Over Spending & Impulse Buying: 8 Reasons Why You’re Not To Blame

I was returning from work Friday evening (I take the bus), when I overheard a conversation between two women (possibly co-workers heading home).
One woman complimented the other on the blouse she was wearing. She smiled and responded, “Glad you liked it. You know, I had to hide this from my husband. He would throw a fit if he knew how much I paid for this!”

I am sure you can also relate to similar situations. Think back to the last time you spent money. Perhaps it was yesterday or even a few hours ago. Perhaps you can’t remember the last thing that you bought!
Ask yourself the reason for making that spending decision. Did you buy something necessary such as groceries or medication? Was the item something you needed or just wanted at that moment? Did you worry about having enough money to pay for the item? Did the purchase cost more than you thought it should or did you even worry about the price? Did spending the money make you feel guilty or did it give you pleasure?

At one point or another we all come across moments where we can’t resist the urge to buy something. I usually get the “reality” check when I receive my credit card bill! While we sometimes get criticized for over spending and impulse buying, I don’t think that it’s ENTIRELY our fault! Society, strategic product decisions, advertising and marketing make certain items so…. appealing!

1. “Touch me, use me, take me home!”why we can't resist to buy
This is especially true for electronic items. Have you noticed how companies unveil their latest gadgets? Ideally, they want you to pick it up, touch it, or interact in a multisensory way. They want you to “come and experience” it(for free!). Naturally, you want to. After all, there is so much hype around the product, and you want to “try it yourself”.

When you get a taste of the experience, you instantly get emotionally attached to it. Before you know it, you are thinking of ways to ”squeeze” some money to buy this “marvelous” product!

2. “Use this coupon to get a 10% discount”save money I often feel like I am loosing “free” money if I don’t use the coupon.
Coupons can compel you to buy items that you don’t really need. Often, it is likely that you wouldn’t have bought the item, had you not seen the coupon. Saving $2.00 off a $20 item is good, but not spending the $20 in the first place is much better. Don’t you think?

3. Temptation near the checkout counter
Once you purchase the items you need, you have to wait a few minutes until it’s your turn to pay the bill. Irresistible DVDs, alluring magazines, along with overpriced beverages and candy…. Retailers make good use of this situation, by placing these near the counter!

4. "Oh my gosh! That's so cool. I've gotta get one." window shopping
Shops have a funny way of ”romancing the consumer”! Whether it’s just wandering into a store or standing before a display window, you get sucked in.

5. “Buy 2 and get one free”buy one get one free Arh! The word “free”! You feel compelled to buy it, just because you get one item free. Have you noticed that most of these item prices end with .99($5.99, $14.99)? This make it a little more difficult in calculating the “saving”. I am yet to see a person computing the mathematics! As a result, “buy two get one free” might actually lead to saving a few cents.
Another factor to keep in mind is the expiry date. Sometimes, they package things you need, but these items are about to expire. So having 3 of the same item wouldn’t do you any good.

6. “I buy things thinking they’ll cheer me up, give me something to do.”
Recently one of my friend’s broke up with her boyfriend and to get through the ordeal she started spending time at the mall. If she saw something that made her feel good, she would simply buy it without thinking much.
Shops go to extra lengths to ensure that shopping is an enjoyable event for the customer. There are times when I went shopping and felt like I did something good, fun, and beneficial!

7. “30% Off on when you purchase above ...!"
When you see a “super deal” like this, you feel like a winner. These deals make you believe that you WILL save money. However, this offer requires you to spend a certain amount, in order to get the percentage off. This is a great bargain if you have items that you actually NEED to buy, but often you end up buying frivolous items just to take advantage of deal.

8. “Call and order right now and receive this added bonus of..” as seen on televisionOur desire to spend start with the hundreds of advertising messages we're bombarded with each day from multiple media, from television and radio to billboards and email pop-ups.
Advertising agencies carefully select models, images, settings, scenes, and story lines to evoke an image, a feeling, and a fantasy of how one's life would be transformed through owning a product. How many times have you fallen a prey to these advertisements?

Have you caught yourself falling trap to any of these situations?


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rummuser said...

I am a sucker for books. When someone recommends or even just mentions that she has read a new book that was interesting, I must get it. That, luckily, is the only weakness that I have!

Avani-Mehta said...

Is this a necessity or a want, Do I really need it ... usually makes taking decisions (saying no to temptations) easier for me.

Shamelle said...

@rummuser: I know what you mean. I also have a tendency to buy books that have an appealing review.

@Avani-Mehta: Its great to hear that you can filter out the "necessity" and the "want". Not many people have that kind of self discipline.

Daniel Allen / The Efficiency Proposal said...

This is one of the better posts I have read today. I feel like I have been retaught the basics of shopping and spending. Some grocery stores, gift shops and online sites have great marketing plans that can screw you over.

Shamelle said...

@Daniel: The "advertising and marketing" reminds me of "fish nets" :-0) Once we are caught it is extremely difficult to get out of.

Robin said...

Hi Shamelle - I think no 6 is especially true for a lot of people - buying things can be another type of addiction, and a way of filling in time.

Shamelle said...

@Robin: Yes, shopping can be an enjoyable experience.

Stacey Shipman said...

That's why I wish I had the money to hire these marketers! They are good!

That said, I see these as messages. Messages that provide information we can make decision based upon. We always have choices - we can buy into the message and make the purchase or not. If we decide to make the purchase, we have to hold ourselves accountable for that. If I make a purchase because of the discount coupon I received in the mail, that's my choice. I could have tossed the coupon on arrival. No one to blame but myself.

Vered - MomGrind said...

I have become very conscious of the situation at the checkout counter. I used to ALWAYS grab something extra while I was standing there. Not anymore!

Robert A. Henru said...

Hi I wanted another point... the last day offer. Discount only for today. Special price only for today. It's one that caught me the most. It's really the temptation of letting go a good deal, as if it never comes back.

What I learn, they also need to do sales. So don't worry, they will have another sales promotion again.


Shamelle said...

@Stacey: You make a good point Stacy.

@Vered: Aha... so you have got caught to the checkout tactic.

@Robert: Thanks. I missed that one, possibly because I haven't been subjected to that "deal" lately.

F.D. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kelly@SHE-POWER said...

Marketing has become very sophisticated over the past 30 years and it's true that we have an uphill battle to stick to our budgets and not spend unnecessarily.

Come on, all of society is geared up to get us to spend. Shopping has actually become a hobby for many people!

I think it's particularly difficult with kids. You can't tell me that my mother and grandmother had to deal with the struggles I have taking my kid anywhere near a shopping centre. As soon as a kids movie is out, half the items in the supermarket are merchandised and displayed in prominent positions. They want the moms to be pressured to spend money. Shrek cereal. Shrek chocolates. Shrek jelly. You can't walk down an asile without your kid saying, "Mommy, mommy, I want this". It drives me insane!


Shamelle said...

@Kelly: Yet another example.... of how we are "persuaded" to spend money.

Shamelle said...

F.D: I had to remove the comment as the language used is not suitable to be displayed here.

Andrea|Intuition In Business said...

I usually know what I want/need before I leave the house. It really helps to have clear intentions. My intention might be to spend a frivolous hundred bucks on clothes or to buy a new gadget (like my iPhone ... sigh!). But it's a conscious decision. I really never regret my purchases.

I think a good question to ask is - what need am I really trying to fill? Usually, there's an inexpensive way to fill the need.


Shweta said...

Good points here Shamelle, i completely agree.. for some of us shopping comes as a "remedy" or get away from stress or depression or just addiction to sales :)
But you have to give the marketing teams of the store a pat on their back that they eventually get us to buy even what we don't need just because of a compelling promotion or offer..
maybe that's what we home based entrepreneurs need to learn from them ;-)

Kimberlee said...

Excellent post!

I personally don't get caught up in marketing, as I have learned through experience. My needs and wants are very separate. I have learned to get by on less, and to control my wants. Possessions are just things, that take up your time, energy, and money. When I do splurge, I usually buy inexpensive gifts for myself. (I love notebooks!)


kiwimeg said...

This seemed extremely relevant right now -
I've just got home from the supermarket. All those tempting things at the end of the aisles . . . I just kept my eyes on the shopping list!!

Shamelle said...

@Andrea:I admire the fact that you seem to be in good control of what you NEED to buy. You set a good example for the rest of us.

@Shweta: Oh, Ya... full credit to the marketing teams :-0)

Shamelle said...

@Kimberlee:But watch out.. little inexpensive gifts, overtime add up :-0) I don't mean to spoil the bubble, but as long as its under control a gift occasionally can be a great uplift.

@Kiwimeg: Good good... you came out a winner :-0)

MizFit said...



can you come here and tell my HUSBAND Im not to blame? :)

Shamelle said...

@MizFit: Now, now... play nice :-0)

Sarah said...

Well... #1 is a big one for me. I love technology and gadgets and I love getting new ones. Unfortunately... tech is way more expensive than many other things (candy bar at the checkout counter vs. new camera that is completely awesome?)
Another thing I struggle with in the purchase area is when I'm out shopping and I see something I just know my HUSBAND will love... he doesn't ask for it, but I buy it anyway, just to please him. Happy thing, yes, but I have to be careful or we'll run out of money!

Sara at On Simplicity said...

I'll be honest: my first thought was, "Of course the buyer is to blame! Take responsibility!" But you know what? I always manage to leave the grocery store with at least five items that weren't on my list, usually due to good packaging or placement.

People are spending 40-hour workweeks trying to get us to buy stuff. It's too bad that I don't have 40 hours each week to train myself against these tactics. Still, being aware of the methods of manipulation can go a long way in combatting them, so this was a very helpful roundup for me.

Angel Cuala said...

Honestly speaking, it's the first one that drives us nuts especially my wife who loves kitchenware etc.

But for discounts, sale, they are not attracted to me. We try not to look at the price but rather the use of the item.

I think the best way to avoid these enchanting attraction is to avoids having credit cards, or do not bring them with you when shopping.

I do not have one, anyway.

Mary@SimplyForties said...

I know so many people who play the "hiding it from their partner" game. That seems to highlight a real schism in the family finances. I try really hard not to fall into spending traps. Knowing I have to come home and write down my expenditures on my spreadsheet is enough to keep most of my spending in check!

Nick said...

While I agree that marketers are very good at influencing us and trying to encourage us to purchase, the final decision and responsibility is our own. If we can't take responsibility for our own actions then it is unlikely we will be able to successfully manage our finances.

Roy @ Let's Celebrate said...


*** Arh! The word “free”!

Hahaha. Sometimes it makes me to think, "Companies are busy to give us something FREE; but they're also spending millions on commercial to let us know 'how we can hv it FREE!'”

You hv from it every angle. Poignant article.


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