ARE YOU AN IMPULSE BUYER?

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A few pairs of shoes. Some dresses. I need head bands. I need new eyeliner colours. Let’s get a doughnut maker. Let’s book a weekend abroad. While we’re at it, let’s throw in a tablet and a smart phone.

That is the sound of an impulse buyer on a rampage. It is also accompanied by the sound of sorrowful weeping emanating from this person’s credit card as it slides across the terminal. The impulse buyer will probably be regretting his actions later on, and will be ridden with an inconsolable guilt, as he attempts to prise his half-baked doughnuts from the doughnut maker.

What triggers our urge to buy stuff? What’s the explanation behind that flutter we get when our fingers caress a pretty item or our eyes clock something shiny on Ebay? Does everybody go through the conceited cringe of misery as they unwillingly hand over their cash or credit card? Or are typical impulse buyers immune to regret-upon-purchase? Overspending can be the outward workings of hidden demons within certain people. It’s a very complex cry for help that often recoils in horror and denial when answered. Cliché as it has become, constantly buying arbitrary objects is more often than not a way to try and fill an empty void in one’s life. Many of us have gone through a period in our lives where we’ve tried to shop our way out of misery and convince ourselves it’s just a spot of retail therapy. Some people comfort eat. Others comfort shop. Some even do both.

Plenty of studies have revealed how marketing gets impulse buying fish to bite the bait. Sales, big pretty red signs, slashed price tags, percent off this, percent off that, while stocks last, buy one get one free, 2 for 1… These are all trump cards in the marketing world’s deck. Many of us are absolute suckers for these. They often have us in the palm of their hands by the end of our stroll through the high street.

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Gits. But don’t you just love a sale?

If you want to try to curb your spending habits, address your issues. See what provokes you to spend. Observe the emotions and urges that arise as you browse and pay. Get to the heart of the matter. We all know how unfriendly the bank can get when we don’t pay our overdrafts.

You should also take advice from a self-confessed miser. I’m Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge and Molière’s Harpagon all rolled into one. I hate spending money. I hate giving money. I like my money safely tucked away in the bank. I’m so good at postponing spending, I’ve turned it into an art form. I’m very good with money… to a fault. It’s almost a sickness. My avaricious ways consequently give me heartburn every time I input my credit card pin. While you’re seeking to put the inner-consumer on a leash, I’m trying to get my thrifty puppy out of its kennel.

However, if you would like to take a leaf out of my miserly ledger, read on:

Channel your spending towards a hobby. Instead of randomly wasting cash on a multitude of unnecessary items, try investing in a number of items which are of valuable use to you, or which give you absolute genuine pleasure. Become a collector of sorts. It can be anything you want it to be. Hey, I collect bras. Each to their own. Train your brain to think, ‘the less I spend on X, the more money I’ll have for Y’. However, do make sure you keep it under control, as you can very easily get tricked onto a slippery slope which will lead you back to square one… and an unusual obsession to go with it.

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Always consider the hours you’ve spent working for that pay cheque. Again, it’s a question of re-wiring your brain to a new philosophy. Rather than saying, ‘I’ve worked hard for this wage – I deserve to spend it’, you should start thinking, ‘I’ve worked so hard for this wage – Do I really want it to vanish in a flash?’ That is not to say that you shouldn’t treat yourself every once in a while. Live a little, why not? But train yourself to make your money last. See how far you can stretch €1000 over 6 months. If you manage to preserve it for a given amount of time, you may treat yourself to something pleasant. This will teach you how to take pleasure from saving. You’ll eventually start to get a kick out of looking at your hefty bank account. Believe me, them digits on your online banking page will start to look really sexy.

Work with the numbers you’ve got. If you really love shopping, try rounding up what you should be saving up and leave the remainder for yourself to spend. For example, if you earn €1200 a month, then those dangling €200 are for you to spend. Tickets to the theatre, sushi dinners, museum pass-cards, flights for cultural holidays, whatever. The rest, however, must remain untouched or reserved for (admittedly silly) necessities, such as electricity bills and loans. Repeat this every month and watch how you’ll be on track with your debts. Remember, not stressing out about repayments is really good for your skin.

Avoid shops. I suggest you spend more time doing your shopping online, as you can bookmark any items that take your fancy and reserve them for when your pay cheque comes in. Items are more likely to run out in shops than they are online, and this fear forces us to buy things on the spot, lest someone else bags the very last one. Items displayed online will probably still be available at the end of the month when your wages come through.

These are all part of my saving and surviving scheme. Personally, I also like to adopt these rules while playing Shirley Bassey’s Hey Big Spender in the background. It helps, really.

Do you have any tips on how to combat impulse buying?

Let us know in the comment section below!