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The Worst Impulse Buys & How to Avoid Them

Almost everyone has made an impulse buy at some point in their life. If you ever purchase something on a whim because “it’s on sale”, “you just have to have it”, or my worst excuse, “you might need it someday” you are guilty as charged. I know I have mentioned this before, but an impulse buy is any spur of the moment, unplanned decision to buy, made just before a purchase. It could mean buying a pack of gum at the checkout counter or purchasing a brand new 70” T.V while out window shopping. No matter how big or small, it is an unnecessary hit to your wallet. Too much impulse spending could even lead to debt. Below are some of the worst impulse buys you can make.

Credit card debt can result from too much impulse shopping.

Credit card debt can result from too much impulse shopping.

Rental car insurance
A friend of mine actually used to sell rental car insurance and even she says it’s not necessary. If you have auto insurance (which is mandatory if you own a car) you are most likely covered in the rental car too. If you aren’t sure, call your insurance provider. Chances are you can add the additional coverage for a fraction of what the rental care company is urging you to buy on the spot. It’s a pretty good rule of thumb that if you have to buy something on the spot without thinking about it or researching it then it is an impulse buy.

Items at the checkout counter
This may not be one of the worst impulse buys but definitely the most common. Candy Bars, Gum, Energy Drinks, and magazines are all strategically placed right where you are stuck waiting to check out. They are unnecessary and they are just sitting there screaming “buy me”. Don’t give in! To stay on track with your budget, our credit counseling advice is to only buy what you intended. You can have a snack and a drink when you get home. For me, it’s the magazines that are so enticing. Not the trashy ones with articles about the Kardashians and Dancing with the Stars, but the ones packed with recipes and pretty pictures of cupcakes and “5 minute meals”. I made the mistake of giving in the other day and buying a magazine full of cupcake recipes. Worse, I didn’t even look at the price before I purchased it. The magazine cost me $10 and when I got home I realized I could have found all the same recipes for free online. Talk about buyer’s remorse.

These scams are the worst! I am actually ashamed to say that I almost made the mistake of purchasing one. My boyfriend and I were lured in by a free night stay at a hotel. All we had to do was sit through a quick sales presentation. Knowing that we are financially savvy people, we accepted the trip with plans to get through the sales presentation and get out as fast as we could. But these people are good. They make you feel like buying into their vacation program is something that you have to do. As strong as we were, even we believed that this was something we just had to purchase.

After the presentation was over we sat down to talk to someone about prices (something we had NOT intended to do). We went back and forth with him for a while and were convinced that we should buy the vacation package. Here’s the catch about timeshares, more often than not they offer you a smoking deal that you must purchase before you leave that day. If you wait the price gets jacked up to an insane amount. The sales person had us going for a while, coming back with deal after deal that we had to accept that day. Luckily something hit me over the head and I realized how insane it was. We don’t even have enough time to take all the vacations needed to make this worth our while. They push the idea that is an investment and it will pay for itself. Don’t be fooled! They made it almost impossible to walk out of there without buying one of the packages.

Once I snapped out of the trance they had us sucked into I kept thinking to myself “If this was something we planned, researched, and saved for it could be worth it”. That is their plan, they don’t want you to research it because then you’ll realize it is unrealistic and not really a good deal at all. As with all impulse items, if you haven’t thought the purchase through so that you know it’s exactly what you want, you are better off passing.

Infomercial Gadgets
The gadgets you see on TV when you are up late at night or early in the morning may seem like they are just what you need. The guy on the TV screams at you and practically tells you are crazy if you don’t jump at the opportunity to buy his latest contraption. Fight the urge to “buy in the next hour and receive a free gift.” If this item is worth buying, it will show up in the stores. Once the item is in the store you can touch it, smell it, or taste it and make sure it’s actually worth buying.

The best way to avoid these impulse buys, and any other impulse buys that sneak up on you, is to follow a 30 day rule. Instead of buying the item you want right away, write it down on a piece of paper or put a note in your phone. In 30 days revisit that note. If you still feel like the purchase is worthwhile then do your research and purchase it. If you follow this rule you are sure to cut down on how much you spend on stuff you don’t really need.

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today.


Madison is a Marketing Communications & Programs Associate at ACCC. She is excited to share her tips on saving money and being financially responsible here on the Talking Cents blog!

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