How to Curb Impulse Buys

  • Blog Post by: Sally McGraw
  • May 16, 2012 - 7:37 AM

I love to shop. You may have gathered this about me. I also love to thrift, and have spent many a pleasant afternoon scouring the racks of my local secondhand emporiums. I love clothes and feeling beautiful in my clothes, I read hundreds of style blogs every week, and I pore over countless magazines catalogs every month. My brain is brimming with products and prices and garments and outfits. I look at a lot of stuff and I buy a lot of stuff, including the occasional misfire. But I have managed to work on and nearly eradicate my impulse shopping urges. Here's how:

I ask myself, "Will you still want this in three weeks?"

Impulse buys can feel so fun in the moment, but the moment passes. And if - days or weeks later - a bout of buyer's remorse descends upon me, all that fun gets sucked out. And then some extra fun gets sucked out, too. I end up with a fun deficit, and that's just lousy. So I attempt to fast-forward into the future and consider how I'll feel about the potential impulse buy three weeks from the present day. In most cases, I can see SO CLEARLY that the item in question will be long forgotten. And if my foresight is fuzzy, I consider actually waiting the full three weeks before making a decision. Getting some real or imagined distance helps me be less emotional and more logical about purchasing decisions.

I ask myself, "What hole does this fill in your wardrobe?"

Some impulse buys turn out to be wardrobe staples, and some carefully plotted purchases turn out to be duds. But that doesn't mean that the former is wise and the latter foolish. And it certainly doesn't negate the importance of considering each potential purchase in the larger context of your existing wardrobe.

Now, admittedly, I have a large and varied wardrobe already. Buying items that duplicate or even resemble pieces I already own is just plain wasteful.* So I am very careful to ask myself, "Do you love this because it's so 'you,' or because it's got aspects in common with other pieces you already own and love?" I determine if an item is unlike others in my closet, and also consider if it would fill a niche that I've been longing to fill. Items that are unique and useful make the cut. Others get left behind.

I ask myself, "Where would you wear this?"

I DO believe in the practice of imagining at least three potential outfits for every new item bought, but more often I take this shortcut: I don't attend a lot of balls so I have little need for tiaras, satin sandals, and silk gowns. I don't live in a rainy climate so Hunter boots are well nigh useless to me. My meetings are virtually all business casual, so suits are a waste of money for me. Aside from my own comfort and aesthetic preferences, I try to envision context. Where will this potential new purchase be worn? A home office day? Weekend out? Fancy gathering? How practical is the purchase if the answer is a locale or activity that occurs only rarely in my life? My impulses to buy both super-fancy and super-casual items fall off once I consider location and application.

Are you an impulse shopper? How do YOU attempt to keep the impulsive buying urge in check? Would these tips work for you?

Image courtesy

* I do duplicate some items, though, and definitely know that buying staples in bulk can prove wise for many folks. Some multiples are accidentally bought non-staples - items that don't fill any need or hole or specific, known purpose - and those are the ones I try to avoid.

Sally McGraw is the author of Already Pretty, a daily blog about the intersection of style and body image. 

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