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Impulse Buys Are The Devil

by J. Money on Friday, January 7, 2011

impulse buys = the devilIf there’s one thing I need to watch out for right now, it’s those pesky impulse buys. I swear, you put something shiny or tasty in front of me at the check out line and odds are I’ll buy it.  Or eat it!

It doesn’t happen as often as it used to (like when we bought our HOUSE!!!  Aye) , but it’s the whole concept of “grabbing before thinking” that I’ve gotta watch for. That $hit’s scary.  And is why I always “trick” myself by just never going into stores to begin with anymore :)  (Making Xmas shopping very hard btw.  Walking into those malls off a 6-month no-entering rule REALLY messes with your mind.  There’s bright lights and flashy thing-a-ma-bobs everywhere!  It’s like Vegas, only the slots are sales racks and the dancers  are soccer moms!  Haha… do you have a nice visual now?)

But I think going forward I may have to think about this woman’s story below. I don’t know why I’ve been saving it for so long, but this was left on a giveaway post I did a while back and I’ve always liked it :) I think because the commenter was so real and honest about the whole situation once she had time to filter it all.  Clear as day when you step back and look at things!

Here’s Serenity’s story:

My worst impulse buy ever was an acoustic guitar. While most might say that it was a great purchase, here’s all my reasons why it was a really stupid impulse buy:

1) I didn’t even know how to play the guitar at the time (nor do I really know now!)

2) He’s my ex-boyfriend for a reason. He was so controlling and wanted me to get involved in his crappy cover band even though I didn’t know how to play. He basically nagged/cajolled/threatened me there in the store (along with the salesman) until I relented

3) I made the purchase on a credit card, i.e. money I didn’t have

4) I managed to convince myself that it was a good deal because it was on sale, when later I found out I could have bought the same guitar with a case for half what I paid

5) I still have the guitar and haven’t been able to sell it, even though I’ve listed in on Craigslist for a quarter of what I paid! So basically, I have a very large paperweight (guitar in hard case) just cluttering up my living room

The best line ever - “I managed to convince myself that it was a good deal.” How many times have YOU done that?!  Man… that sums up about 80% of my idiot purchases. Everything always seems so wonderful and exciting when you’re in the stores! ;)  I should print this out and put it in my pocket.  Although, if you don’t take the time to think before buying, how will I remember to check my pocket in the first place?  Oooooooh!  Put it in my wallet! haha… Serenity, on a scale from 1-10, how weirded out would you get by this? :)

What are some of the things you guys fall for? Any tricks to *thinking* before BUYING?


{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Stephen January 7, 2011 at 10:24 am

great story J. I just recently bought a $150 pair of sunglasses. debated for 2 hours if i wanted to spend the money. My cheapo pair ive had forever finally broke. Im still not really sure if it was a good buy or not. After using them for almost a week and can definitely see improvements over the crappy gas station ones. plus i just noticed this morning in the cold, they dont fog up when u put them on in the cold. plus the polarize is really nice, less dark but blocks out more sun. So they definitely have their pluses. it seems sunglass hut really takes care of their customers with repairs and returns too. So we’ll see in a year. lol

Keep up the awesome blog. i check it everyday!

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2 Melissa January 7, 2011 at 10:29 am

I have been a sucker for the daily deal sites like Groupon. There are some great deals out there but I found myself buying things I didnt really want/need just because of the deal. My last regret purchase was spending $350 to get $700 worth of salon services, they expire on the 11th and I still have $150 left to use and only a few more days to find time to get in. Plus I find I can get some of the same discounts by being a fan of theirs through Facebook. I also let some resturant deals expire because it was too far to make it. I still check out the deals but now really evaluate if I am going to use them or not, like how convenient it the location? Do I really need it? How good is the deal? When does it expire? and most times pass on the deal because it doesn’t meet my needs. The last one I bought was a 2 night stay in a nice cabin for $200, it meets a need (my daughter and I take a road trip every summer and its in a part of the state I have never been), nights normally run $250 each and a stay in a low budget hotel runs about $99 so would have paid this amount anyways, and I have until Dec 2011 to use it.

Todays Sykdiving deal is really calling to me, but doesn’t meet my criteria or my budget :(

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3 Tiffany January 7, 2011 at 10:30 am

Impulse buys are also my weakness…probably along with most of America. Magazines are the worst. It’s $5-6 for about 3 articles and 50 advertisements. And lots of tips on how to be pretty…because apparrantly I’m not pretty enough??

I actually printed out and taped this saying in my wallet…so I see it everytime I reach for my money…

“never sacrifice what you want most for what you want right now”

It really keeps me from buying stupid stuff on impulse.

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4 Annelise January 7, 2011 at 10:48 am

Groupons are the worst! I unsubscribed from all the daily deal sites and subscribed to a deal aggregator called DealGator. Now I can filter out everything I don’t want (haircuts, massages, etc.) and I only get one email a day.

Otherwise, I just leave my credit card at home when I go to work and I don’t store my credit card number on sites like Amazon. If I see something online I want to buy, waiting until I get home to make the purchase usually cools my jets.

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5 Karmella January 7, 2011 at 10:49 am

I don’t look at deal of the day sites anymore – I’ve wasted about a hundred bucks on groupons that expired before I used them.. Not a deal.

For smaller/routine purchases, I examine the basket (rarely a cart, encourages me to buy too much) before I check out. I almost always take out and put back at least one or two items whenever I’m at Target or the grocery store – and that makes me think before I pick it up, because I hate walking to put stuff back.

Anything that feels big to me, or is outside of the type of things that I’ve been really wanting, I take a step back. I research it – on my phone right there if I have to – to see if it really is a deal, and if this exact thing is what I want. If anything is “off” to me, I set it aside for a day – if I really want it, I can go back.

yeah, I still buy stupid shit, but just not as much. And I didn’t buy a 40K Volvo because I used my steps :)

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6 Nick January 7, 2011 at 11:44 am

I’m a sucker for deals, too, but I carefully stay within my budget so it hasn’t “hurt” me – it’s left me with a day or so without spending at the end of the month once, but that’s it. I had plenty of food to eat and stuff. I just couldn’t BUY anything more.

I have a couple loose rules that help me too. For groupon stuff I will not buy it the first time I see it, but tell myself to check back in before I leave work to buy it. I usually forget about it. Sometimes (twice this year) I don’t and buy the stuff. If I go back I’m comfortable that it’s something worthwhile.

In stores I generally won’t buy anything at the register (I tell myself nothing within 10 feet from the register, but don’t actually measure… although that would be fun to do…). And I am good at limiting myself to stuff I either planned on buying or planned to buy at some point soon if a good deal came up.

But geez – a townhouse on a whim! That’s a pretty big whim!

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7 Melissa January 7, 2011 at 11:54 am

Victoria’s Secret and Express coupons. Nuff said.

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8 Jess January 7, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I agree about the store coupons and such. And omg, I have to stay out of Kohl’s unless I have cash in hand because everything being “on sale” really messes with my head.

“What? Why sure I’ll buy that hideous vomit-colored shirt you have hanging on the that prominent stand there. With the sale price of $7.99, and my early-bird savings of 20%, not to mention the additional 25% off special for the grand opening of a store 7 states away from me it ONLY costs $3.60!! What a DEAL!!…Huh? Well no, I’ll never wear it anywhere, but it’s on SALE!!!”

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9 Kristina January 7, 2011 at 3:46 pm

I am also an impulse shopper. I can go into WalMart for paper towels and after grabbing everything I see and throwing it into my shopping cart, I come out of WalMart with a $300 bill.
My worst impulse purchase was my car. I bought a brand new Honda Civic on my lunch hour. OMG what was I thinking.
My boyfriends worst impulse purchase (that he still blames me for) was a $350 pair of dress shoes that he bought in 2006. They are still in the box.

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10 Melissa January 7, 2011 at 4:22 pm

One very expensive impulse purchase is actually one I don’t regret at all. I bought a $300 suit from United Colors of Benetton without planning for it. The saleslady convinced me it looked great, and I agreed. I had to have it! Since then, I have worn it to every interview and I know it has made me look very professional. I’ve even been told by a previous employer that I looked very professional in my interview! Sometimes you do have to go with a gut feeling.

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11 Kitchen Penguin January 7, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Aloha J$!

I try to limit my trips to Asian markets when I’m homesick because I’ll start buying random things just because it’s the same brand that I can get back in Hawaii. I once spent $20 on a case of Hawaiian Sun juice just because it was a brand I recognized…it wasn’t even a flavor I liked!

I don’t have anything that stands out as a worst purchase; there’s a number of poor choices but nothing big. I did remove Woot from my RSS list for a few months to take away the temptation. Can I count my ex? That was a very expensive relationship to pursue.

Warm Wishes,
KP

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12 Jenna January 7, 2011 at 4:52 pm

If I can walk out of the store and still want it the next day after sleeping in it. Chances are it was a good deal. But I try and avoid peer pressure when it comes to purchases at all times.

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13 20 and Engaged January 7, 2011 at 6:47 pm

I also had an impulse buy of an acoustic guitar! I convinced myself I was going to learn to play. Convinced myself it was an awesome buy (Fender guitar for $250 bucks?! Funny, Fender was the only brand name of guitars I knew of). It collected dust for years before my brother, who’s actually musically inclined, took it off my hands. I popped in the teaching DVD one time, and probably used my pink pics 3 times. Shame on me.

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14 Bobby January 7, 2011 at 8:28 pm

I love all the guitar stories. I have an electric guitar, I’ve picked it up a few times but I can’t play a lick at all. But it does look pretty sweet seeing an electric guitar sitting there. I don’t mind it all.

Impulse buys are definitely a weakness. I’m hoping I’m done with them for a while. Trying to put off the urge to buy a Kindle or an iPad (of course I’m also trying to convince myself that buying one of the two will save me money in the long run). Good times.

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15 Slackerjo January 8, 2011 at 8:48 am

If you are tempted, don’t carry large amounts of cash with you and leave your credit card(s) at home. If you make it hard to spend. It will be hard to spend.

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16 Everyday Tips January 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I really appreciate Serenity’s honesty!

It is interesting how much people justify spending by saying “But it was 70 percent off” or whatever. I think people are doing that a lot in the housing market right now. People are buying huge houses because of the perceived deal, even though they don’t need anything so huge and costly.

I am lucky in that I don’t like to shop, and I don’t really buy much. I did buy a Roomba though during a ‘Woot off’ that is rotting in my basement. That is my most wasted purchase.

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17 Serenity January 8, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Wow, I didn’t think that comment would get around like it did ;)

Now that I’m a bit older (for sure! my birthday was the other day) and wiser (sort of), it would take a lot to creep me out! Truly, this is a good example of the forces out there that contribute to useless, wasteful purchases. Peer pressure is definitely a strong force, especially when it comes to “hobby” items, like guitars and keyboards. Or video gaming systems ;)

Thanks for the shout-out! Hope everyone learns from my mistake!

PS I still have an acoustic guitar for sale, if anyone’s interested …

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18 J. Money January 8, 2011 at 5:50 pm

I forgot to mention – I have 2 guitars, an amp, and a piano downstairs in my basement. Total number of plays (on all instruments): 10. Although I will agree w/ Bobby’s comment below that those guitars sure do look hot! And I think they impress the ladies :) Until they ask you to play…

@Stephen – Haha, nice. I’ve been debating on spending $200 on a nice pair myself, but prob. not the best idea w/ my work situation at the moment ;) That, and I only wear sunglasses for style – not for practicality! haha… I think you did though – it’s okay to splurge if you don’t do it all the time.
@Melissa – YES! Exactly what I’ve been saying on Groupon/LivingSocial, etc. It’s only great if you have the self-discipline to *only* get what you truly need. I’ve refused to sign up this whole time, but now I have to surrender cuz they’re our partner for Love Drop! haha…. I do love them though – just know it’s not good for our wallets all the time ;)
@Tiffany – OOOOOH I like that!!! And I agree – magazines have eaten up my $ too. It’s a good thing I’ve also learned a lot from them ;) (financial ones only, really)
@Annelise – DealGator? Okay, now *that* is something I’d be down for. Never heard of it before, but will check out – thx!
@Karmella – Haha, I think I know that $40k Volvo you want too – I want it as well! :) I hate walking back to return things from the cart too – although I do it every time.
@Nick – I know – I suck! But, if it wasn’t for our house I wouldn’t be blogging this right now ;) Gotta keep it in perspective or I’ll wanna punch myself in the face. (and you’re 10 ft. rule is hilarious dude, haha – I like that)
@Melissa – Amen. (well, on that second one at least, haha…)

@Jess – Hahaha…. gotta love some Kohls though ;)
@Kristina – WOWWWWWW. on both accounts! haha…. just wow.
@Melissa – There you go! An impulse by that was GOOD! Maybe that’ll be a follow up blog post ;) The pros to impulse buys!
@Kitchen Penguin – hahaha awesome. yes, Exs count ;)
@Jenna – I do that one too. I’d say my return to the store rate is at 50%.
@20 and Engaged – But now you had a nice comment to write here ;)
@Bobby – That is SO TRUE! Guitars DO look hot laying around.
@Slackerjo – Agreed. Hard as hell to do, but agreed.
@Everyday Tips – Hahhaa… so YOU’RE the ones who buy those things! Roombas are WOOT’s fave things to sell it seems like :)
@Serenity – Hahahhaa… that would be SWEET if someone here bought it from you. At the very least I hope you got famous for a day :)

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19 retirebyforty January 9, 2011 at 10:23 am

The best trick to use before buying is to put it off.
Put it off for a month, come up with what works for you.
During that time, same up cash to pay for it and if you still want it after a month then go ahead and get it. I’ve been saving up for a sigma lens for my Canon SLR and I still want it after 3 months. And now I have enough cash to pay for it.

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20 J. Money January 9, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Yeah, that works in a perfect world :) Only part I don’t like about that is that my excitedness usually wanes by the time I buy it that way. For example, I’ve wanted these sparrow tattoos for a good 8 years now. First I wanted to make sure I liked them (I still do), then I wanted to make sure I could afford them (I can), but now I’m not *as* excited as I was in the beginning. I’ll still get them cuz I’ve wanted to all these years and I just REALLY love ‘em – but a part of the magic is missing. Same thing with waiting to buy cars, big items, etc. Is it smart and safe that way though? YUP! Just not peak fun, that’s all. I’ll still agree it’s better though :)

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21 Mike January 9, 2011 at 6:58 pm

I know what you mean with impluse buys, they are horrible. They are the ones that get you in the most trouble. Me and my ex wife are guilty as charged of this, which is why I’m such in a financial mess. My old habits are gone, but my debt is still here. It’s going to take a real long time to pay it off, but I shouldn’t see it again. Thanks for this great post.

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22 Jonathan January 9, 2011 at 10:56 pm

The worst impulse buy I’ve ever made was buying a Nintendo DSi XL like the weekend they came out. I’ve played it like 5 times….sigh.

This was one of the few times I’ve bought something on impulse. I never buy anything I don’t need. :)

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23 J. Money January 9, 2011 at 11:02 pm

@Mike – At least you caught yourself and fixed it! Some people never get to that point, and it’s crazy scary. So good job.
@Jonathan – Ouch. Guess none of us can be perfect ;)

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24 twentysomethingmoney January 10, 2011 at 12:17 am

I like how Groupon has built up its entire business of ‘impulse buyers’. See a deal, you have 24 hours to act, or you lose it forever — smart concept. People love being impulsive!

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25 J. Money January 10, 2011 at 1:27 am

I know, right? They don’t make billions of dollars (literally) for nothing ;)

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26 Jaime January 10, 2011 at 2:48 am

Yep I’ve done that too. I’ve resisted Groupon (I’ve heard of it but I don’t use it) and I hate anything that’s advertised as a limited buy. I figure ok if it sells out, so what, with companies making new products all the time and advertising to every budget under the sun, I always figure that I can find something more affordable later. It usually works out for me and I don’t feel like I have to buy on someone else’s timeline. No thanks.

Limited time available advertising is like when a monkey is dancing when the circus master tells them to. There’s this whole psychology to advertising and instead of using psychology for good means, they use it against the consumer. I hope Serenity sells that guitar or donates it to Goodwill. I don’t judge her for it though.

I’ve bought things that I haven’t used, like last winter I bought these nice new boots, I loved how they look, they weren’t comfortable but I bought them anyway. That was a lesson worth learning. I won’t make the same mistake again.

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27 Mike - Saving Money Today January 10, 2011 at 9:53 am

Impulse purchases can really screw you up if you’re not careful. Especially when you convince yourself that you’re getting an unbelievable deal to justify the purchase. I remember maybe 2 years ago Toys R Us was selling a ride-on dinosaur called Kota for like $300. My kids love dinosaurs but I was like, “No way in hell am i spending $300 on that thing.” Well, a few weeks before Christmas the price was cut to only $90. Man…I fell hook, line, and sinker and drove home with one in my trunk becuas eit was “too good to pass up.”

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28 J. Money January 10, 2011 at 10:33 am

@Jaime – Good analogy :)
@Mike – Saving Money Today – Did your kids really like it? And said you were the best father EVER?? Cuz if so, I think it was worth it :) But I don’t have kids, so I’m not one to listen to, haha….

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29 Mike - Saving Money Today January 10, 2011 at 12:52 pm

@J. Money, yea the look on their faces was priceless…but I still wonder if they jacked up the price and lowered it right before Christmas on purpose.

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30 duddes02 January 10, 2011 at 1:57 pm

My Honda.

I defintely needed a new car-but I should have gotten a cheaper one. I did not need a brand new Honda Accord.

The car payment was more than my rent!!

I’m car free and sooo happy now

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31 J. Money January 10, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Wow. more than your rent??? haha… that’s a first :) Good job my car-free friend!

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32 Charlie F January 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm

I’m glad we don’t have groupon in Flint yet.
I’ve got a bad case of Shiny Thing Syndrome.

But the way that I’ve been dealing with impulse buys, at least online, is to stick it in my cart or wishlist and come by later. Once I have time to think about it, it doesn’t become necessary.

Especially with books. I’m a book hoarder. Instead, I get on paperbackswap.com to put it on my wish list, and if I can get it, I can get it, if I can’t, I can’t.

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33 Budgeting in the Fun Stuff January 11, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I probably end up finding a way to justify purchases all the time. We didn’t NEED a kitchen scale for food but it does make Weight Watchers easier. Should I have looked into my options more than the 15 minutes I took to find one on Amazon – yes. Do I feel too bad – nope. I figure my time is worth something and justify accordingly, lol.

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34 Kevin I January 12, 2011 at 12:19 pm

My worst impulse buy EVER was my Iphone, but now it’s paid for itself in how much of an impulse buy deterrent it’s become, I just pull out my Amazon app out and scan (if the employees aren’t watching) or enter in items (if they are!) to see how much I could get it for online.

Given my impulse buys tend to be books, movies, comics, video games and electronics it’s always cheaper, I put the item down, I tell myself I’ll order it all when I get home and I never do. Saved hundreds since I started doing this, it’s been great.

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35 J. Money January 12, 2011 at 6:28 pm

@Charlie F – Good thinkin ;)
@Budgeting in the Fun Stuff – damn straight! I’m a huge fan of trading money for decent amounts of time and non-hassle. if you can afford it, power to you. (says the guy who just bought another printer @ home so he can print without bothering his wife :))
@Kevin I – Haha, nice. People make fun of me when I say that too, but you really CAN save money w/ an iPhone! I saved $80 once doing something similar (checking online first before buying while in store) and that’s already, what, 1/2 of the cost if the upgrade? It can be done :)

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36 Steve SIldon January 13, 2011 at 6:57 pm

My biggest impulse buy was the iPad. I got suckered into all the hoopla and hype. Now, I’ve got a great looking $500 paper weight that I use to play Angry Birds. Impulse buy FAIL!

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37 J. Money January 15, 2011 at 1:12 pm

haha…. I don’t know, Angry Birds may be worth $500 ;) that’s some quality entertainment!

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