Stop Impulse Buying Dead in its Tracks

By: Alicia Nelson-Bell, USU Extension Empowering Financial Wellness Program Coordinator

August 1st, 2022

Online Shopping

Impulse buying, it’s something we all do and it’s something that can not only bust your budget in the short term, but also make it very difficult to reach your goals in the long run. According to a survey by the average U.S. consumer spends about $5,400 a year ($450/month) on unplanned purchases! Think about ways even a portion of that money can help you reach your financial goals. Companies (brick and mortar or online) are very strategic in their attempts to get our business, especially when we aren’t planning on it. They play to our emotions and pretty much all our senses in their marketing. This makes it important for us as consumers to consciously combat the bombardment of attempts to get us to impulsively buy goods. We have a few tips to help you with combating impulse buying both what you see on TV or the internet as well as when you are in store.

Online or on Television

According to Emarketer, over $65.5 billion was spent on Television advertising in 2021, aimed at trying to get you to make unplanned purchases on their products. Ads aren’t only prevalent on Television, streaming services have them, and pretty much anywhere you click online. With advancements in technology, it is easier than ever to have a payment method connected to your smart devices and make purchases with just a couple of clicks upon seeing the advertisement. Here are a couple of tips for overcoming the temptation to impulse by in this way:
     ● Disconnect your card/payment method from your smart devices. Make it so that you have to physically input payment information before making the purchase. Adding more steps to the process may help deter you from making the unplanned purchase. 
     ● Delete apps and unsubscribe from emails of companies you are most susceptible to impulse buying. Downloading the app or signing up for emails can provide nice initial discounts but can lead to a lot of impulse buys that can bust your budget even with small discounts. 
     ● Find other hobbies besides watching television or shopping. Particularly when you are hungry, bored or emotional, find another way to occupy your time because this is when you are most susceptible to impulse buying.

In Store

Stores have been refining their tactics for decades to get consumers to buy more and spend more while in their store. Everything from the layout of the store to the colors, lighting, and smells to the music is all designed to get you to feel comfortable and spend more money. So, what can you do to stick to your budget and decrease unplanned purchases?
     ● Be clear about what you intend to buy. Have a list and go directly to where those items would be found in the store. This will leave you less open to persuasion. If you only went to the store for one item, check with an associate if they have that one item and leave if they don’t. Don’t wander the aisles. This can be applied to online shopping as well. 
     ● Use a basket or smaller cart. Shopping carts have been getting bigger over time to increase impulse buys. Use a smaller cart or basket if available so you have less room for unnecessary items. 
     ● Recognize what you like and don’t like. This realization can help you overcome the temptation to buy things you don’t really need just because they are a good deal. Do you love the item enough to rank it a 10/10? If not then you may experience buyer’s remorse and not be happy with the purchase later on.
     ● Make fewer trips to the store. The more trips you make to the store, the more opportunities to make impulse purchases. Try to combine trips to the store rather than going to multiple stores for one or two items. If you are considering running to the store for one item, see if you can hold off until your next planned trip by doing without or figuring out an alternative. 
     ● Don’t go to the Store When you are H.A.L.T. Plan out your shopping trips to be when you are less susceptible to impulse buying. When you are hungry, angry, lonely, tired or emotional you are most susceptible to falling prey to advertising tactics designed to increase impulse buys. 

A Couple of Questions to ask Yourself Before Making an Unplanned Purchase:

     ● Do I need this item or do I just want to change the way I feel right now? Are you using shopping as a way to overcome emotions?
     ● What feeling am I looking to get out of this purchase? Is there another way to get this same feeling without shopping or spending money? The list is endless of things you can do to bring you joy without spending money!

Try out these tips and keep these questions in mind and see how much money you can save on impulse purchases so you can put more money towards the things you want most!


Bedene, Kim “How to Stop Impulse Buying-12 Minimalist Shopping Tips that Will Change Your Life”, Kim Bedene Youtube June 2021

Graham, Katie & Matthews, Andrew “How to Save Money at the Supermarket”, Two Cents. Youtube Oct 15, 2018

LeBow, Sara “Has TV ad spending hit its peak in the US?”, Emarketer. Apr 12, 2022 Insider Intelligence.