How to Prevent Impulse Purchases
In our pursuit to eliminate all that is non-essential, it is imperative that we stop to examine our feelings of want.
Despite having an unprecedentedly high quality of life, our desires are seemingly endless. We want more and better things. We think that we will be happier when we upgrade our lifestyle.
This desire for more is natural and even necessary. It is part of a healthy psyche, as it fuels our ambitions to improve our lot in life. We shouldn't berate our primal instincts for doing its job. We should embrace it, acknowledge it, and address it.
Too often, I have repressed my desires for more with statements like “I can't buy this” or “I shouldn't buy this” that only made the cravings worse. I've recently felt an insurmountable desire to buy new tech. A better headset, a better mouse, maybe an iPad, a better computer setup, a better camera...
Whenever these feelings overwhelm me, I follow a few simple steps to come to terms with it.
- Breathe. The first and most important action is to take a step back from our intense desires. An the moment, you might feel that our self-worth depends on acquiring a certain product. That's okay; advertisers spend billions to make us feel that way. Take a deep breath, and remove yourself from your desire for the product.
- Inquire. The next crucial step is to gently ask yourself why you want something. Inquire your deepest motivations with a curious mind, like that of a child. Remember never to blame yourself. If you start to blame yourself, remember that your mind only has the best intentions, even though its methods may be wrong. It simply thinks that you will be happier with more material possessions. You should thank your subconsciousness for its service, and gently ask, “why do you want this thing?” Whatever answer that you have, accept it as is.
- Appreciate. The next things to ask yourself is, “Am I happy with what I have now?” Look around the room, and take a moment to thank the objects that you own that make you happy, those that bring back jovial memories. It's common to realize that you have enough. You may even discover that you already own what you wanted to buy, yet simply forgot that you got it a long time ago.
- Evaluate.After this introspection, many of your desires will already have evaporated. Many of your desires are fleeting, and you may be happy with what you have. Sometimes though, the desire for a product remains. For me, it's usually some form of tech gadget. For you, it may be something else. In this scenario, I always set a reminder one month from now to re-evaluate my purchase. The rule is that if I still want something a month from now, I can buy it guilt-free.
Our Inner Narratives
The key takeaway from my strategy is to ask our deepest and the most honest feelings why we want something. If we understand the innermost roots of our desires, we can better prevent ourselves from impulse buying in the future. While all of our reasons may vary, here are some common narratives from my personal reflections:
- Status symbol. Oftentimes, the people I perceive to be wealthy and successful all seem to have something that I do not, and that might prompt me to want it as well. In this case, we should recognize that status symbols are merely that – a status symbol.
- Wanting to be a different version of myself. We've all have the experience of signing up for a gym membership since the “ideal version of ourselves” is someone that goes to the gym daily. We should recognize this discrepancy between our idealized image of ourselves and who we actually are, and learn to appreciate our current selves. The yoga mat that I barely used, or those books that I never read, the online courses that I didn't finish......it happens.
- Wanting something different. As a technology geek, it's common for me to want a sidegrade for the sake of it being different than the one that I currently use. It helps to take a moment to acknowledge how well our existing possessions are serving us in our daily lives.
- Fear and insecurities. We all have that innermost insecurity that we don't share to anyone. We may have a complex about our looks, worry over our past mistakes, or we may be anxious about our future. The truth is, buying stuff will (usually) not solve our problems. Only action will.
- No financial clarity. The easiest to fix with a practical life skill, sometimes we just think we can afford something that we can't. Fortunately, it's easy to gain clarity over our finances. You Need A Budget is my recommended tool of choice to become financially independent that completely changed how I view my money.