What To Do When Impulse Shopping Strikes

Here’s how to keep your shopping cart empty and your wallet full

How many of you walk into stores like Target needing only laundry detergent but end up walking out with a whole cart full of stuff? Happens to the best of us. (In fact, I once visited Target corporate headquarters and emerged with a t-shirt reading something like “I only got what was on my list…said no one, ever.”) Impulse shopping is nothing new, and most of us, research shows, succumb at one point or another. However, if you’re reading this and thinking that perhaps you do it a little too often, here are some tips that can help keep your shopping cart empty and your wallet full.

Make a list

Plan, plan and then do some more planning. Make a list of items you really need. Then focus on it. This may help you eliminate the urge to wander into departments you don’t need to visit. If that’s not enough of a curtailing influence and you’re shopping at a retailer that offers online order, in-store pickup, take advantage of that says Andrea Browne Taylor, online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. “You’re able to buy the specific items you need online and then pick them up at a later time at the retailer’s customer service department. There’s no need to wander around the store and potentially impulse shop,” says Taylor. It’s a time-saver, too.

Be aware of retail tricks

Taylor points out that big box retailers such as Target, Best Buy or Walmart have store layouts that are widespread by design. “When you shop in-store, you may have to pass five aisles filled with products that are not on your shopping list before you get to the one you actually need. Retailers are banking on you venturing down these aisles and spending more money than you intended,” says Taylor. She suggests familiarizing yourself with the store’s map in advance via the retailer’s website as a way to help you stay on budget.

Consider sticking to online shopping…

Sure, the retail world may be at our fingertips since we live in the age of online shopping, but it may actually help curb our spending. Why? Because you’re able to see your total price amount as you add things into your virtual shopping cart. “Seeing this amount increase as you add items helps shoppers be aware of exactly how much they are going to spend in a single transaction before checking out. And if you go over budget, you can easily remove those items from your shopping cart,” says Taylor. At brick-and-mortar stores you likely won’t realize how much you are about to spend until the cashier is ringing up your items.

…But be smart about it

Make sure when you are shopping online that you aren’t saving any of your shipping or billing information on the site. This way it won’t be as easy to click the checkout button. “The time it takes you to find your credit card and re-enter payment details will hopefully make you realize the item you were about to buy isn’t worth the cost or is unnecessary,” says consumer and money saving expert Andrea Woroch.

Identify your spending triggers

Shopping has a way of picking us up when we are down, and maybe that’s the time when you find yourself swiping your credit card more than you should be. “Identifying such impulse shopping triggers is key to nipping it in the butt. Find other activities that you can do that don’t cost money and that are actually healthier for you,” says Woroch. She suggests going for a brisk walk, an exercise class or calling a friend you haven’t talk to you in a while to catch up — all of which are better ways to fill your time and get in control of your emotions without blowing your budget.

With Hattie Burgher

Jean Chatzky

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