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Unexpected Ways to Curb Impulse Spending

Nowadays, with one-click ordering, smartphone and in-app purchases, it’s much more difficult to keep impulse shopping at bay.

May 17, 2021

Back in the day, aspiring budgeters used to put their credit on ice, literally, to try to stop impulse shopping. Freezing your credit card overspending was as simple as throwing your credit cards in the ice tray, letting them freeze and using them only when they’d thawed out. 

Nowadays, with one-click ordering, smartphone, and in-app purchases, it’s not as easy to put impulse shopping on literal ice. But, we’ve gathered a few strategies that could help when you're figuring out how to stop impulse buying. 

With even a small barrier in place, you'll have the mental space to take a step back and analyze why you’re spending and even put a stop to it. Here are a few tips for getting started.

Spend more on groceries, spend less eating out

Compared to a professionally prepared, restaurant-quality meal, your home-cooked dinner can feel pretty blah. Though it may seem counterintuitive, spending more on quality ingredients at the grocery store could actually help you spend less on food overall.

You can save even more at the grocery store by always buying the most affordable ingredients (think local and seasonal), but when it comes time to dine at home, the options could seem less than enticing. With nothing calling your name from the fridge, you might be more likely to turn to Postmates or your local pub for a quick bite. 

We’re not endorsing caviar and lobster straight from the seafood department every meal, but don’t be afraid to spend just a little more on groceries you’re excited to prepare and eat. Having delicious ingredients on hand will still save you from the 300% markup of a restaurant meal. 

Don’t let yourself see the money

What you can’t see, you can't spend. Take advantage of auto transfers and other automated banking tools. Try sending a portion of your paycheck to savings automatically, so it’s harder to see it as spending money. 

Leave your wallet at home

For many trying to control impulse spending, leaving home without a wallet can feel like heading out in a snowstorm without a parka. But when you leave your cash and cards at home, you eliminate the temptation to spend. 

Of course, you may need money in the event of an emergency, say on a road trip or long day out, but try practicing short trips out of the house without your wallet on hand. Going on a walk or heading to campus for a class? You likely don’t need money for that. 

It can feel scary, but roaming around without the ability to spend eliminates that impulse or unexpected purchase. It can be a helpful way to reset the way you spend. 

Write everything down

Try taking a pen to paper and recording every single purchase you make in a week. Not only does it serve as a data point for how you spend, but it also could be that barrier to entry that makes you think twice about buying. 

Instead of pulling out your card to charge a latte, you’ll have the extra step of writing it down in your spending diary. Although small and achievable, recording a purchase is more annoying than exciting. 

After your week of recording all purchases, you could have a starting point for creating a budget.

Save the money you planned on spending

Oftentimes, the instant gratification of spending is more exciting than the prospect of saving. To help reframe saving, try creating a savings account specifically for impulsive spending.

When you find yourself tempted to spend money, transfer the cost of the item into your impulse spending savings account. As you watch this account grow, use it for saving up for travel or some larger spending goal —instead of watching it disappear on smaller, less-tangible purchases. 

It’s easy to say goodbye to a few bucks here and there, but this trick can help visualize how even saving a little can lead to much more down the line.

Reset passwords for that money mindset

Use your account passwords as an opportunity to create money mindset mantras. Instead of auto-filling every password from your email to your Instagram, reset them to encouraging phrases that control impulsive spending, like “DebtFree2022” or “St0pM1ndlessSpending.”

Typing these phrases multiple times a day to enter accounts can help reinforce your commitment to keeping your budget at bay.  

Make it much harder to spend

Things like in-app payments and credit cards saved in-store accounts can make it feel like you’re not even spending. Make it harder for money to leave your account.

  • Try deleting purchasing apps from your phone that make it simple to order ahead or make one-touch purchases.

  • Remove auto-fill information from the website where you regularly spend. That way, you’ll have to enter a credit card each time.

  • Unpair smartphone payment tools from your debit or credit cards.

Even the time it takes to rustle up a debit card may be enough to talk yourself out of a purchase

Earn a little fun money every day

Take your spending habits back to grade school with a daily allowance.

For example, if your budget allows for $150 of fun money a month, break it down to daily allowance, meaning $5 a day (150/30=5). Making yourself “save” a little of that allowance every day can help strengthen those self-control muscles. If you only have $5 a day, it pays to wait a few more days to save up for something good

Institute no-spend days

Changing spending habits all at once can be hard and exhausting. Instead, try for just a single day a week to institute a no-spend policy. Live off leftovers, substitute a walk in the park for happy hour and bask in the $0 day.

As you conquer a weekly no-spend day, try for two or three. Instituting this challenge can push you to find fun ways to spend your time, which doesn’t require breaking out your credit card. 

Learning how to curb impulse spending can be a great way to avoid additional debt, but it still might not be enough to conquer your existing credit card debt. If you’re looking for a helping hand, check out Tally. With automated tools that keep your debt all in one place, you can knock out debt faster. 


Want more ways to keep your debt at bay? Get started with Tally in minutes.