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10 steps to breaking your impulse buying habit

You're walking down the aisles of your local supermarket. You've picked up lunch, but you've just spotted a darling little milk jug with polka dots that will go perfectly with your cake platter. So you drop that in your basket. Then you see that it comes with a teapot and sugar bowl, so you grab those too. And then you might as well take the six matching mugs. You're feeling very pleased with yourself as you approach the till, so you don't think twice about buying a cookbook of delectable cakes now that you have a lovely set to serve high tea.
 
Does this scenario or one with shoes and dresses, or scarves and jewellery sound familiar to you? If this is how your trips to the shops routinely turn out, then it's probably safe to say that you have an impulse buying problem. Some impulse spenders have the classic high-and-crash of addicts, while others truly get joy from their purchases. Whatever the manifestation of your shopaholism, taking these ten steps will set you on the road to recovery.

Accept that you have to get your impulse buying under control
Like the old joke about how many psychoanalysts it takes to change a light bulb (one, but the light bulb has to really want to change), you're not going to modify your spending problem unless you really want to. Impulse buying is like an addiction, and it can be hard to break the cycle of indulgence. The first step to moving on is switching on your willpower which is easier said than done by telling yourself, I don't want to do this anymore. And then make a point of sticking to it.

Do a budget
Every month, you should work out how much you've earned, how much you need to spend and save, and how much credit you have to pay back. After you've allocated all of these funds, you can spend what's left on random purchases. When you start to think of your spending indulgences as eating into your hard-earned surplus in monetary terms, it's a lot easier to get past the urge. But remember to allow for a month-end treat for sticking to your budget to keep you motivated.

Cut up your credit cards
This ties into the previous point, but it's so important that it deserves to stand alone. If you are buying food or clothes or even furniture or appliances on credit, you have your saving system backward. You should be able to afford these things from your monthly income or short-term savings for PLANNED expenses. Don't get into a cycle of rotating debt or paying back credit only to spend it again by the end of the month. You're costing yourself a fortune in interest, and you're just shuffling mud in and out of the debt hole. And by cutting up your credit cards and leaving one at home for emergencies, you are making it just that little bit harder to break out the plastic and spend, spend, spend!

Make a list, stick to it
This is possibly the simplest and most effective way to break an impulse buying habit. Before you go to the shops, or online, or near a mall for lunch, make yourself a list of what you need, and then when you get there, stick to it.

Understand marketers' tricks
Remember that from the moment that you step into a mall or open a magazine or visit a website, marketers are using their tricks to get you to part with your money. By making yourself aware of the ways in which you are being manipulated, you can go some way to becoming immune to their games.

For instance, don't be bought in by three for the price of two specials if you were only going to buy one. Make eyes front your rule, and don't give any tempting displays a second glance.

Identify your triggers
Try to keep track of when you're most likely to impulse buy. Is it when you're sad, lonely, bored or anxious? If you identify the triggers that cause you to grab an item and head for the tills, you can learn to control your impulses or avoid the shops altogether when it's a bad time.

If you notice a pattern that shopping is distracting you from some other emotional need or problemseek help to address the underlying issue. Talk to friends, find a support group or see a therapist.

Never shop when hungry
Have you ever heard the expression, your eyes are bigger than your stomach? Well, the impulse buyer's eye is muuuuuch bigger. If you have a food impulse buying problem, try bringing a packed lunch to work or shopping for food at 10am before the hunger pains have set in. When you do your budget, allow for the little treats that get you through the day, like a cappuccino or a pack of chewing gum, but remember to stick to your list.

Deregister from all discount or group buying newsletters
Who needs the temptation? Every group buying newsletter should have a deregister option. Use it. You have to let go of the mentality that you're going to miss out on something important. All you're missing out on is another opportunity to spend money on stuff you don't really need.

If you are planning a holiday or need to buy a beauty treatment or a USB storage device, then check out these marketers' websites (do not resubscribe), and ask for the alert that tells you when a similar deal becomes available.

Ask yourself the right questions
Make a mental note of these questions: Why do I want this? What will I use it for? Do I have anything else like this? Do I really need this? Is it on the list? Is it in the budget? Is it good value? If you answer these questions honestly, you will probably find that you don't really need that suede belt or those pink espadrilles. But it's very important to accept the answers that you give yourself.

Implement a waiting period
Most impulse buying is exactly that impulsive. If you make yourself wait half an hour (or preferably a day) for any purchases you haven't budgeted for, you'll often find that the desire has gone away.

And if you do find that you're still desperate for whatever purchase you had your eyes on a day later, remember to check your list and your budget before making any buying decisions.

Go be impulse free!
It isn't easy, and it isn't fun, but in the long run, getting your impulse buying habit under control will benefit you immensely. Remember that these ten steps will help you to spend your hard-earned money on things you really need. Good luck! 

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