What is Impulse Buying and How to Stop It

Impulse buying may be fun, but it can derail your budget and stop you from reaching your savings goals. Learn how to stop impulse buying with this article.
Colby Brin
January 9, 2023
min read

Impulse buying is a very real affliction that many people experience worldwide. Research shows that approximately 78% of British adults have succumbed to impulsive online shopping, averaging approximately £33 per session. 

But what exactly is meant by impulse buying, and how can you stop it? In this article, we take a closer look at impulse buying and, crucially, help you identify a number of ways to stop spending money so frivolously on things you don't actually need.

What is impulse buying?

Impulse buying is simply purchasing something on a whim, without any planning. You might buy on impulse at the grocery store by adding things randomly to your trolley, or you might be an impulse buyer on social media or via various online shopping platforms. 

Ultimately, there are so many different types of impulse buys, as everyone is different. But the first step toward solving your issue with frivolous spending is realising that you're doing it and understanding the different types of impulse buying, as we explain below.

Examples of impulse buying

The truth is that there are so many different types of impulse purchases, meaning that it would be futile to list all of them here. That being said, and to give you an idea of some of the things you might buy on impulse, consider the following: 

·   Sweets, chocolates, or soft drinks at the supermarket checkout counter. 
·   Clothing, shoes, and jewellery that you see via online advertisements.
·   Various products and new releases promoted by some of the influencers you follow on social media.
·   An expensive family vacation or a last-minute getaway with your partner. 
·   Take away meals because you don't feel like cooking. 
·   Expensive purchases like a new car after passing a car dealership. 

Causes of impulse buying

As you can see, there are lots of different things that you can buy on impulse. But what drives people to shop in this way? Well, there are four main causes of impulse buying:

Emotional impulse buying

Emotions play a fundamental role in the things that we buy. When you're having a rough day, a little retail therapy might seem the best way to brighten things up. When you're feeling emotional – be it excited, stressed or anxious – you're often compelled to make decisions based on impulse, so it's helpful not to transact when you're in a heightened emotional state.

Impulse buying because of past experiences

Some people are driven to impulse buys because of their past experiences. For instance, you might never have had a decent amount of money before and always longed for nice "things." The memories of your past struggles can drive you to impulse buys, which can get expensive pretty quickly.

Impulse buying because of a good deal

Marketers are brilliant at making consumers think that they are offering the best possible deal for a product or service. This might be framed as a significant reduction or the inclusion of something like free shipping. But the reality is that a deal is only good if you need the item in question. Don't just buy things for the sake of it.

Shopping addiction

Some people enjoy shopping, while others are actually addicted to it. If you think you're struggling with shopping addiction, you can learn more about it and how to potentially overcome your urges to buy, buy, buy. 

How to stop impulse buying

The good news is that there are several ways to stop impulse buying, but you need to first acknowledge it's a potential problem for you. Thereafter, you take on board the following tips to avoid buying things on impulse:

Careful budgeting

Perhaps the single biggest thing you can do to stop impulse buying is to budget properly. If an item isn't accounted for in your budget, don't buy it – it's as simple as that. You can turn to the HyperJar budgeting app to help you get started with financial planning. 

Allow for some spending

Cold turkey is never a good approach, and removing extraneous spending from your budget isn't necessary. It helps to include a small amount of money in your budget for one-off purchases, enabling you to pick up unexpected items should you need or want them.

Wait at least a day before making a purchase 

One of the problems with impulse buying is that you don't give yourself any time to think about the purchase. You see it; you want it; you buy it. A good remedy is to give yourself 24 hours of thinking before buying the item. If you still think buying it is a good idea after sleeping on your decision, then go ahead and make the purchase.

Have a plan when shopping

Whether you're shopping online or in person, you need to have a plan. You should plan how much you have to spend and what you need to buy before heading into a store or onto an online shopping platform. 

Be careful signing up to email lists 

Email lists are notoriously bad for getting consumers to pay for things they don't need. When you willingly sign up for an email list, you will receive a heap of special offers and messages directly to your phone. So, unsubscribe from mailing lists that are too pushy and only join a list if it's absolutely necessary to do so.

Avoid emotional shopping

We've touched on this already, but shopping when you're emotionally charged isn't a good idea. It can cause you to make irrational, impulsive decisions, so try to head out to the shops when you're in a decent frame of mind and can think clearly.

Don't shop alone

Taking your partner or a friend along with you for a shopping trip is a good way to hold yourself to account. You can use your companion as a sounding board for any retail decisions that you make, and they will be able to step in if you deviate from your shopping plan or budget. \

Take only the cash you'll need

Another great way to avoid impulse buying is to shop with cash, as opposed to a credit card. You can leave your credit cards at home and take only the cash that you need to complete the purchase that you've gone out for. Then, even if you see something that takes your fancy, you have no way of paying for it.

Stop comparing yourself

Comparing yourself to other people is a really bad habit as far as impulse shopping is concerned. If you see that your friends have new clothes, trainers, or even a flashy new car, you might also want the same things. But remember, you're your own person, and you don't need to copy others! Think about what you want and need for yourself, not what others are flaunting.

Avoid social media 

Today, social media influencers are great at getting us to part with our hard-earned money for things that we don't really need. Through paid branded partnerships, influencers show you how a certain product will supposedly change your life – enticing you to press ahead with a purchase that you don't want to complete. So, adjust your social media feeds and follow fewer influencers if you can't avoid social media altogether.

Do a no-spend challenge 

Another option is to set yourself a no-spend challenge, which can be a fun and engaging way to try and reduce impulse spending in your life. You could perhaps do it for a week or a month and limit yourself to only essential purchases. Involve your partner or a friend in the challenge to improve accountability.

Forget your card number

Not knowing your card number is advantageous when shopping online, as it adds a barrier to a potential purchase. You should also opt out of a website remembering your card number for future purchases, meaning that you need to input your card number every time you want to buy something. This simple step can reduce impulse buying as it increases intentionality.

Get rid of credit cards 

Credit cards are terrible for impulse buying, as they invite you to get your hands on something right now without worrying about its cost. If you don't want to chop up your credit cards, lock them away out of sight so you can't use them every day, and you will end up saving money.

Always keep your financial goals in mind

Having long-term financial goals and always bearing them in mind is one of the best ways to avoid impulse spending. If you know that an impulsive purchase will impact your ability to pay off your debts or eat away at your savings for a deposit, you're less likely to buy things on impulse. Always keep your financial goals in mind to avoid frivolous spending.


So, impulse buying is a problem, but as we've explained, you can do many things to stop it. Be sure to check out our handy budgeting app to improve your financial management and planning, and check out our budgeting basics guide to help you get started.

Colby Brin

Head of Copy

Colby Brin is Head of Copy at HyperJar. With over 17 years of professional writing experience, Colby’s been a journalist, ghostwriter, language consultant, and writing trainer. Having previously served as Head of Copy at Wise, he’s worked in fintech for over six years. A native of New York City, Colby graduated from the University of Michigan, and has lived in London for two years.

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