Impulse Buys | Ok, If You Gain Fulfillment From Them

Impulse-buy-cartoonImpulse purchases – you just never see them coming. The impulse to buy can strike when you least expect it: being frazzled at your job, can lead to the urge of treating yourself to some new clothes after work;  you’re bored at home and decide to just “browse” your favorite online stores; even when you’re out shopping with a grocery list, it’s hard not to give into the impulse of buying something you “can’t live without” at the moment.

However, not all impulse shopping is bad – some splurging every now and then can serve as a healthy indulgence without breaking your budget. That Starbucks double mocha latte on the way to work serves as a stress reliever as you drive in what seems like a scene straight out of the Fast and Furious chronicles.  We can all agree, some impulse buys are more of a need than a luxury.  It’s the regretful and purposeless impulse spending we need to work on curbing!

So when you feel the urge to buy something just because it’s there, pause, take a deep breath and ask yourself three simple questions, and I promise, by reflecting on these questions before you spend your money, you’ll be one step closer to aligning your spending with what really matters in your life.

 1.     Will I receive fulfillment from this purchase? It’s definitely easier to apply this question to past purchases, but even then, you can glean some valuable insight into whether or not your shopping habits really make you happy. I can point to a few obvious things in my life where I’ve spent money on something which really did bring me fulfillment: a good mattress to sleep on, a high-quality haircut, a pair of expensive but durable boots which I wear every day in the winter.  That said, most of the other things I’ve bought (the new shirt I bought impulsively the other day, for example) fall pretty low on the fulfillment scale.

2.     Is it aligned with my values? This question carries one major assumption: ‘you know your financial values’. If you don’t have a list of financial priorities, think of the top three things that really matter to you and where you’d like your money to go. Would you like to travel more? Eliminate your debt once and for all? Improve your health? Once you’ve got your list of your top three priorities, it’s easier to evaluate if a purchase really aligns with your values.

3.     How would this expenditure change if I didn’t have to work for a living? This one is a shocker – once I started asking this question, I found that I could eliminate almost half of my purchases in the last few months, if I didn’t have to work for a living.  Those happy hour drinks to unwind after work, the formal business attire which I wouldn’t normally wear, even that Double Mocha Latte I buy on the way to work- it all may disappear if I didn’t have to work for a living.

The surprising result for me after I did this exercise?  Most of my purchases didn’t bring me fulfillment nor align with my values, and many of the things I bought wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have to work for a living. If I took time to reflect on these questions before buying, I’m confident that I would buy 90% less ‘stuff’, drink half as much coffee, and have much more freedom with my money to spend and invest in those things which genuinely matter to me.

What purchases in your life would be different if you started asking yourself these three questions?

Photo source:  Chris Madden Cartoons

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  1. If I really took these questions to heart, I’d probably only spend money on the basics (food, shelter, clothing), meals and drinks with friends (aligned with my values), and travel. Maybe rental real estate once every few years.

    We’re doing okay with our budget but a lot of our impulse buys go to things I don’t think really add value: the occasional pizza to just avoid cooking, clothing that’s not really required but looks nice, I guess…stuff like that.

  2. Jim says:

    Thanks Done By, I think that occasional pizza adds great value, the value of time! If buying a pizza instead of cooking allows you to spend more time with your family, I think it certainly adds value…..At least you can justify it as such 🙂

  3. Very interesting about number 3! I would imagine that financial freedom, for most PF people anyway, would amount to a lot less of those impulse/reducing stress buys.

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