Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Dangers of Impulse Shopping

Are you guilty of it? Most of us know that’s the reason all the candy bars, gum, magazines, and trinket items surround the grocery checkout lane. These same item displays have spread to every store from Wal-Mart to Kohls. These tiny add-ons pack on the money too.

Consider this, a regular pack of gum at the checkout aisle in $1.39. If I walked three aisles over to the gum and candy section, I could buy a multi-pack of three of the same gum for on sale for a $1. I just paid over 70% more for the convenience of not walking a few steps. Frugalnistas know this type of thing can add up quickly. This is the same reason we scan the gas stations is to get a few cents off the gallon because it all adds up eventually. Why do we buy impulsively?

Convenience is one, but often we buy items we never considered buying when we walked into the store. We come in for one item and leave with a different one, a more expensive item. A store wants to sell items, be it a brick or mortar store or online. Often the sale item will be surrounded by similiar items or add-ons. If you're buying a turkey, then you'll want gravy, turkey bags, a pan, stuffing, etc. Sometimes the sale item is flanked by items of better quality. The 49.99 microwave you originally planned to buy doesn't look so good sitting next to the more loaded models. The store is suggesting items to buy simply by placement. Online stores do this too.

Amazon always recommends a slew of items when I sign on to look. They know what I have bought or looked at previously, the fact I signed on is also an indication I am looking to buy. There is no real difference than the efficient salesperson that offers to bring a different color or size. Salons also used this technique. I went into a salon to use my gift certificate for a manicure and pedicure, and had upgrades suggested throughout my visit from a brow wax to flowers painted on my toenails. The impulse buy can also be fueled by the sales people. Not once, did I think of flowers painted on my toenails before I walked into the salon.

Often, you get home with your impulse buy and immediately regret it. Not enough to return it, besides it may have been final clearance and you can’t return it. Sometimes, we buy out of emotional need. Women will often joke about retail therapy. Nothing makes you feel as good as buying a new pair of shoes, unless it is two pairs. The feeling tends to go away when the shoes are uncomfortable. When the bill comes, it goes away big time. I’ve had incredible bargains sitting in my closet until I gave them away to Goodwill since I couldn’t use them or even sell them at a yard sale.

Avoid impulse buys by asking yourself these questions. Do I have to have it right now? (If you wait three days, you’ll be amazed that the feeling passes that seemed overwhelming at first.) If buying clothes, shoes, or accessories, can you wear the item to three different occasions? (The only thing you can rationalize wearing once is a wedding gown.)Do I have something similar to this already? ( How many pairs of black pants, black shoes, or corkscrews do you really need?) Am I buying this because I’m sad, disappointed, or even angry? Emotional buying never results in a good decision.

Want to avoid emotional buying don’t browse. Some people love to window shop, they cruise in and out of various shops with no real intention of buying anything and leave with an armload of bags. Credit makes it seem so easy because it is not like using real money. Shopping is not a recreational activity. If you need an item research it, before you shop. Look at the sales ads and check out prices online. This way you only need to hit one store with the best price. Pay in cash, always. You’ll be amazed how fast cash runs out. That is your budget telling you that you’ve spent enough.

What if you have a closet of impulse buys you now regret? Many stores will let you return them with a receipt. Others will let you exchange it for store credit and get something practical. You can also make gifts of them if no one has seen them yet. Item with tags still attached sell very well online. Just make sure to post good pictures and a detailed description. No one buys anything without a photo or a description. Often you can sell items you received as gifts you don’t want online too.

The one last thing that causes impulse buying is children. We’ve all seen some child throwing a tantrum in aisle twenty because his mother won’t get him a toy he wants. The way I dealt with this was I explained to the children before I went into the store that they would not get a toy or other item. If they were very good and didn’t ask for anything, they could pick out a candy that the three of them could share. Did this work? Yes, but it included me leaving the store once when one child tried to throw a tantrum. They all learned tantrums do not get you anything, but major trouble.

In conclusion, plan your trip, shop with a list, try not to shop when you are hungry or blue, and pay with cash. Any item not on the list but calls to you, use your questions. If you can’t afford to pay for it in cash then you don’t need it. Cutting out the impulse buys will really help your budget.

My final advice: those magazines that have those zinger headlines, which you buy for just one article, go ahead and get in the longest line you’ll have time to scan it without paying five dollars for a collection of advertisements. I will admit to paging through and seeing what stars look like without their makeup…like us. It would not have been worth three or four dollars to find that out.

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