How To Kick Your Impulse Shopping Habit for Good

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Today’s “Financially Savvy Female” column was inspired by one of our readers seeking advice for kicking her serious impulse shopping habit: “I am an impulse shopper, and have always had to borrow money from family and friends all my life. My sister pays my rent because I can’t be trusted with money. I want so badly to be responsible but fail on a regular basis. What would be my first best step?”

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Even if your impulsive shopping habit isn’t quite as severe, it’s always a good idea to rein in your spending on unnecessary purchases so that you are better able to put money aside for your other financial goals, such as saving for a home or your retirement. We chatted with Vanessa N. Martinez, wealth management expert and CEO and co-founder of Em-Powered Network, about signs you may need to curb your impulse spending and how to keep these purchases in check.

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What are some signs that your impulse shopping habits have become an issue?

Shopping can be fun — it gives you a sense of excitement and happiness after every item you purchase. But it can also be addictive and become a serious problem, developing into a vicious cycle full of shame and guilt. Some signs that your impulse shopping has become a problem are:

  • Your deliveries are building up.
  • You have a closet full of clothes with tags that you have never worn.
  • You are distracted from your obligations because of shopping (i.e. shopping online while at work).
  • You have fallen behind on paying your bills due to excessive shopping.
  • You have sacrificed your values because of your shopping habits.

What are some tips for keeping impulse purchases in check?

To lower our impulse purchases, we first need to learn how to control and track all our spending. Here are a few tips that I recommend.

Add a healthy level of flexibility to your budget. This allows you to not feel trapped but pulls you back when you have gone too far. For example, create a spreadsheet of your spending for the past six months to one year. This can help you see the damage you’ve been doing. Maybe it’s a $10 or $30 item and you think it’s not that much, but if at the end of the month you’ve spent over $1,000 on small unnecessary items, you might be more inclined to think twice moving forward. You can save that $1,000 for a weekend getaway, a new house or a necessary big-ticket item.

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Once you have a handle on your spending habits and what is necessary, you can create a budget to work with moving forward. Maybe also move all discretionary spending to the last week of the month, once you know you have your bills in check.

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Give yourself time to think about a purchase before making it. Is it something you really need or only something you really want?

Build obstacles to make it harder to shop. When the habit has gone too far, there need to be more aggressive measures like canceling your store credit cards, deleting your most used apps or taking a different route home from work to avoid stopping at certain stores.

When (if ever) is it OK to make impulse purchases?

I believe impulse purchases are rarely OK because they will prevent you from accomplishing your financial goals, but it can be OK to make some purchases for fun after your needs are covered.

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Some effects of excessive impulse spending are:

  • Not reaching your short- and long-term goals
  • Feeling guilt or shame due to overspending
  • Low credit score
  • Uncontrollable debt
  • Clutter (mental and physical!)

GOBankingRates wants to empower women to take control of their finances. According to the latest stats, women hold $72 billion in private wealth — but fewer women than men consider themselves to be in “good” or “excellent” financial shape. Women are less likely to be investing and are more likely to have debt, and women are still being paid less than men overall. Our “Financially Savvy Female” column will explore the reasons behind these inequities and provide solutions to change them. We believe financial equality begins with financial literacy, so we’re providing tools and tips for women, by women to take control of their money and help them live a richer life.

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About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 
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