3 Steps To Controlling Your Impulse Spending

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“I’ve got to have it!” That’s how we feel as we pass by an item that calls our name in the store. Any casual walk through the mall or your favorite big box/electronic store can leave you saying these words in your mind. And what happens next? You impulsively buy it.

Please understand that at the heart of impulse buying is the root word “impulse.” By definition this word means, “a propensity or natural tendency—usually other than rational.” To be impulsive is a natural tendency. But it’s a tendency that isn’t rational! In a nutshell, when you give into impulse buying, you are giving into your natural tendency that isn’t rational. Oh boy. That’s problematic!

I think it’s time that we did something about that.

Think about what’s in the recesses of your closet or garage right now. All of those “impulse” buys that haven’t been touched. We’re all guilty. But if we want to keep more of our money in our pockets we’ve got to nip this habit in the bud. Here’s how.

Step one: determine why you are spending honestly, and stop giving in to “irrational” emotional driving needs.

In order to stop impulse buying we’ve got to first stop the impulse. For me, this was very personal as I recognized years ago that my impulse buys were centered on my emotional need to “feel” good—to feel good about myself, to feel good about my life, to feel like I was keeping up with my contemporaries. So when I bought shoes, or clothes or cars or furniture or anything else—on credit—my need to “feel good” outweighed the rationale of whether or not I could afford to pay off the bill at the end of the month.

So the first step in nipping impulse buying in the bud has to do with getting completely honest with yourself about why you are impulse shopping. If it’s to feel better about yourself, or to impress someone or to feed your ego, or any other reason that really isn’t “rational” then admit it and quit it.

After racking up thousands of dollars in unwanted credit card bills, I finally had to come to grips with the truth—my wallet could never feed my ego!

Step two: Kill the impulse-buying possibility by not getting into your car and going to the store in the first place.

The second thing that you could do to stop impulse spending is so obvious it could be missed: Don’t go shopping! Find other uses for your time. Do not allow yourself to get into the car and go to the mall or that big box store without a specific need or item that you must purchase.


I found in times past that boredom was NOT my friend. Going to the store to “pick up a few things” was code for shopping unnecessarily. It’s the little non-stop purchases of things that you really don’t need that send you into an impulse-buying frenzy. Do not go shopping unless it is out of absolute necessity.

Step three: Slow down and get everyone on board with the goal of stopping impulse spending.

Finally, in order to stop impulse spending bring your entire family into the loop. This was the single greatest thing that I did to stop unnecessary spending. Because—truth be told—between my husband and four kids, we could “find” things to buy every single time we entered into the store! But once we sat down as a family and everyone bought into the goal of not buying what we don’t need (in order to save money), it was much, much easier.

Think about it: maybe hubby doesn’t really need that extra tool from the hardware store as much as he thought he did. Maybe your daughters can make do with the eye shadow they already have for the party on Saturday. Maybe your son can play that new video game with his friend instead of having to have it for himself. Maybe your wife could probably reconfigure her wardrobe to put pieces together that she hasn’t worn in combo, instead of buying that new dress impulsively for the party.

Before you know it, you will have extra dollars to funnel into savings or have some extra dollars for a rainy day (and then you can have something to splurge)!

About the author: Jennifer Keitt is author of the book Shake Up Your Life: 30 Steps to Powerful Brilliant Living. She has earned honors for her contributions to women globally as host and executive producer of The Jennifer Keitt Show and the Today’s Black Woman Radio Show. In addition, Jennifer is a regular television contributor on HLN’s Dr. Drew On Call and is founder of the non-profit Keitt Institute. Visit JenniferKeitt.com for more information.

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