Simple Ways to Curb Impulsive Buying

January 4, 2021 Updated: January 4, 2021

Having just come through holiday spending extravaganza 2020, otherwise known as Christmas in America, I’m getting dizzy from early reports of how many billions of dollars we spent—and I can’t help but think about what an impulsive shopper I am. It’s that momentary thrill of the impulse purchase, the destroyer of budgets. It’s in my DNA. It’s who I am, and trust me when I tell you that I fight it every day of my life.

Over the years, I’ve employed a bevy of counterattacks to deal with my impulsive nature. But honestly, stiletto pumps have never made the list.

Shop in Heels

According to Brigham Young University researchers, balancing activities such as wearing high heels could lead to wiser purchasing decisions.

How on earth could pinching your toes help you pinch pennies? The study concludes that being slightly off-balance while making spending decisions—whether that is walking on high heels in the supermarket or shopping online while tipping back on your chair and balancing on two legs—helps us to make more balanced choices.

I haven’t tested this theory; I don’t have to. If I were sentenced to only buy things while walking in stiletto pumps, I wouldn’t buy anything. That’s just how difficult it is for me to walk in super-high heels. Apparently, that’s the point.

Be careful who you bring along on shopping excursions. It may be best to shop alone to rein in spending. (LADO/Shutterstock)

Bring Cash Only

This is my favorite impulse-killer. Forcing myself to carry only cash—no plastic at all—keeps me on that proverbial straight and narrow. Yes, it is a pain in the neck in this digital age to plan ahead in this way. But it’s hard work that pays off big.

Cash makes me count; it makes me focus. Knowing I have only cash in my wallet keeps my mind in high gear, ahead of that “coma spending” condition that so easily kicks in when paying with plastic.

Try it: Leave the plastic at home. Stop by the ATM to get the amount of money you can afford to spend before you head for the grocery store, mall, gas station, or coffee shop—any of the daily destinations that are calling for you to spend.

Show Up Full

I’m talking a full stomach. Never shop hungry. You can’t think straight in that condition; you’ll make silly choices, especially if you’re shopping for groceries. Even if this means heading straight for the bakery department and grabbing a cookie, do it. That will stave off hunger long enough for you to keep your wits about you and your impulsive nature in control.

Use a Time Rule

This is one of my most successful impulse-killers. I rely on it often.

Sometimes it’s my “one-hour rule” or “24-hour rule,” but it could as easily be a “30-day rule.” The idea is the same. When I think about or see something I want, the rule requires that I wait a certain amount of time before making the purchase. The longer I can go, the better.

If, once the required time has passed, I still want to make the purchase, then I can move forward. Usually, I don’t want to—and isn’t it funny how that works?

Be Careful With Shopping Companions

Shopping with the wrong people—or any people at all, for some of us—can be deadly. If you bring the kids along to the grocery store, for example, you easily become distracted. Kids can be so persuasive. If I have an impulse-happy shopping friend along for the ride, it’s so easy to let her persuade me to let down my guard and just go for it because “it’s so you” or “it’s on SALE!” You know.

I’m best when I fly solo. I can keep my concentration intact; I don’t feel compelled to explain my frugal actions; and I lose that feeling that I need to impress anyone. I can just get in and out of there quickly—on my schedule.

Shop Online

One of the things I love about shopping online is that it’s much easier to ignore unrelated items. I go to Amazon, put what I need in my cart, and check out.

If I am in a store, I’m much more likely to happen upon an outfit or shoes I suddenly really want. I’m so easily swayed by extraneous things!

What’s the solution? Except for groceries and pharmacy items, I rarely shop in physical stores. That means I probably don’t need to worry about making an impulse purchase of a pair of stiletto pumps to wear shopping to keep me from making impulse purchases.

That would be wrong on so many levels!

Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog and the author of the book “DebtProof Living.” Mary invites you to visit her at her website, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at contact, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Copyright 2020