It’s time for me to confess- I am a former impulse shopper myself. Target, Homegoods, Amazon, outlet stores, you name it. I always made up an excuse for why I just had to have the item in my hand. For some reason it always ended with “but it’s on sale” or “it’s a good deal”. Then to defend my purchase further I would sit there and tally up how much money I had saved. Spoiler alert: if you are “saving money” on items you don’t need and probably don’t want aren’t really saving money.  

To face this problem head on I went to the opposite extreme and would stop buying things. Sometimes that even meant skipping out on purchasing items that I truly needed. Think of me standing in Costco debating whether I needed tall socks for Winter. (I only had ankle socks at the time and my ankles were pink from being frozen). 

I realized there had to be a happy medium. I wanted to enjoy my hard-earned money and most importantly my life! Over time I came up with three questions that I now ask myself anytime I am debating making an impulse purchase.  

To start with let’s define an impulse purchase. I believe that an impulse purchase is picking up an item to buy that I had not intended to buy when I first walked into the store. And no, I don’t just mean that pack of gum or almonds that you grab on your way to the register. 

Here’s three questions you can ask yourself next time you are thinking about making an impulse purchase? 

Question 1: Is this item a want, need, both, or neither? It has taken me a long time to be honest with myself when it comes to this question. Because if you try hard enough everything can become a need. The point of this question is to slow down my instinct of throwing an item into my cart and regretting it when I see how much money I’ve spent or junk that I’ve accumulated. 

Question 2: Will I still want this item in a few days or weeks? This is one you’ve probably heard before. Sometimes, old school tricks really do work best. If not, I then ask myself what is going on in this moment that is causing me to impulse shop?   

Question 3: What will I use this item for? This question stems from a lot of unnecessary purchases I noticed I was making. When I would go through my clothing at the end of each season I had so my items that still had tags on them that I put in a giveaway bag because I would never wear them. Now, I try to mentally think of a few places where I would wear that outfit before heading to the register. 

In the long run, these questions have saved me a lot of money, clutter, and more importantly changed my relationship with shopping. Rather than fearing oh no how much money will I spend here or the extreme opposite of avoiding shopping all together I can go into a store and enjoy the experience. At the end of the day shopping is meant to be fun, right?  

Caroline Tanis