You walk into a mall to shop for groceries. As you are pacing your way to the grocery section, you can’t help but notice the Cadbury chocolate bars neatly arranged on the opposite shelf. Wait, are they beckoning you or you are hallucinating? 

You decide to stick to your plan, buy groceries, and make your way home. On your way to the counter, you choose to follow a different path to evade the devils ensnare. It’s a beautiful Sunday, the queue is not that long, and soon it is your turn to pay. 

Then there they are again, on the rails next to the counter, the same candy bars. No, not the same; this is the newest flavor in town- Dairy Milk Raspberry Shortcake Flavor- infused with white crisp pearls, studs of raspberries, and shortcakes. 

The impulse is more than you can stand; the devil has finally caught up with you, huh. You decide to buy just one piece, and maybe one piece each of Dairy Milk Simply The Zest and Dairy Milk Chocolate Bar will not break a bone.

Of course, no bone is broken, but in the end, your wallet is dented as you have to part with an extra $75 that you had no plans for. So, what exactly impulse buying? 

Impulse Buying Definition 

Impulse buying is simply a prompt unplanned decision to buy something just before the purchase. It is a habit that may seem harmless but has the potential of robbing someone of their financial security. It may manifest as either a once in a while trait or a grave addiction. 

impulsive buying behavior shopping funny meme for social media sharing. Shopping addiction.

Quite often when you have that self to self-meeting to decide on the direction you want your life to take, especially when making financial decisions, stopping impulse buying is always a priority, if not the first on your list. 

The sad part is that it remains to be just that, a decision, with very minimal chances of successful implementation beyond a few weeks or worse still days.

Researchers Have Categorized Impulse Buying Into Three Broad Types. 

Types Of Impulse Buying 

  1. Reactive Impulsive Buying- In this case, you are naturally triggered to make an unplanned purchase by a specific stimulus situation.
  2. Cognitive Impulse Buying- Here, you have some conscious control of the purchase, though just a little.
  3. Effective Impulse Buying- You take part in impulse buying as a result of great activation of the consumer by several factors, both external and internal.

What Influences Impulse Buying?

Impulse buying is influenced by several prevailing characteristics.

  • Personal Behaviour – Habits such as lack of proper prior planning, being inconsiderate of the possible outcomes, and the tendency of being adventurous and trying out new things are closely tied to impulsive buying.
  • Feelings – Techniques employed by retailers to trigger impulsive appeal to your emotions. “Buy One Get One Free, Offer Valid Only While Stock Lasts” are some notable marketing quotations that will most likely appeal to your emotions.
  • Demography – Sex, level of education, age, and economic conditions are vital as far as impulse buying is concerned. For instance, research shows that in your twenties, you are likely to do more unplanned purchases. 

This trend tends to reduce as you reach your thirties. Females are more likely to be susceptible to impulse purchases than their male counterparts.

  • Levels of Discipline –The thin line between buying a product you didn’t plan for or not is greatly dependent on your self-discipline and sticking to your saving goals.
  • Available Time – The more time you spend shopping at the mall, the more you are likely to purchase a product impulsively. If you move straight to the correct shelves, pick the desired products, pay, and dash out, you are likely to escape the enticements of impulse buying.
  • Available Money– If you carry too much money when going shopping, you may spend it on unplanned purchases.

Reasons for Your Impulse Buying Spending Habits 

Psychology has shown that we are made gullible to want to spontaneously spend our money mainly as a result of a combination of basic evolutionary drives and tactics strategically put in place by retailers. 

You most commonly want to shop – some psychologists say – because it is a feel-good activity and, in some instances, help as a mood refresher when you are bored.

1. Feeling You Have Only One Chance to Buy an Item

Another reason behind your impulse spending habits could be the desire to save money and the feeling that you only have one chance to purchase the given item. 

Retailers capitalize on this, and once in a while, you will see retail signs detailing discounts on particular items within a limited period only. 

You then feel that you need to take advantage of that deal in fear that you might have to part with more cash later. 

2. Carrying Extra Cash

Carrying extra money is another incentive for impulsive buying. You have approximated your shopping total cost at $500, but then you decide to carry $1000 just in case. 

Just in case what happens? It is this ‘just in case ‘ allowance that will most likely drive you towards impulse buying. 

3. Supermarket Psychology

Supermarkets arrange products in a particular style to get people spending more on related items. If you went to buy rice, for example, you are bound to notice the fruit juices on the next row. If not, further ahead, alcoholic drinks will undoubtedly catch your eye. 

In case you don’t fancy liquor, pastries beckon tastily at the tail end of the shelf. You are then made to run through the candy section and mobile phone accessories before you can finally pay for your purchases and get out. 

These are tactics that play with your psychological reactions. There is a very thin line – under these circumstances – between staying focused and self-disciplined and being a victim of this trap. This can be explained psychologically. 

The Psychology Behind Impulsive Buying 

Impulsive buyers are said to be generally Impulsive, which doesn’t surprise that much. In a 2018 survey of nearly 2500 people, those that admitted to the likelihood of spending a hypothetical windfall impulsively were also found to have higher levels of Impulsive behavior like unprotected sex or binge drinking. 

Many psychologists hold the view that these choices come down to one thing, a struggle between various brain parts. The nucleus accumbens causes an imbalance to the amount of feel-good you will experience in case you got that new thing you want, that is, primary reward drives like alcohol, sex, or food. 

Insula, another part of the brain activates the realization of the pain of paying, the cost of acquiring that new thing. The mesial prefrontal cortex, a third party, reacts to the price of activating when you realize the deal is good enough.

There is always a constant struggle between these brain parts just before making an impulsive purchase. Not everyone will react the same way to the same deal. A spendthrift may not mind spending a few bucks. 

Ironically, it is spendthrifts that are less influenced by price discounts. Spends are, however, still said to be naturally impulsive buyers, not because they have too much money but because they tend to react less to the pain of paying.

Tightwads often referred to as misers are those who will wait until the last hour to pull out the wallet even for things they certainly need. They are likely to be influenced by discount offers in retail shops towards impulse buying.

Are there any tested and proven techniques on how to stop impulsive buying? Well, the first step is to acknowledge that you are a victim of impulse buying, which you have. Then next step is that you need to understand the effects of impulse buying. 

Effects of Impulse Buying 

There are several positive effects of impulse buying, to the retailer, of course, ranging from increased sales to more profit. To you, as the consumer, the adverse effects outweigh the positive impact and can be as dire as causing an imbalance in your emotional and psychological status. 

1. It Can Lead to Purchase of Unnecessary Things 

There are things that we may want but not need. They are called wants/comforts. Primarily food, shelter, and education are the basic needs. Everything else that you will find after that is a want. 

impulse buying examples, online shopping and delivery service concept Moblie with shopping app a credit card on a laptop depicts consumers purchase or order products from suppliers or digital stores (1)

Transport is a need, but having the biggest and most lucrative car in the world is a want. Clothing is a need, having the latest trends of clothes just when they come out is a want. 

Quite often, you find yourself impulsively buying things we do not need but want, especially due to offers given.

2. Financial Insecurity  

When you find yourself in a mall with limited cash and a greater desire for impulse buying, you are left with no option but to use the money you are meant to save for the future. This may lead to financial insecurity and uncalled for strain when tough times come in the future.

3. Purchasing of Things That Can Only Serve Us for a Short Time 

Ice cream, confectionery, juices, alcoholic beverages; these are but some of the products that are often impulsively bought. Most of the time, impulse buying involves short term satisfaction at the behest of long-term goals.

4. Low Self-esteem/ Reduced Self-worth 

Setting goals and failing to meet them can sometimes be frustrating. Deciding on cutting out impulsive buying and failing to achieve your goal repeatedly can cause a resultant feeling of ineptitude to act on personal decisions. This will lower your self-esteem. 

5. Purchase of Substandard Products 

The impulse before an impulsive buying done is often whether to proceed or not. Minimal emphasis is, therefore, given to the quality of the products in question.  

This, in conjunction with the possibility of subsidized or discounted prices, could lead to buying substandard products.

6. Regret 

You will experience feelings of regret, especially if you purchase items that turn out to be of very minimal or no value at all to you since you have items that can perform similar functions.

7. Time Wastage 

Much time could be wasted in the entire process of deciding whether to buy or not, time that could be channeled to other productive avenues.

Nobody likes being a slave, and worse still is when you are a slave of your mentality. Having an understanding of the causes and effects of an impulse purchase, and with the drive to free yourself from this addiction, here are ten ways on how to break free from that yoke.

10 Ways on How You Can Stop Your Impulse Buying Behavior

1. Shop With a List 

Going shopping with a list is highly recommended. It is a habit, however, that requires a high level of self-discipline and will power. Before you venture into any shopping expedition, take your time and write down whatever it is that you are going to buy. 

how to stop impulse buying closeup of a man shopping with a shopping list in aisle at supermarket

Proceed to revise the list to eliminate the wants and retain only the needs. During shopping, religiously adhere to your written list. In this manner, you will be able to avoid the purchase of many unnecessary items not appearing on your list. The trick is on being faithful to the written list.

2. Have an Understanding of the Reasons Behind Your Impulse Buying 

You cannot solve what you are not aware of. Key again is the appreciation of the fact that they are challenges that need to be addressed. If the reason is carrying extra money, then carry fixed cash. Work on the reasons for your impulse spending.

3. Consider Your Payment Method for Discretionary Expenses 

Discretionary expenses are things that you can otherwise make do without. They often form the bulk portion of impulse spending. Payment through cards, whether prepaid or postpaid, often encourage impulse buying. 

Consider carrying cash in fixed amounts relative to your shopping list when making discretionary expenses. In this way, you will not have any extra money to facilitate impulse buying.

4. Set Rules for Extraneous Spending 

The solution here is to decide not to make decisions on extraneous spending by yourself. Compromises need to be made, and you need someone to keep you focused, especially when making budgets for the household

On your own, you will most likely tend to convince yourself to buy unnecessary things. Besides, you can make it a rule that extraneous spending is restricted to specific days and specific amounts per time.

5.Try the No Spending Challenge 

For starters, this may seem impossible. You will most probably fail on your first few attempts. Do not give, give it another shot. 

This is the most effective way to distinguish your genuine needs from wants. Make a decision not to spend even a single penny for a given period, advisedly not less than twenty-one days. 

In so doing, you will get to know what you cannot survive without in your day to day activities and what are merely wants. This will help you shape your future expenditure away from impulse buying.

6. Calculate the Value of an Item in Time 

Every item purchased is geared towards satisfying a specifically intended want or need. The question you should ask yourself is, for how long will the satisfaction last? You buy candy, eat it, feel useful in a few, end of the story. 

Your purchase trendy jeans in three months or so it is no longer fashionable and no longer serves the desired intention. Avoid unnecessary purchase of items whose service is contemporary, and value is limited to a short period.

7. Unsubscribe from Retail Newsletters

Retailers in their wisdom send their regular customers to remind them of offers available. These spams are likely to increase your impulsive spending. Unsubscribe from these newsletters since the lesser you see and hear of these items up for purchase, the more you are unlikely to purchase them.

8. Do Not Buy Things That Can Not Be Returned 

Avoid buying items tagged “Goods Once Sold Cannot Be Returned or Replaced.” This is so that in case later upon realizing that you made an inappropriate impulsive purchase of a product you do not need; you have the option to return or replace it with another item.

9. Remember Your Financial Goals 

Always find a way to continually remind yourself of your financial goals, long-term or short term. This can vary from having notes on your bedroom mirror, car dashboard, or phone wallpaper to remind you to stay faithful to your financial aspirations. This will help shove away temptations of making impulse purchases.

10. Re-evaluate What You Already Have 

You need to re-evaluate your possessions and avoid buying products that serve the same purpose as those that you already have. Before you decide to make a purchase you need to ask yourself if the new purchase will help meet your savings goals. 

Making a list of what you have will help you cross check every time you are about to purchase a new appliance will go a long way to ensure that you only buy the products you need. 


Generally, to overcome impulse buying, you need strong will power. Impulse buying, like any other habit, has a trigger, routine, and reward. You always have no control whatsoever over trigger or reward, but you can positively change your routine. 

Identify when you are most susceptible to susceptible and the contributing factors, and when you find yourself in such a situation, have some cooling-off period before making the final decision or reschedule the shopping for another time. 

You earn the money you save. Practice impulse buying free shopping for twenty consecutive times and make it a routine, and the habit will be long gone. All you need is the willpower, where there is a will there is always a way. 


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