In this 3-part series, we’ll be discussing how we can curb impulse purchases, how to take better care of our desires, and how to build a lasting relationship with ourselves and our material possessions.
Building a Better Habit
In Part 2, we talked about the mentality behind impulse buying. Let’s get into some great ways that can help guide us in becoming more mindful about our purchases.
Like any bad habit, impulse buying can negatively affect many aspects of your life. Because impulse buying is strongly linked to our emotions, sorting through our issues will take a lot of time and practice. While we work on those things, there are other ways we can be better about impulse buying specifically. These are strategies we can try to build a strong muscle for judgment and rational thinking. Though these methods aren’t 100% foolproof in getting you off of the impulse purchase buzz, it can help you learn more about mindfulness as a whole. (And maybe you’ll pick up a good eye for being more curious about learning more about how marketing works as a whole!)
Things You Can Do Right Now
These are tactics you can start right away. Implement them in your everyday routine and they’ll become a habit.
1. Create a Holy Grail Item List
This is something I do and found it’s helped me in a very great way. Essentially, you’ll be writing down 1 product that meets the needs of 1 action or use in your life. These are items you trust, are proven to be a bang for your buck, and will last you a long while. They can be anything from makeup (split into categories like eyeshadow, foundation, etc) to electronics and miscellaneous items (such as portable charger, pen, etc). Here’s an example of how you might structure your list:
- Foundation: Item name
- Eyeshadow: Item name
- Blush: Item name
- Lipstick: Item name
- Toner: Item name
- Cleanser: Item name
- Moisturizer: Item name
- Sunblock: Item name
- Deodorant: Item name
- Pain meds: Item name
- Toothpaste: Item name
- Vitamins: Item name
The list can go on and on. Doing this list helps you accomplish a couple of things:
- You can visualize what items you use in your life and quantify them
- Identify categories you don’t need to buy items in
- Get rid of duplicate items that serve the same purpose
- Have a working shopping list when you need to buy again
The list isn’t meant to hold you back from trying out new stuff. After all, the only way stuff can get on your list is if you try it out. But it can help you build a habit of not impulsively purchasing something when you know you already have one that fits the bill.
2. Make It A Habit To Compare Prices
Sounds simple enough, but many times we’re clouded by impulse. We forget to slow down and take a second look at what we’re purchasing.
Comparing prices helps you do a couple of things in your life:
- Give you a chance to see reviews and other perspectives of the item
- The possibility of saving money (of course!)
- Take a breather from the action of purchasing
You might find that after you take even 5 mins of putting the item down and researching it, you might not want it after all. Coupled with your Holy Grail list, you may even be able to ask yourself why you needed it in the first place.
3. Ask Yourself Why You Want It
Before your purchase, try asking yourself just 3 questions:
- Why do I want this?
- Think about how your emotions play into this. Also think about the marketing aspect of the item.
- Why do I need this?
- Do you need it for a real reason, or are you making a reason up to suit the item?
- How will it serve your needs?
- Think about the material, how long it’ll last, among other considerations.
From there, you’ll be better able to break down the habit of quickly buying something.
Here’s an example of a thought process that leads up to a purchase:
- “I want this sweater because I really like the design. I think I would look so good in it. It’s also very versatile.”
- “I need this because I don’t have a sweater for the fall. It’s on my shopping list.”
- “It’s great quality. Looks like it’s made of 100% wool. It’s extremely warm.”
And here’s an example of a thought process that leads to putting the item back:
- “I want this bag because I saw someone else wear it. I want to look trendy too.”
- “I don’t really need this. I just really like how it looks.”
- “It won’t. The real reason is that I just want to look cool, not because it can do something for me.”
Actually, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look cool in the stuff we buy. It’s more a matter of making sure that looking cool doesn’t come hand in hand with negative habits. That includes destructive thinking patterns that put our own perception of ourselves down. In the example above, the consumer ultimately just wanted to buy it to fit in, not because it was a style they truly felt represented themselves.
4. Unsubscribe From Marketing Emails
“But wait! What if there’s a sale? Or a secret coupon code? I’ll miss it!” Hell yeah you will. And that’s exactly the point.
If you like the brands you’ve signed up to receive emails from, just bookmark them into a folder. If there’s an option to customize the lists you’re signed up for, make sure you opt out of any promotional emails. Doing this will prevent you from literally getting alerts to spend. The more emails you get about these seemingly great deals, the more you’ll feel hurried to buy, lest the deal goes away.
But remember, for many items out there in the world, they will always be manufactured. You’ll be able to get them at another time or only when you need to refill them. For limited edition items, you might feel more enticed to buy. It’s okay if you do. Just make sure the item still fits your criteria in asking yourself why you need it.
5. Take or Save Pictures of the Item
This is something I do often and find that I just end up forgetting about the item anyway.
A good example might be point-of-purchase items. These are the shelves of items that try and get you while you’re waiting in line. If you see something you like in that instance, immediately snap a pic of it and put it down. Chances are, if the item isn’t on your mind by tomorrow or even the next week, or you haven’t even looked at the pic you took of it, you don’t need it.
For any other item in store, taking a pic of it can help you slow down. Carrying items in your hand will create a tangible connection and make you more susceptible to purchase it. I suppose this is a good psychological trick, and detaching yourself from it can give you a better chance of thinking about it more.
For online items, you might want to save the images or use Pinterest to pin them to boards. Instead of clicking the “add to cart” button, just save the image and make a folder for the items you’re interested in.
6. Ice ‘Em
Finder.com has this amazing Chrome extension called Icebox that can help you stop impulse shopping. Relatively unheard of, this handy extension converts many online retailers’ “buy now” or “add to cart” button to a “Put it on ice” button.
What this does is it adds it to your icebox where the item goes on a cooling period. If you set the item to be iced for 30 days, you won’t be able to add this item to your cart for a month. This gives you a chance to think before buying and stop from purchasing it right away. You can adjust this cooling period to your liking; you can even just set it for 24 hrs and sleep on it. Moreover, it can do a couple of other convenient things:
- You can also use it for a shopping list to save up until you can buy it
- Easily compare items across different sites in one space
- Wait until it’s sale time to purchase items you want
7. Set Specific Shopping Days
See what happens if you take your list and only purchase certain items on certain days. Try making it a habit to buy the items you need regularly instead of on a random “when I run out of it is when I replace it” basis.
It might even help ease the stress of freaking out over something you ran out of last minute. Or it can even help you learn how often you use items to begin with. Something on your Holy Grail list that you only use maybe twice might not be a great investment if its shelf life is extremely limited or it’s perishable.
8. Create a More Robust Budget
It’s simple. Only allow a certain amount of money to certain things. When you’re about to purchase something you don’t need, keep this budget in mind.
It’s easy to break your budgets, though. ANd even if you use fancy stuff like apps to keep you in check, it’s ultimately up to you to stay disciplined in keeping that budget.
Things You Can Learn
These are things that you’ll have to practice or implement slowly over time.
1. How Marketing Works
Take a few moments to do some research on marketing, or even take some free online courses about it. Thinking in a marketing mindset will help you understand how brands try to get you to impulse purchase.
When you’re more aware and informed of how the retail (online and in-store) world works, you’ll get a better perspective on many things:
- Be more keen on how sales and promotions use language and buzzwords to attract people
- Understand where your items come from and how prices are factored into the formula
- Create better habits of being more mindful about where you shop
Doing this will give you a more savvy and rational mindset when you’re purchasing.
2. Taking Care of Your Possessions
It’s easy to neglect our items. Throwing them around or being mindless about where they belong in your room devalues our possessions.
Here are a couple of things you can learn how to do to take care of what you have and increase their lifespan:
- Learn how to do basic sewing to mend your clothes instead of trash them
- Pick up a leather cleaner and find out how to treat your precious leather items like jackets and boots
- Learn how to tidy up your home and give each possession a place to live (Read the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up!)
- Find out how to do small repairs on home and electronic items
And there are smaller things you can do right now, like making sure cosmetics are closed properly. Or even cleaning up garbage from your space to free up room for your items.
3. Relieve Impulse Through Other Means
Many times, we might impulse shop based just on what we’re feeling. In Part 2, some of those excuses we saw could be fulfilled through other activities. Here are some examples:
- Exercising or meditating when you’re angry or charged with negative emotion
- Reach out to a friend you haven’t talked to when you’re in a good mood
- Watch a movie or play a game when you’re sad
Of course, the activity you choose to do will be different depending on what you’re interested in. The key is that you’re deflecting using your emotions as an excuse to shop. Even if you start by making a list of activities you can do or people you can talk to during each emotion, it’s a good start.
4. Learn More About Mindfulness
Reading up about how you can improve your mindset can help you release yourself from some of these bad thinking habits. It can also help you realize that material possessions’ value may not stack up to your own value as a person in your life.
Here are some good books to start learning about mindfulness: