How to Say "No" to Impulse Buying
By Rebecca Davis.
We reveal the secrets to shopping willpower.
Welcome to spending season - that heady period from October through December
when catchy holiday displays and special offers abound. There you are,
innocently window-shopping, when you spot a pair of fabulous pumps - 20 percent
off! - that you just have to have. Impulse purchases like this are big
business: More than 40 percent of the clothes women purchased in the first
quarter of 2006 fell into that category, according to research by the trade
association Cotton, Inc. And a whopping 60 percent of all purchases are
spur-of-the-moment, reports the Marketing Science Institute (MSI). You're not
safe from temptation online, either: In 2002, nearly 40 percent of e-purchases
were impulsive. It's not that you have zero self-control - it's just that
buying yourself a little (or big) something has an almost hypnotic effect.
"Shopping can provide a pick-me-up and make you feel more in charge of your
life," says April Lane Benson, Ph.D., a psychologist who specializes in
compulsive-buying disorder. A better idea: Take charge of your wallet by
resisting the urge to splurge. Here's how.
Window-shop without money.
Shopper's high - that lift people get from hitting the mall - comes from
dopamine, a brain chemical that's emitted when you do something pleasurable
(such as eating a giant slice of pizza or having sex). And that euphoric
feeling is especially potent when the enjoyable activity exposes you to
something new - like all that gleaming merchandise you haven't seen before -
according to research by Gregory Berns, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry
at Emory School of Medicine.
Think about it: The first time you have sex with a new partner is generally
more exciting than the 100th time. That's because more dopamine is being
released into your brain.
To take the "newness" out of the buying experience, window-shop
first without your wallet. Then, you can return to the store with a clearer
head and some self-control. This extra step takes a little more time, but the
savings are worth it.
Don't make shopping a social thing.
Shoppers who hit the stores in groups of three or more made 7 percent more
impulse purchases than those browsing alone or in pairs, according to research
from the MSI. If you really want company (say, a pal who can tell you if that
dress makes your butt look big), pick one friend who isn't a big shopper so she
can keep your spending in check, advises Benson, who has created a
compulsive-buying treatment program (stoppingovershopping.com).