Impulse spending (or retail therapy) in the UK has steadily increased as the country wide lockdown has continued
What is Impulse Spending?
Impulse spending can be known by different terms – Invisible Spending, Emotional Spending, or Retail Therapy. It is best explained as the act of shopping with the intention of improving one’s mood. Scientific studies suggest that emotions, feelings and attitudes play a decisive role in purchasing, which is often triggered by a well-crafted promotional message or by seeing the product itself.
Are you an Impulse Buyer?
Nearly 80% of Brits regularly shop on impulse, and 23% of these make impulse purchases on a weekly basis. A study for the Independent Newspaper reveals that impulse buys account for an average spend of around £200 a month. Four in ten people admitted to making purchases in the name of retail therapy, with 54% of these purchases made online. Clearly, the retailers are actively targeting the impulsive shopper.
Every month Brits make an average of nine impulse buys, this equates to over 6,000 poorly planned or unnecessary purchases during a lifetime. Unsurprisingly, payday is the day we are most likely to make an impulsive purchase.
Why do we buy things on impulse?
Because of our emotions; emotions play a huge part in what we buy. Our personal finances are just that – personal. So, when something is going on with us personally, it shows up in our money habits.
Making decisions based on pure emotion is a sure-fire way to let impulse buying take control. The thing to remember here is that retailers know this, and they capitalise on these emotions. They play on your emotions with their ads, hoping they’ll hit the right emotional triggers that cause you to buy. But the emotional lift we’re looking for may only be short-lived, as almost 70% of impulse spenders admit to feeling guilty afterwards.
We also impulse buy because of our past. If you were not taught how to handle money at a young age, then impulse buying and overspending could be a problem. According to a 2019 poll, the top two reasons people gave about why they handle money the way they do were “the way their parents handled money” and “the state of their household when growing up”. If you want to understand the foundations for your beliefs about money, think about how money was handled in the household you grew up in.
And we impulse buy when we believe we are getting a deal. Who doesn’t love a good bargain? While we are led to believe sales, discounts and clearances are good things, the retailers are cleverly targeting us with personalised ads for items we don’t necessarily need. But with seemingly big discounts the temptation to buy is increased, even if we don’t need the item to begin with.
How to Stop Impulse Buying
- Make a budget and stick to it
You need to make a budget. If you don’t already have one, use ours:
A budget will not suddenly take care of all of your money. You have to plan in order to take control of your money and then follow through with that plan. If it’s not already budgeted for, don’t spend the money – it’s as simple as that.
- Be Patient
Give yourself a cooling off period when an impulse to buy grabs you. Once you have a cool head and a fresh perspective, ask yourself if you actually need this thing. Be wary of deals that are only good for a limited time. Don’t be rushed into buying anything. Remember the offer, save some money and be ready for it next time if you can’t afford it right now. Sales will always come back around.
- Do not shop when you’re emotional
Don’t let your emotions control your spending habits. You might have a great day and make an impulse buy in the thrill of the moment. Or maybe you’re having an awful day, and you tell yourself you deserve something nice or that a certain item will make you feel better. This can happen very easily. Whether you’re celebrating or trying to cheer yourself up, don’t buy anything when your emotions are controlling you.
- Get off social media and stop the comparisons
If you struggle sometimes with comparisons, social media will only make it worse. If you feel envious when viewing social media, remove the source of the problem. You don’t have to stop looking at social media forever but try deleting Instagram and Facebook for a week and see if you notice a difference.
Even if you don’t find yourself falling into that comparison trap, the reality is that social media is one big advert for impulse buying. Everywhere you scroll, someone is trying to get you to spend money. But if you’re not on social media, you won’t be exposed to the flashy sales techniques and new products for you to spend your hard-earned money on.
- Keep your financial goals in mind
Surrendering to the impulse to buy won’t help you achieve your financial goals – whether that’s getting out of debt, paying off your mortgage, or investing for your future. Buying on impulse and overspending will use up any extra money you were saving to help achieve these goals. Focus only on the financial goals you’re working toward.
- Avoid shopping when tired or under the influence of alcohol
Impulsive behaviour can be triggered by things such as tiredness, alcohol, or information overload. Browsing your favourite websites when you’re exhausted at the end of a stressful week or after drinking alcohol can lead you to make purchases without fully thinking them through. Try to only shop when you feel fully alert and rested.
- Spend for long-term happiness, rather than a ‘quick kick’
Spending is more likely to bring happiness when the purchase is fundamentally rewarding, such as on life experiences or on personal development rather than purchases driven by superficial motives. Take time to work out what you want to gain from your purchases. Make sure you’re not shopping just for the sake of it, or to experience the excitement of grabbing a ‘bargain’.
- Try a different approach
The language we use around our finances can have a surprisingly big influence, so it could be time to change your inner monologue. People think they’ve got to ‘sacrifice’ to ’stick to a budget’. The focus then becomes on what you must ‘give up’. But we can actually control our inner monologue to focus on achieving our long-term financial goals. See it not as a sacrifice; it’s a way of being in control and giving yourself options.
Changing our view on saving money can also help. View saving money like it’s another one of your bills and place the same importance on your savings goals as you would on your rent or mortgage. It’s one of the most important bills of your life – your future