Is impulse buying a compulsion or a habit? The answer is probably YES. Just like drinking wine, some people can drink wine and not be an alcoholic, but still occasionally drink too much and end up with a hangover. The answer depends on whether the impulse buying is harmful to healthy living and reaching personal goals. For some, impulse buying can be a simple case of misplaced adrenaline seeking (more on that in a minute), and for others it can be the outward sign of a deep seated and unresolved loss.
How can someone avoid impulse buying? Someone who wants to reduce their impulse buying can start with observing their own behavior and its consequences.
- ,Simply reading this article can be a good first step.
- Practice daily habits to stay organized, and watch how the spoils of shopping work against those habits.
- Mindfulness techniques can help.
- Natural consequences, like tripping over too many boxes at home, can be a wake-up call.
- Having to hire a professional organizer and spend money to clear out items that you spent too much money on and barely (or never) used can be a cry for help. Let your professional organizer flag when enough is enough.
For those who really want to make a change in their behavior, simple steps can be effective.
- Cultivate other activities and hobbies so you don’t find yourself in shopping mode.
- Stay out of the stores.
- Don’t watch the shopping channel.
- Stay off of Amazon.
- Recruit an accountability partner to check in on your mood and buying habits.
The more you frequent stores and online shopping sites, the greater are the chances that you’ll make unplanned purchases.
When we buy something new, our brains say, “OOOOhhh, isn’t that pretty,” and our hearts race a little faster. That’s adrenaline and another brain chemical called dopamine being released. Our body likes that rush, and our body and brain are happy to repeat that rush as often as our checkbook will allow (and sometimes more often).
On the flip side, studies show that we fear the loss of something more than we appreciate the gain of something. It’s how our brains are wired. It’s a physical part of us, just like our nose is a part of us. Having a goal of accomplishing something besides impulse buying can be helpful, but it has to be a really magnetic and strong goal. A weak goal, something that doesn’t cause those same brain chemicals to flow, just won’t cut it. For some people, just knowing this key bit of brain physiology can be helpful in reshaping their motivations.
A good resource for learning more about willpower and loss avoidance is Kelly McGonigal’s book The Willpower Instinct. She demonstrates that our behavior doesn’t have to be fixed, but rather, it’s a muscle we can build. Practicing the 24 Hour Rule can help you build this willpower muscle to avoid impulse buying, and reduce clutter in the home.
Bottom line, this is a complicated issue that can be skin deep in some people and can be improved for other people with counseling and therapy.