Pretty much any personal finance expert worth her salt will tell you to avoid impulse spending, which can wreak havoc on your financial life. But Americans seem just unable to stop. According to a survey by Slickdeals, in 2022, the average person spent $314 a month on impulse purchases, up from $276 in 2021 and $183 in 2020.
We know that making a habit of impulse spending is detrimental and can lead to credit card debt and other bad scenarios, but is it always necessarily a harmful move? There are actually quite a few things that you may buy on an impulse that can behoove you in the long run — provided you’re careful and stay within your budget.
Let’s explore 13 impulsive spending habits and buys that aren’t actually bad for your finances — if the price is right and you don’t do this too often.
Taking Advantage of Limited-Time Opportunities
There are times when something you’ve really been wanting — or, even better, needing — goes on a super sale. Even if impulsive, it may not be a bad move to dive in and buy it. But don’t let it become a habit.
“Make sure you’re not justifying every expense moving forward as a limited-time opportunity,” said Ohan Kayikchyan, CFP, founder of Ohan The Money Doctor.
Bulk Purchases on Sale
Buying in bulk is a highly recommended tactic for saving on groceries and other household essentials. Along this line of thinking, buying in bulk on an impulse can actually be a wise move.
“If items you regularly buy and use are on sale, such as non-perishable groceries, toiletries or household supplies, stocking them up on impulse will save you money in the long run,” Kayikchyan said.
Knowledge is power. Buy it when you can — even if on a whim.
“Impulsively investing in books or online courses can actually be beneficial for your finances in the long run,” said Nathan Brunner, CEO at Salarship. “As a job board owner, I know that recruiters deeply appreciate people with a wide range of skills and a deep knowledge base. This means that your ‘book’ investment can easily pay off once you get a raise.”
Kayikchyan added that the key here is, of course, to actually read the book you bought or attend the webinar you purchased tickets for, as “only buying will not do the job.”
Health and Fitness
Some impulsive spending on health-related activities such as a gym membership or healthy meal subscription can contribute to your overall well-being — and pose no harm to your financial life.
“Prioritizing your health will possibly save you money on future medical bills,” Kayikchyan said.
Travel Deal Packages
If you come across a last-minute travel deal, it could be worth it to jump on board if “it can provide you with an opportunity to explore new places and experiences at a discounted price,” Kayikchyan said.
Home Improvement and Renovation
Spotting a discounted deal on home improvement materials can be a wise impulse purchase — “as it can possibly boost the value of your home,” Kayikchyan said.
Another “what’s good for your home is good for your wallet” impulse buy is energy-efficient gadgets.
“If you come across a surprising sale on energy-efficient appliances, making such a purchase can lead to money saving in the long run,” Kayikchyan said.
Everyone should be ready for an emergency, especially with all the severe weather that has been sparking devastation across the U.S.
“Certain impulsive spending on emergency supplies, such as a first-aid kit, flashlight, maps or basic survival gear, can be a responsible financial decision, especially in areas where such natural disasters occur,” Kayikchyan said. “Even buying an umbrella or rain gear on impulse can be beneficial if it suddenly rains.”
Purchasing a thoughtful gift for a loved one without the obligation of a special occasion or holiday celebration can strengthen relationships and bring joy to both you and the recipient.
“Just make sure not to overspend,” Kayikchyan said.
A Gift for Yourself
Who says a gift to yourself doesn’t count as a safe impulse buy? It just might!
“Once in a while treating yourself to something you are craving that is out of the household budget can increase your mood and bring motivation,” Kayikchyan said. “Hopefully, the motivation will fuel your day to work and earn more. The key point is once in a while, so you don’t get into the habit of overspending.”
Lattes get a really bad rap. But the truth is buying treats for yourself here and there is really unlikely to break the bank.
“Buying an occasional coffee, candy or any snack while driving or walking can be rewarding and provide a satisfactory break,” Kayikchyan said. “Make sure such purchases don’t become common expenses.”
Supporting Local Businesses
If you’re going to impulse buy, aim to do it at a small business rather than at, say, Costco.
“Impulse purchases at local shops or events can be supportive of the community, regardless of the need for the purchased item,” Kayikchyan said. “And again, keep these purchases within a reasonable amount.”
Yes, giving on the spot, without advance planning, can be a satisfying and truly helpful experience.
“Such generosity can be fulfilling,” Kayikchyan said, “but consider setting aside a portion of your monthly budget for charitable giving on a regular basis.”
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