6 Strategies To Curb Impulse Buying

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: pexels.com

Since my diagnosis of ADD a few weeks ago, I’ve been seeing some of my old behaviours in a new light. This goes for things I do that I would rather not do, such as misplacing items, procrastinating and changing the subject out of nowhere, but it also goes for some of the strategies I’ve built over the years to cope with those tendencies. I know see how I’ve been working on ways to navigate how my brain works effectively in this society. One of the things I’ve always been hyper-aware of is my tendency to spend money on things I don’t really want or need (having an impulsive streak is common for people with ADHD).

My relationship with money is tricky. I grew up in a family where money was not really considered an issue (we never lacked anything) but where it was also clear that many things were too expensive for us: horse riding lessons, a piano, going to restaurants or hotels. We lived quite economically and spending money ‘frivolously’ was often frowned upon.

When I finally had some money of my own to spend, I would find myself often buying things that really made sense in the moment but were hard to justify later on. I like buying things, which is odd because I like beautiful things but, in general, I’m not very attached to my stuff. There is, however, a sense of possibility that comes with buying something new. Like you are exploring a different version of yourself. Maybe I could be a person who wears long skirts, or someone who puts copper pans up in the kitchen for decoration. Maybe I will make my own pasta from now on, why not right? (This is why: I don’t particularly like spending a lot of time cooking.)

The thing is, once I got home I had never magically become a different person, but rather found myself wondering where I was going to put all this stuff.

Over the years, I’ve used various tactics to curb impulse buying. Here are some of the ways that worked best for me:

  1. Ethics
    It was probably partially running into The Story of Stuff (if you haven’t watched this short film, you can do so here) online over a decade ago that changed my perspective of stuff in general. I started thinking about the impact of buying things and looked more into buying natural materials and how ethical the production process was. This limited the amount of stuff I could buy by a great deal and I still adhere to many of these rules, which lowers the temptation of fast fashion.
  2. Buy used stuff
    Buying second-hand became a reflex when we were living on a single income with a small baby. It seemed to make more sense ecologically, financially and socially (the second-hand shops often employ people who need work experience here, or give their profits to charity in the UK and US). Buying second-hand clothes definitely limits the amount of clothes I buy, but it can also be tempting to buy stuff you wouldn’t buy if you’d have to pay full price for it, so in that way it might encourage spending, too. It’s a double-edged sword in that respect.
  3. Borrow first, buy later
    I have a soft spot for books, reading them, gifting them, and of course buying them. If you go to second-hand book shops the problem only increases ten-fold. So my go-to now is often the library: can I borrow the book I want to read? Or if the library doesn’t have it, can I borrow it from someone who does? If it’s really good, I might end up buying it to take notes in it (which I then, of course, never do), but often I’ll take a few key ideas from it and move on to something new. I can do the same for other items that are used rarely such as that pasta maker I wanted to try out.
  4. Going on a spending-fast
    I’ve done a couple of specific spending-fasts. There was even a whole year in which I decided not to buy any new clothing other than the absolute necessities (I think I bought new underwear once). This not only meant saving money and having less stuff, but also freed up a lot of mental space. No need to worry about missing out on a great bargain, or finding something new for a party.
  5. Making myself ‘earn’ what I want.
    Here’s my natural tendency: I get an idea (let’s start swimming twice a week). I get really excited and want to do it right, which equals buying all the right things (new bathing suit meant for frequent swimmers, swimming cap, goggles, etc.) I have a TON of fun buying a lot of stuff, but then end up not using it more than a few times.
    So, I’ve taught myself to use what I have first, and then, if I maintain the hobby or habit, I allow myself to invest in it. I used my old bathing suit ’till it was worn out completely, and started using old pens for bullet journaling first. I bought cheap acrylic paint, and switched to something a bit more pricey after I’d done about 5 paintings.
  6. Using less visible saving accounts
    My savings accounts are with a different bank than my checking accounts. Every month, right after my paycheck comes in, I put a certain amount into savings. Not seeing that money there makes it seem as if it’s not as readily available, and it isn’t really. I have to log in to the different account (in more than one occastion requesting a new password because I lost the old one because, you know, ADHD), then transfer the money over, then wait a few days. If I’ve gone through all of those processes in my mind, the impulse to buys something is often already gone.

I believe we all develop these little tricks we use to deal with ourselves effectively. Perhaps it’s a treat you give yourself after a workout, or a specific habit you’ve established because it works for you. If we look back on our lives at the solutions we’ve previously found for problems we had, I think we often find that we already have a pretty good self-made arsenal of strategies to apply to the problems we have today.

It’s worth taking a look, right?

2 thoughts on “6 Strategies To Curb Impulse Buying

  1. The whole time I was reading this, I was just thinking how relateable it all was: growing up not being able to afford riding lessons ( I had yard sales to pay for them myself 1 at a time as I earned the money for awhile), constantly misplacing things, and being really intentional about the things I choose to buy. I definitely want to check out The Story of Stuff. I did a clothing fast for a year in college, and that, combined with living out of two suitcases in China, really helped me realize how much happier I am with less clothes. But the one thing I love to splurge on is brand new books from local bookstores 🙂 Always enjoy reading your writing and so glad our paths crossed 11? 12? years ago!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 12 years and a lifetime ago! I’m glad you enjoy it and definitely glad to feel like someone shares my story. I believe that does wonders for the soul!
    I still have too many clothes, to be honest, with many that I haven’t worn for years. It’s definitely time to Kondo the heck out of my closet again. But I do notice that I don’t really want to go clothes shopping either because there’s so much and it’s just overwhelming. I tend to splurge on office supplies and plants. I guess we all have our things :-D…


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