Before you beat yourself up about giving in to your impulses last year and swear not to do it again this year.  Here is a little story for you.

I was making a quick trip to the supermarket to pick up some fresh fish for dinner as I do most Wednesdays.  This particular day just happened to be the Christmas club shopping day.  From the minute I walked into the supermarket, I was tempted (and willingly succumbed!) by the tasty morsels that were being handed out.

They ranged from chocolate to cheese, seafood to wine and everything else in between.  Every aisle had something to sample.  Instead of coming out as I usually do with just my fish, I also had cheese, two bottles of wine, squid rings and chocolates.

How on earth did this happen?

Retailers encourage you to impulse buy and they do that by stirring our emotions and senses.

Here are four tricks of the trade to help you impulse spend.

  • The senses – This is the one that got me at the supermarket – the free tastings.  The smell of fresh bread encouraged me to spend more than usual.  But it can also be the plush carpet our feet sink into when we walk into store that just makes us want to stay awhile longer.
  • The Layout – The longer you stay in a shop, the more likely you are to spend. Particularly if you aren’t really sure what you are looking for.  It is very easy to wander round the department store and things just catch you eye as you are passing.  You finally make it out of the store and at home find you seem to have purchased a few more gifts than usual.  Does Uncle Jim really want a travel alarm clock?
    You can blame Victor Gruen for this, he was an Austrian architect who designed the shopping mall.  The moment when you stop shopping for something in particular, and start just shopping in general is the “Gruen transfer.”
  • Product Placement – Supermarkets place the most expensive items at eye level, you almost have to be down on hands and knees to find the lower priced products.  How can you resist the chocolate bar or magazine while you are in the queue to pay.  Many other retailers do similar things.  While waiting to pay there are these tempting little add on’s that you can’t help looking at.  A fancy hair-tie, a mini egg whisk and the car deodoriser have all ended up in my shopping bag!

Beware of the, “oh, won’t this go nice with that!” conversation with the shop assistant as they hand you the shirt or jacket that goes with the jeans, or the wineglasses that go with the crockery.

  • Competition – Sometimes the survival instinct just kicks in. It’s on sale so I have to have it!  This TV will never be as cheap as it is today screams the advertising.  If we stopped and thought about it, our rational brain will tell us that is a load of rubbish, there will be something similar coming up again soon.  But instant gratification has kicked in and we just don’t want to wait, so we elbow the person next to us out of the way, because there is only 10 of these wonder TV’s and we just can’t not have it. If we think something is scarce, our competitiveness goes up a notch

“How do I avoid impulse spending?”

Easy.  Have a plan, get organised and stick with the plan.

If you know you are a sucker for the impulse buy.  Find your most frugal friend and take them with you.

If your friend can’t come with you, work out how much you want to spend, take cash and leave the cards at home.

If you would like to know more about your money behaviours and how to curb your impulse spending, start by taking the Money Personality Quiz here.