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The Impulse Buyer’s Survival Guid

APEF: Solving the Financial Illiteracy Crisis

As high school students, you're bombarded with advertisements, tempting offers, and the latest trends vying for your attention. Impulse buying--unplanned purchases without prior thought or planning--is easy to fall prey to; understanding its implications on finances is essential in building a solid financial foundation. Below we’ll explore what impulse buying involves, why it can be problematic, and ways of combatting it effectively.


What Is Impulse Buying? 


Impulse buying refers to making purchases without prior thought or planning, usually as the result of something catching your eye or seeming appealing in the moment. Impulse purchases of trendy gadgets, flashy accessories, or delicious treats can quickly derail a budget and add financial strain.


Why does impulse buying pose a risk?


  • Impulse purchases can quickly spiral out of control and force you to exceed your budget.

  • Impulsive purchases often leave us with feelings of guilt or regret after their initial excitement has subsided- say hello to buyer’s remorse!

  • Each impulse purchase represents one less dollar that could have gone toward savings or meeting your financial goals, such as tuition payments or purchasing a vehicle in the future.


It’s not just on you- companies intentionally employ strategies to get you to make those extra purchases! Being aware of such tactics can help you avoid making these quick spending decisions. 


Ways Companies Encourage Impulse Purchases:


  • Limited-Time Offers: Companies often create a sense of urgency by offering limited-time discounts or promotions. This can prompt you to make quick decisions without fully considering the purchase.

  • Point-of-Sale Displays: Eye-catching displays strategically placed near checkout counters grab your attention and tempt you to add extra items to your cart before completing your purchase. How many times have you added candy or gum to your purchase while at the register because I mean, hey…it’s right there and looks good!

  • Online Recommendations: Online retailers use algorithms to suggest products based on your browsing and purchasing history, tempting you to make additional purchases. You don’t even have to go looking for products anymore- they come to you!

  • Flash Sales and Deal Alerts: Flash sales and deal alerts notify consumers of “exclusive” discounts or special offers, encouraging you to buy before the opportunity disappears.


How to Avoid Impulse Purchases


  • Create a Budget: Draft a detailed budget outlining expenses related to essentials, savings, and discretionary spending. Stick as closely as possible to it in order to prevent impulse buys from derailing your financial plan.

  • Make a List: Prior to shopping in-store or online, create a list of what needs to be purchased and stick to it; avoid veering off course and making unplanned purchases.

  • Wait It Out: When you feel the urge to buy something on impulse, give yourself a cooling-off period. Wait 24 hours before making the purchase. Often you'll find that the desire fades, and you're glad you didn't spend the money. 

  • Opportunity Cost: Before making an impulse purchase, carefully consider all of its potential uses. Is it worth giving up long-term goals just for one moment of satisfaction?

  • Practice Mindfulness: Be conscious of your spending habits and the emotions driving them. Are you purchasing items to fill an emotional void or keep up with peers? Being more aware of these motivations will allow for more intentional spending decisions. (Anyone else suddenly feel like doing yoga?) 

Mastering the art of resisting an impulse buy is a valuable skill (especially in this age filled with constant temptations), and can set you on a path towards financial security and independence. Being mindful about spending, following a budget, and prioritizing long-term financial goals are keys to successfully resisting impulse buying and getting closer to financial freedom. Before buying, ask yourself some questions- do I need this? Do I really want it, or do I just want others to see me with it? Does it get me closer to my goals? Every dollar saved now brings us one step closer - so take time to pause, reflect, and make choices that align with your values and future plans!

Soft skills refer to a set of personal attributes, behaviors, and social attitudes that enable individuals to interact effectively with others in a workplace or social environment. These skills are essential for building healthy relationships, communicating effectively, solving problems, and collaborating with others.

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