How to Impulse Spend the Right Way

I can admit that I have been guilty of the occasional impulse buy. Impulse spending can add up fast, and usually leads to clutter that you don’t want, so it is important to know how to do it the right way.

It is Okay to Splurge on the Small Stuff

When I am considering a large unplanned purchase, I start by thinking of what that is going to be worth in the long run. I don’t worry a whole lot about an occasional stop in the coffee shop or an extra drink on a Saturday night, I am talking about the bigger ticket items. If it needs a charger to work, it is probably on my “big ticket” list.

The reason it is okay to spend on the small things is twofold. First, if you are a compulsive shopper you get the “wow” feeling of buying something new. When you get that feeling from the small stuff, there is less desire to get it on the big stuff. Second, the small stuff is not a “big win” that is going to make a difference for most people.

Of course, if you have any credit card debt, no level of impulse spending is ever okay. You need to pay off your debt before you can justify wasting money on something fun.

Don’t Give in on Big Ticket Items

Lately I came across this thought while lying in bed in my underwear. I had Amazon open on my laptop and I had my mouse hovering over the buy button for a fancy new Kindle Fire. I don’t really need a Kindle or any sort of tablet. My two laptops, Google Chrome netbook, other netbook, and phone cover all of my electronic needs, and I don’t read enough to justify buying it to have an eReader.

I knew that $200 is not going to make me rich or poor, but that kind of money does add up quick. Dropping $200 on something that is going to be fun for a few weeks and then get dusty is a real waste.

That does not mean you should never buy anything expensive. Some people would get queasy spending the $300 I did on my custom sunglasses, but I use them at least 2-3 hours a day during the week and even more on the weekend, so the hourly cost of my sunglasses, which I will probably have for 3-4 years, is negligible.

Alternative – A Good Place to Spend

After I didn’t buy a Kindle, I got a little drive to buy something. It was not logical, but we are not always logical people. I didn’t want to waste on stuff that I didn’t need or really want, so I found a better thing to blow some money on.

I transferred the $200 from my checking account into my investment account, plus a little extra, and bought a new stock.

The next time you feel like you are going to make a bad money decision, you can try the investment route. It didn’t give me any extra junk to bring home, it didn’t take money away from my future, and it didn’t make me feel guilty. On the contrary, I bought something that I knew was going to be even better for my future.

What Do You Do?

How do you keep from impulse shopping? What is your strategy to save that money for your future? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Image by Jo Jakeman/flickr

13 thoughts on “How to Impulse Spend the Right Way”

  1. Great point on Splurging on the small stuff.  This will give yourself the gratification of treating yourself but it won’t kill your budget the same way as splurging on a new set of golf clubs or something a little more expensive.

  2. I generally don’t have a problem with impulse spending…anymore. Over the years, I realized I was bringing a lot of unused junk into my apartment that I had to get rid of or allow to clutter my space. These impulse purchases were annoying because they were a waste of money AND they made me happy for about two seconds, and then they made me sad. Thinking about the hassle factor they bring to my life is enough to keep me from buying a lot of items on impulse. 

    1. Sounds like you learned a valuable lesson. Whenever you are on the edge of a bad buy, just remember the feeling of waste from the past.

  3. I used to be much worse at impulse spending, but have gotten better.  I’m really good at keeping my impulses at bay, but every once in a while they slip on by and I end up with something I could have done without.  To try and curb that, I’ve implemented the sleep-on-it rule.  Anything I want (over say $50) can’t be purchased until I’ve slept on it at least one night.  

  4. Generally, I avoid shopping.  When I do go shopping, I use lists.  That normally helps me avoid impulse shopping.

  5. What I do when it comes to electronics is I buy new and sell the used. The used though never gets too old so I maximize my return. If you do that you won’t spend a lot. I say every 6 months to a year you can switch things up. Even a Kindle. 

    1. Selling the old is a good trick to offset the costs, but I always ask if I really need an upgrade. Usually, the answer is no. I still have an old iPod from 2006 that works great. Sure the new ones are cool, but mine works fine.

  6. There’s nothing worse than buying something semi-expensive and realizing it was a waste of money. Truthfully, I regret the small useless purchases as well.  I look at that $4 I spent unnecessarily and see thousands that I spent the same way over the years because, at the time, $4 didn’t seem like a big deal.  But it really adds up.  

    I personally go by the motto, “Did I need it yesterday?”  When I’m faced with a buy decision at the store, all I have to do is ask myself, “Did I need it yesterday?” and if the answer is no, then I walk away without regret.  With non-grocery items, the answer almost always IS no.  😉  At the grocery store, I turn that question into, “Will I use this for a meal this week or next?”  And the only way around that answer being No is whether or not I am getting a great deal and adding to my pantry/freezer stockpile.

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