Author: Nicole Hayes

5 triggers to make you impulse buy – and how to avoid them

If you'd like to get a handle on your spending habits, we can help with that.
Here's How

This time of year, we see a lot of our customers suffering from a spending hangover after the holidays. Shopping for Christmas and in the Boxing Day sales, it can be easy to get carried away and make purchases you didn’t plan for in your yearly budget, often on credit.

Whether you define an impulse buy as chocolate at the supermarket checkout, or more costly items like furniture, appliances or even cars or boats, there are 5 common triggers that usually tip the balance when we’re making a purchase decision. Here’s how to identify them, and how to avoid them.

Loss aversion

Retailers know that we’re susceptible to suggestion that making a certain impulse buy will help us avoid bad feelings in the future. When retailers promote discounts, and we are told or assume that the discount is temporary, our fear of missing out on a reduced price can take over, forcing our hand to buy.

How to avoid: Just breathe – take a second to remember that most retailers hold regular sales. Think about your budget and make sure you have room for your purchase, and if not, set a savings goal and lookout for sales in future.

Rules of thumb

Retailers take advantage of our perceived laziness – they think it’ll be too much work for us to cross reference their prices and offers with their competitors, and often, they’re right. So, as consumers we look to rules of thumb that sound good to us. Say a retailer packaged up their products, or offered ‘free’ extras – to a consumer, this sounds like a good deal, even if the offer doesn’t represent true value.

How to avoid: Get online and do your research. It doesn’t matter what you’re shopping for, you can compare prices and deals online.

Desire to save

Whether we’re any good at it, we all have an evolutionary drive to save and prepare for the future. Retailers know this, and present products based on how much a consumer could save by buying it. Bizarrely, this works more often than you’d think.

How to avoid: Understand that saving is saving, spending is spending. If your budget is tight and you haven’t planned for any extra purchases, keep your credit card in your wallet.

Buying towards an idealised future

Retailers position their products in a way that suggests we could improve some aspect of our lives by buying from them. It’s why work-out equipment always features the fittest, best looking people, who don’t really need to get fit. The assumption we make subconsciously is that if we buy a product, we can be just like the person in the ad.

How to avoid: Switch off emotion when making purchase decisions. Compare cold hard facts when comparing products, and look beyond the brand you’re most familiar with.

Love of receiving

Let’s face it, a lot of us just love shopping. This is probably based in childhood, where we’re taught to feel good when handed something from our parents. Continued into adulthood, the concept of ‘treating ourselves’ becomes warped, as we can do it anytime, and we’re in charge of the timing.

How to avoid: Keep a diary of how often you ‘treat yourself’ and then re-calculate your budget over that same period, removing the purchases you made. Often, knowing how much we’re potentially capable of saving is enough to change our behaviour.


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