Tag Archives: impulse buying

3 Questions to Ask Yourself to Prevent Impulse Buys


Important: This is the 3rd last article for 2023. I’ll be taking the last half of December and first half of January off from posting.

I’ll be back January 12th, 2024 with the first short story of the new year! (The first article will go up January 15th)

Whether it was a pack of gum at the check out line, a box of cookies you tossed in the cart because you were hungry, or “it was on sale!” impulse buys are something we’ve all done in the past.

Unfortunately, these buys are usually nothing more than us just wasting money we don’t have. We end up regretting them sometimes as soon as we’re done paying, or at most a few days later.

Luckily, I’m going to give you my top 3 questions to ask yourself next time you’re shopping, to hopefully help you not get anything you don’t need.

  1. Do you really need this?

This question is the most important one you can ask yourself before buying something. If this item isn’t vital to your survival, the answer to this question is “no”. Yes, this includes cookies. Just because they’re food doesn’t mean you need them. Things that are vital to your survival: water, healthy food, clothing and shelter.

I’m assuming you didn’t walk into the store naked and you’ve got some kind of dwelling to bring your haul back to (not to mention you can’t buy a house from a regular store) so unless you’re grocery shopping: step away from the shelf!

Now obviously this question will have exceptions – I’m not saying you’re not allowed to buy fun things anymore – but this is a great first step in making you stop and think instead of mindlessly grabbing things off the shelf. (Or mindlessly adding to your cart if you’re shopping online)

  1. Is it on your list?

If you don’t go shopping with a list, you need to start! Shopping with a list helps tremendously in keeping impulse buys to a minimum. Also, making a list will help you feel organized and can even help you from wasting products.

What do you do if you can’t remember if you don’t have shampoo (for example) at home? Do you buy an extra one now while you’re here, or go home and check and possibly come back?

Smart shopper’s would say it’s better to grab an extra bottle while you’re already out. However if you’re not out of this item and you buy a replacement, it might expire before you get a chance to use/finish it, and thus you’ve just wasted money.

Using a list however can minimize if not completely eliminate this! Keep a list somewhere you’ll see it everyday/have easy access to it (I keep mine on my fridge) and then any time throughout the week/month/whenever you run out of something, write it down.

Once you’re ready to go shopping again, take a look at your list and put a star next to the items that you absolutely need to buy next. (Or, if needed, make a new list)

For example, if your list is something like:

  • Apples
  • Toilet paper
  • Parchment paper
  • Ginger
  • Flour
  • Bananas

Unless you’re planning on baking before the next time you go shopping, the parchment paper and flour can wait. Also, depending on how often you use ginger, you could probably leave that off, too. I’m hoping you’re not one of those people who buys toilet paper when you’re down to the last roll (or completely out), but if you are, then getting more toilet paper is an absolute must for this trip. Also, if you eat fruit everyday, the apples and bananas would be essential.

Congrats! You just whittled your master list down to essentials. So now when you’re standing in the store, this will be your list:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Toilet Paper

This actually brings me to the last question:

  1. Go shopping less often.

Okay, I know technically this one isn’t a question, but it’s still good advice! If you for example run to the store after work every day (or every other day) to pick up one or two items, the only thing you’re doing is increasing your risk of impulse buying.

I don’t care if you live 2 minutes away from the store and it’s “convenient”. Learn to plan ahead so you can reduce your number of shopping trips. Whether this means going grocery shopping once a week, or becoming an ultimate planner and only going once a month: planning ahead is a vital life skill!

You’ll not only get more organized but planning your life/meals out one month (or further) in advance may also help you reduce stress. How can you function day to day when you don’t have a clear picture of what your future looks like?

No, I’m not talking existentially – even just in terms of meal-prepping, being prepared and planning ahead is a great skill.

For example, I live in Canada and as I’m sure some or most of you know, Canada = snow/winter for a good chunk of the year. Who wants to go to the store when there’s 4 feet of snowbanks and it’s -40C? (No this isn’t an exaggeration. We actually get some pretty cold winters)

And that’s not even mentioning the weather advisories where they tell people not to go outside, and/or what if there’s a power outage? (This happens more often than you’d think because the winter weather freezes the power lines) Because of this, it’s absolutely essential to start planning ahead in September, or sometimes even the summer to make sure you have your pantry stocked for winter.

This is talking strictly about things that can be stored for long periods of time: canned/frozen meals, shelf-stable products (nuts, trail mixes, peanut butter) and of course, household essentials like toilet paper. (You do not want to run out of toilet paper on the coldest day of the year, trust me)

Planning your meals ahead of time will also help you keep to buying in season. It’ll help you rotate what you eat and therefor, you’ll end up with a more well-rounded diet. Look forward to the changing seasons because they mean changes in food!

Buying in season may also help you reduce your overall cost because when foods are in season, they’re usually cheaper. (Because they don’t have to be shipped in from another country)

Now, if you’re not already shopping with a list and/or asking yourself the first question, you should prepare yourself for an adjustment period. Unfortunately change doesn’t happen overnight, and however many years you’ve been impulse buying won’t be erased just because you read an article.

You’ll need to work at it, but if you stay consistent (and try not to beat yourself up too badly when you still find yourself coming home with things you don’t remember picking up) you will change your habits! And your wallet – and the planet – will thank-you for your efforts.

Like this article? Check out more here!