Sometimes all I need to dissuade myself from making a particularly impulsive purchase is a little bit of time. Conversely, I’ve definitely also experienced the shopper’s “walk of shame”- getting up in the morning to a shopping bag of things I neither need, nor really want 24 hours later, While there is nothing wrong with returning things, sometimes it would be nice to spare yourself the extra time and effort and just avoid buying in the first place, especially with these impulsive purchases.
These delaying tactics are helpful if you are that particular kind of shopper; one who gets caught up in the emotional rush of the purchase, or who has a hard time saying no to a salesperson. As I mentioned in the first post in this series, there are many reasons why we buy, and one of mine is wanting a salesperson to be happy. By employing these delaying strategies, I found myself more able to say no to pushy sales people, or to consider my real needs when making a purchase. There will always be a plethora of reasons why we buy, but hopefully with these few tactics we’ll buy (ha ha!) ourselves some time to analyze them further and eventually make financial decisions we feel better about.
One note: These suggestions are all totally obvious, but I challenge you (and myself) to really re-consider them. They are much more difficult to implement than to understand.
1. Give Yourself 24 Hours
The more traditional interpretation of this adage says that you should wait 24 hours before making a major purchase to allow yourself time to think through the decision. While that is clearly good advice, I also turn this advice around and give myself 24 hours BEFORE shopping to think through my purchases. Since I don’t make major purchases that often, and most of my delinquent shopping behavior takes place in the grocery store, I don’t have the luxury of thinking through my intended purchases for a whole day before I buy them- we’d go hungry! So instead, I create a grocery list and a mental plan for how I’m going to navigate the grocery store about 24 hours before I go. Grace and I create the list together, and approve the amount of money we are willing to spend. While I’m at the store, I can go into autopilot, checking things off the list and buying only what we agreed upon. And by actually thinking through my shopping approach, I avoid dawdling in the aisles I know I’m particularly dangerous in, like the beauty products. By giving myself time to think about the experience and process of shopping before it takes place, I’m able to prime myself better for those unexpected urges and manage them.
2. Leave All $ At Home
While this tactic doesn’t work for grocery shopping, it does work well for other purchases, like clothes, electronics and books. Giving yourself an opportunity to peruse the offerings at a store without the option of buying is very liberating. And surprisingly, makes me always more critical. If I then have to walk home to get my purse, I can think about what I want to buy and why. Just giving myself a bit of breathing room to step outside the store and reassess has done wonders for my financial health. However, I do live in NYC, so I don’t have to get back in my car and drive home. For those of you who can’t waste gas, time, etc going “shopping” twice, I encourage you to leave your wallet in the car. You’d be surprised what even a short walk outside the store will do.
3. Walk It Off
Pushy sales people are one of the primary causes of impulse spending and while most of us are turned off by overly aggressive tactics, more subtle sales people still elicit the same reaction: buying. It is no coincidence that fancier stores have more sales staff; having a supportive, helping hand is a proven technique to get people to buy. Especially if you are having a good experience with a sales person, make sure to get some distance to re-think your purchase. Allowing the sales person to guide you through the whole process can rob you of your original intention and agency. I often allow a sales person to give me the whole pitch, right up until the “Can I ring this up for you?” moment. At that point I’ll say I want to look around, and walk away for a couple of minutes. This often diffuses the tension I feel and gives me the clarity I need to make a decision I won’t regret. My mother, who is very religious, often uses the line “I need to pray about it” to an overly pushy sales person. That statement served the dual purpose of taking them off guard (I wonder how many salespeople hear that line?!), and giving her room to fully consider her decision. I don’t advocate using it necessarily, but I have been with her on several occasions when she’s said it and smirked at the shocked face of the salesperson. (Sometimes, you need something to laugh about when you’re shopping with your mom!)
By implementing these strategies, I’ve been able to reduce both my unneeded and unwanted purchases, and also the anxiety I feel when shopping. What other tactics do you use to smooth your transition from shopper to saver?
Photo credit: stock.xchng.