How To Stop Impulse Buying: Stay Away From Non-Essential Purchases With This Simple Tip

4 min. read By Kevin Joshua Ng on

The air is feeling a bit chilly and various establishments are already putting up lights and decor. This only means one thing: the holiday season is coming. And with certainty, we can also expect all the eye-catching shopping promos and deals to populate billboards, windows, and our social media feeds.

If you find yourself naturally attracted to these, like moths to light, don’t worry—it’s perfectly normal.

These advertisements are really meant to “hack” the mind to persuade you in considering and eventually buying what they have to offer. It is what’s called in the industry as “neuromarketing”—using the discipline of neuroscience to affect consumer behavior and decision making.

So how do you stop yourself from impulse buying? Let’s turn to science.

What science says about our buying patterns

Inside our brain, there’s a part called the amygdala, responsible for emotions, emotional behavior, and motivation. Stimulating the amygdala causes a person to feel certain stressful emotions that you naturally have to dissipate. Otherwise, you’ll continue to feel that stress.

People deal with stress in a number of ways—whatever they may seem “therapeutic” like having some alone time, binge-watching shows, exercising, eating, or in this case: shopping. And therein lies the problem.

You see, if you continue de-stressing through shopping, this will form a habit—an expensive habit at that. The mind will get used to the rush of relief from adding to cart or carrying shopping bags out of the store. And you’ll continue going back to that feeling once you feel stressed or worn out. What you’ve created is a habit called impulse buying.

Read: Best Times To Buy Clothes, Gadgets, Appliances To Save Money

Three steps towards stopping impulse buying

Again, we’re here to tell you that impulse buying is perfectly normal because it’s just an outlet to compensate for the stress you’re feeling. However, it can have an adverse effect on the way you manage your money.

So now that you know how our brains are influenced to buy, that means we can also influence our brains to not buy. Here’s how you can do it.

According to Dr. Julian Ford from Psychology Today, there’s a technique you can learn called SOS. It stands for:

  • Step back.
  • Orient yourself.
  • Self-check.

1. Step back.

When you feel stressed because of all the problems you see, hear, and encounter, take a moment to step back and clear your mind. What we’re trying to introduce here is a healthy habit you can cultivate whenever you feel bogged down.

Instead of hanging around the checkout, you can take a break and relax, breathe in and out slowly and fully, then stretch to unknot tense areas in your body. This practice helps you calm your amygdala down.

2. Orient yourself.

By orienting yourself, you are re-connecting to your center—your ultimate motivations—so you can re-orient yourself to what’s important. Think about and visualize what you deeply value and believe, even just for a moment. Do you value simplicity and not living in debt? Do you believe in saving money for what really counts?

When you’re oriented, you’re disengaging yourself from reacting through impulse. Now you are consciously taking control of your mind and your life.

Read: 6 Things You Should Never Buy During The Christmas Season

3. Self-check.

Dr. Ford advises that you perform a quick self-check by measuring these things:

“First, how stressed are you, on a scale from 10 being the worst ever to 1 being completely calm and relaxed? Second, how oriented are you, on a scale from 10 being totally focused on your deepest values and 1 being completely caught up in mindless reactions and impulses?”

Answering these two questions honestly helps you become aware of the things that stresses you out and how they affect you. Doing so makes you pay attention to yourself, to how you react and feel, so you don’t make rash and impulsive decisions. This also reminds you that you always have control and it’s not the stress that controls you.

Dr. Ford also recommends that SOS should be practiced on a regular basis as a way to practice mindfulness and self-control, because it won’t do much after you’ve already bought a bunch of stuff you don’t really need.

“The best way to do SOS is throughout the day when you’re not stressed. Take a few minutes to step back by sweeping your mind, then orient by focusing on one thing, and finally self-check your stress level and your level of orientation.”

Once you turn this into a habit, you will become more conscious with your actions and you get to enjoy taking control of your life. Because at the end of the day, you can’t put a price on peace of mind.

About the author

Kevin Joshua Ng

Kevin Joshua Ng Kevin Joshua Ng is a digital marketing professional and car enthusiast who has written for In The Garage, a trusted resource for car owners in North America.