Finances & Debt

10 Tips to Manage Impulse Buying

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Let's admit it, retail therapy can be a lot fun – and an easy money trap. We’ve all bought on impulse believing we just had to have the perfect “whatever.” It’s easy to spend based on emotion, but remembering a few tips,  like the 10 listed below, can help remind anyone to balance what you want with what you can really buy.

1. Budget before you buy. 

Know what you want – and what you can afford. Have an idea of what your current budget allows – and save ahead accordingly if the purchase will exceed that budget. 

2. Research major purchases.

Gather information about the item or service you want and the seller. Check out consumer reviews, test results and consumer reports. This is especially important on big-ticket items like appliances and autos. 

3. Check out a company’s complaint record.

Start by contacting the Better Business Bureau in your city or your local consumer affairs office.

4. Get it in writing. 

Get a written copy of guarantees and warranties and compare features of the product or service you want to purchase.

5. Before you buy, be prepared. 

Get a copy of the seller’s refund, return and cancellation policies – so you know what recourse you may have if you're not satisfied with your purchase. This is especially important if you are working with an online seller.

6. Make sure the price is right.

Compare the price that is advertised versus the amount listed at checkout, whether you're in the store or online. Registers and websites are not always updated, so be sure to ask if you thought you would pay a different price.

7. Read the fine print.

It's definitely worth your time to take a few minutes to read and understand any contract or legal document you are asked to sign. Make sure there are no blank spaces. Have an attorney review the documents if you are unfamiliar with any of the terms, conditions or disclaimers listed. 

8. Consider paying by credit card.

With this option, if you have a problem with the purchase, you can readily dispute the charge as it creates an electronic record that can be tracked and referenced by you, retailers and financial institutions. 

9. Make sure you know who to ask for help.

Review the different ways the company or seller offers customer service (via phone, email, web chat features, etc.) in case you have a question or problem with the product.

10. Take a breath before you buy.

Before you take the plunge, take a moment to ask yourself, "Do I really need this right now?" A persuasive salesperson, enticing features or your emotions might try to convince you that you do. But waiting just a little bit or weighing the financial pros and cons will ultimately help you be more confident and comfortable with your decision.