebrating a promotion, rewarding ourselves, relieving stress, or spending to make up for something missing in one’s life. However, if not controlled, this kind of impulsive buying can lead to debt and chip away at your financial health.
Keep reading to find out whether you have adopted these kinds of shopping habits. Besides learning about the reasons for impulsive buying, you will learn a few strategies to avoid it and direct your purchases toward essentials.
Impulsive buying is a widespread shopping behaviour
A survey carried out by Capital One showed that three quarters of Quebecers make impulsive purchases without being able to control themselves. In this context, questions must be asked and awareness raised to counteract such emotional spending.
You are seeking instant satisfaction
Sometimes, bad luck and stress pile up. When facing a difficult period, you may become anxious, agitated, and irritable. To fight these negative feelings, some people will seek the instant gratification of shopping. Unfortunately, the relief brought by shopping for the latest electronic appliance or an article of clothing is temporary. Even worse, this spending or the resulting debt may create a feeling of guilt. As a result, your morale is lower than before you went shopping, while your debt is even greater.
To avoid impulsive buying while fulfilling your need for instant gratification, take a step back before going to the store. Try to find other activities, such as talking to friends, taking a walk, or even watching a movie, to overcome the emotions that are pushing you towards instant gratification. However, if you are still unable to resist shopping, try to take a step back before buying the item in question. Give yourself a couple of days to reflect on the consequences of this emotional spending. In particular, ensure that your need is real and that the purchase respects your budget. For example, if you go over your budget or use a credit card, you are increasing your debt and probably harming your financial health. You may even be at risk of paying interest if you do not repay the amount due within 30 days. Additionally, if your budget is limited, it may be difficult to pay the balance of your credit card and you will accumulate more debt every month.
You tell yourself that you “deserve it”
Working hard to reach personal or professional goals can create a desire for a reward. However, adopting this kind of behaviour can cause repercussions on your personal finances. Additionally, justifying the purchase of a pair of shoes that do not fit in your budget by saying you deserve it can hide another problem. This kind of impulse shopping may be associated with a need to improve your self-esteem.
This type of spending is directly linked to emotions, so we recommend reflecting on the feelings you have at the time of purchase. Will this purchase help you temporarily forget a problem that only a real solution and appropriate resources can resolve properly? Remember that there are other ways to reward yourself after a difficult period at work or reaching a personal goal. It may involve an afternoon with friends, a candlelight evening with your partner, or even going to the park with your kids.
You shop to relieve stress
Today, life is very fast paced. Between your professional and family responsibilities, your social life, home renovations, and your children’s extracurricular activities, stress can be intense. You must also remember to set time aside for yourself to unwind a bit. For some, shopping can help relieve accumulated stress and forget their daily worries, but if you cannot be content with window shopping, you are at risk of impulse buying.
Therefore, to relieve your daily stress, prioritize activities that get you away from shopping centres—things like jogging, Sudoku, or another activity of your choice.
Keeping up with the Joneses
Keeping up with the Joneses describes a widespread behaviour: comparing yourself to others and envying their material belongings. This unhealthy competition can create feelings of low self-worth in some people, pushing them to buy more or spend greater amounts in order to own more luxurious items than their peers. If you are stuck in this kind of comparison logic, remember that emotional spending will probably put your financial health at risk. Try to understand where this feeling of competition comes from and what is pushing you to compare yourself to others. Remind yourself that social status and approval from others is not bought with material goods.
The next time you compare your belongings to those of a colleague or neighbour, ask yourself whether buying a bigger or more expensive item is really worth it. Will you be getting into debt for the sake of unhealthy competition? Do you have the necessary funds to cover this emotional spending? Do you need the item that you are planning to buy?
You often return your impulse purchases
For some, the urge to spend is so demanding that they buy things impulsively and return them to the store afterwards. Upon reflection, they realize that this emotional purchase was superfluous and did not fill an essential need. Even if no money is spent in the end, this process costs a lot of time and energy.
If you frequently return impulse purchases, you should recognize that they are a part of emotional spending. Try to reflect on the reasons pushing you to adopt this behaviour.
You make impulse purchases to forget your financial problems
As contradictory as this may seem, many people feel the need to spend money following bad news about their finances, such as job loss. This impulsive behaviour contributes to increasing debt and, naturally, only aggravates the situation. When financial difficulty arises, avoid spending. Instead, try to maintain a daily budget and distinguish your real needs from your impulsive purchases. If you are still feeling negative emotions such as anger or sadness, channel your energy into other activities. For example, sports will relieve your stress for a few hours and probably distance you from your urge to spend money.
Is your impulse shopping becoming a problem?
As you may have noticed, many situations become traps for people who spend impulsively, and financial problems can arise as a result. If you regularly feel guilt over your purchases, if your shopping habits prevent you from saving for emergencies, or if creditors are beginning to call you, we recommend you take a step back to understand your shopping behaviour and the emotions you are feeling.
Finally, if you feel your debt is too high and you are wondering how to escape this situation, make an appointment with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee at Ginsberg Gingras. Our professionals will meet with you without judgment and will help you recover adequate financial health.