Impulse buys - 6 traps to avoid!

The holiday season, super sales and liquidations all tend to send
impulse buys through the roof.

Marie-Christine Daignault | Desjardins Group

Compulsive shopping drives approximately 5 to 10% of consumers into debt, while at the other end of the spectrum is a similar proportion of disciplined savers who watch every penny. That leaves 80% of us somewhere in between!

Most people are responsible shoppers who may occasionally be tempted by a spontaneous purchase or impulse buy.

Maryse Côté-Hamel, a doctoral candidate in marketing at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University, studies consumer behaviour. She drew up a list for us of the top six situations that lead to impulse buys.

1. Shopping with a romantic partner or friend

According to Maryse, when you go shopping with your partner or a friend, it affects what you want to buy. You’re more comfortable, you ask for their opinion, and you’re more likely to give into the temptation to spoil yourself with items you didn’t plan to buy.

In general, it’s better to shop alone, but it’s even better to shop with a family member (other than your partner), since bringing along a child or a parent tends to put a damper on the urge to shop.

2. Super sales

The holiday season, super sales and liquidations all tend to send impulse buys through the roof. As Maryse points out, it’s not as though we suddenly need all these things on Boxing Day; we were getting along just fine without them!

3. Your own special weakness

People tend to be extremely impulsive about one thing in particular: Clothing, kitchenware, shoes, tools, video games, etc. We tend to know our own weaknesses, so it’s often easier to avoid a spending spree by avoiding window shopping at those stores altogether.

4. Social shopping

Shopping shouldn’t be a social activity like movie night or a dinner out. According to Maryse, social shopping is the worst influence when it comes to increasing your desire to buy.

Many studies show that the longer we spend shopping, the more likely we are to buy things we didn’t intend to. And according to Maryse, it’s only natural. The longer you spend at the mall, the more products you’ll see to tempt you.

5. Setting only a price limit

She also warns that setting a budget based only on a price limit may lead to additional purchases. If you haven’t spent your entire budget, there’s still money left, right?

A better idea is to set a budget range, rather than a limit. Otherwise, it can be tempting to spend every penny, since you’re coming in “under budget!” But that defeats the purpose of budgeting, since the idea is to save money, not pave the way for unintended purchases!

6. Peak periods

Busy stores are also a danger. When stores are busy, shoppers take less time to reflect about their choices, are more distracted, and are more likely to make impulse purchases because they feel crowded.

Shopping at off-peak hours, such as in the morning, gives you time to think about your purchases, or at least prevents you from feeling rushed.

One way to avoid this is to shop around online to compare prices and find out about which products you need. It’s an easy way to make the most of your money and to be sure you’re getting quality products.

Online shopping makes it easy to get information about products and make informed decisions, especially during the holiday season when clerks don’t always have the time to answer questions.

Have fun—but don’t fall into your own traps!

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