In 2022, impulse buying is the new normal, with Americans spending more on snap-decision purchases than they have in the last two years, according to Slickdeal’s annual impulse buying survey.
On average, Americans spend $314 a month on unplanned purchases, including clothing, food, groceries, technology, spa services and household items — an expense that has increased from $276 in 2021 and $183 in 2020.
Although the phrase “impulse buying” can carry a negative meaning — i.e., spending recklessly — it’s not always a bad thing to splurge on an item or service you haven’t given much thought to.
A Checkout Aisle Treat
“Whether it’s a candy bar or a single soda, if this is just an impulse purchase you make every now and then, you shouldn’t feel bad about it,” said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews. “Is it the best deal? Probably not. But will it satisfy whatever craving you’re having? Almost certainly.
“And by purchasing a smaller amount — i.e., one or two servings — then you won’t be going overboard on the treat or your spending. Because of that, you definitely shouldn’t feel bad for that small indulgence.”
Anything You’ll Use on a Regular Basis
“Whether it’s a weighted blanket or fancy candle,” Ramhold said, “if you’re going to use the item on a regular basis, you definitely shouldn’t feel guilty for purchasing things that will genuinely make you feel better or you’ll use enough to make them worth the purchase in the first place.”
“If you’re pressed for time or wanting to eat healthier, you may have jumped on the meal kit bandwagon,” Ramhold said. “And you may feel guilty about spending so much on those kits when you could be spending less to do your own meal planning and grocery shopping around the sales every week.
“But the truth is that you have to do what works best for you, and these are at least practical purchases that will help to alleviate dining out more, which can lead to saving money in the long run. The biggest takeaway here is that odds are high, if you’re using meal kits, you’re eating healthier than if you were doing takeout every night. And, if it makes your life easier, it’s a totally worthwhile purchase.”
Purchases Under $5
“The truth is that impulse purchases that are under $5 probably aren’t worth sweating over,” Ramhold said. “If your budget is seriously stretched thin, then obviously it’s not a good idea to make any frivolous purchases.
“But, if you’re doing OK financially, these aren’t the kinds of purchases to carry a lot of guilt over. Even if they’re basic sunglasses that break in your purse, you didn’t spend a ton to begin with, and you learned a valuable lesson about avoiding particular brands in the worst-case scenario.”
Purchases Related to Education, Skills or Hobbies
“Don’t feel guilty about splurging on your education, getting a hobby or acquiring new skills, such as playing an instrument, learning how to code, kite surfing or rock climbing,” said Andrew Latham, certified financial planner and managing editor of SuperMoney.
“However, avoid any course that will put you in serious debt unless you have a clear and reliable path to monetizing it. You can learn practically anything now with a low-cost online course. I recommend to anyone who can afford it to take an online course (many are free) on platforms like Coursera and edX as often as they can. If there is a topic that piques your curiosity, learn more about it. You’ll keep your mind young, and you never know what doors it will open.”
Fun and Memorable Experiences
“Of course, avoid any impulse buying that will put you or your family in financial hardship,” Latham said. “But if you can afford it, live a little and spend liberally on new experiences, such as traveling, catching a play or eating in a dark restaurant (it’s just a regular restaurant where you can’t see your food, but it’s fun).”
Purchases That Will Improve Your Health and Wellness
“This could include a memory foam orthopedic knee pillow to alleviate chronic back pain while you sleep, a bottle of vitamins chock full of Vitamin C and other immunity-boosting ingredients, or a daily face lotion that contains SPF to protect your skin from the sun,” said Michael Bell, the founder and CEO of Manukora. “Each of these purchases may be items you weren’t planning on buying, but they all help your body and overall health.”
“Your home is important, so if you decide at the last minute you want to upgrade your bathroom or decorate your coffee table, you should do it,” said Guadalupe Sanchez, founder of Budgeting in Blue. “That being said, you shouldn’t use credit for large purchases you can’t pay in full. In the long run, you’ll pay hundreds, if not thousands, in interest.
“To prevent yourself from having to use credit, I suggest creating an ‘unexpected expenses saving fund.’ The truth is they come up all the time, so it’s better to be prepared and expect that it is going to happen.”
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