Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Impulse Buying

Every time we swipe our card or fork over cash, we make a decision about where our priorities lie and what we value. So when you’re on a plan, with specific goals in mind, it’s critical to consider whether making a purchase is in line with what you want. Especially when the temptation of impulse buying comes along, you’ve got to really think things through today, or suffer the financial hangover tomorrow.

In working with many dozens of clients over the years, I’ve developed a framework to help you make these decisions. So next time you’re in the store or looking online, before you make that impulse buy, ask yourself these three questions.

Is This Impulse Buy Considered in My Budget?

Now before you roll your eyes about a budget, I want to say that working on a budget is not a restrictive or imprisoning thing. In fact, making a plan for your money can be one of the most freeing things you can do financially.

When you’re making a spending plan, you’re doing so because you have a purpose in mind. There is some objective here, and the budget is the map for you to get there. So the question is, did you consider this purchase when making your budget?

For certain things, like food, housing, utilities, etc., those ought to be in every budget. There are basic things we have to do in order to survive. But for discretionary purchases and impulse buying, that’s where this question comes into play.

For example: you’re shopping for groceries when you find yourself wandering down that miscellaneous aisle. You don’t know how you got there, since that aisle just seems to suck you in every time. Sometimes there are great deals in there. Maybe that one thing you’ve needed will be there and on sale!

But wait… Is that item something you planned for? Did you know that you needed this item and went on a mission to find it? Or is this an impulse buy?

If it is something you really need, it should be a part of your budget. If not, it’s probably something that can be pushed to a later date. Or, alternatively, you can edit your budget to reflect this change.

The important thing is that you are planning for making these purchases instead of giving in to what you feel at a given moment.

Does This Purchase Help Me Accomplish My Goals?

As I mentioned before, every purchase we make reflects a certain value. When we buy food, we show that we value sustenance. When we pay our rent/mortgage we assign a value to housing. With impulse buying, we assign a value to that object or service in that moment, but don’t think about the broader context.

A budget is supposed to reflect what you are aiming for. Budgeting for the sake of budgeting is an insufficient motivation to control your spending and resist impulse purchases.

We need to have some purpose that is greater than the act itself to motivate us to do the hard thing. That purpose is composed of your goals, your dreams, and your hopes. These are your destination. The budget is merely the vehicle.  

So when you make an impulsive purchase, the next step in asking yourself questions about it is whether this purchase is going to help you on your journey. For these types of purchases, the default answer is likely going to be no; not always, but a lot of the time.

Let’s say you’re in Walmart getting a variety of things you need. Then you turn to your left and see an amazing deal on a 60” LED HDTV. You’ve been dreaming about being able to kick back on the couch and enjoy your favorite shows and movies on that size screen.

So you go to grab it. And then what? Ask yourself, “Will this help me do the things I want to do?” Odds are, that TV (or whatever it may be) isn’t helping.

If It Does Not Help, Am I Okay with Sacrificing That Progress?

So that TV isn’t helping you pay off your debts, finish the emergency fund, get that rental house, or pay for that vacation in cash. But the analysis doesn’t end there.

Once you’ve determined that an impulse buy is not helping to advance you toward your goals, the next step is to determine which sacrifice you are doing to make.

Are you going to sacrifice your impulse buying, or will you sacrifice your bigger dreams?

That’s a deep question, one that every person will have a different answer for. The answer to this question will be unique to you. If you are okay with pushing back your bigger dreams, that’s your decision to make (because personal finance is personal).

This is why having dreams is so important when it comes to money. Most people don’t seem to be aiming at much these days, so we should not find it so surprising when we get results accordingly.

Hopes and dreams guide us. For Christians, our hope in Christ’s return guides how we are to live and interact with others. When it comes to money, hopes and dreams for our family will show us the things we have to do each day. That’s how you can resist the temptation to impulse buy.

But only you can make these decisions. As your coach, I cannot decide for you whether or not to make this sacrifice or the other. You have ownership you’re your decision when you work with me. That’s why clarifying your hopes, dreams, and vision are fundamental parts of your financial plan.

Closing Thoughts

Personal finance is personal. We all have different things we value in life, including products and services (this is known as the Subjective Theory of Value). Our priorities are reflected in how we spend our money. Is it any wonder what the Bible has so many verses about money in it?

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks and the wallet opens.

What does your wallet open for? Is it for meaningful, impactful dreams and visions? Or is it for that next material thing? These are the tough questions of financial planning.

If you’re caught in a cycle of impulsive buying and can’t seem to break it, let’s discuss how I can help you. Schedule your free Discovery Session today so that you can see that financial hope and freedom are within your grasp.

You can do it, and I’ll show you how.


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