Beating impulse spending

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Life has been fairly busy lately. Last month, I took a week off to go to Washington, D.C. I always take some time-off before my company’s fiscal year-end in October. As an Accountant, it is my busiest and most hectic time of the year. I usually can’t wait for Christmas to roll-over!

This year even more than past years, as I will be in France with my family for the Holydays. This hadn’t happened in three years. The main reason is the prohibitive cost of plane tickets, basically double the “off season” prices.

So, how did I end-up buying an expensive plane ticket to my home country?


Yes, it was totally an impulse purchase. Until I pressed the “buy” button online, I had no plan to travel for Christmas.

Impulse shopping is extremely common. Many studies show a large amount of our purchases are driven by impulsivity. Our brain is actually wired to seek pleasure and spend money! Making purchases triggers dopamine, a “feel good” hormone.

This is what “retail therapy” is about

Alas, dopamine does not stay in our system forever. For some people, it is unbearable. They will seek this “feel good” rush by impulsively shop again, and again.

After the purchase binge, usually comes regret, shame and/or guilt.

Impulse spending can -and will-derail the best laid financial plans

I definitely feel a bit guilty of my purchase. After all, it is money I won’t have to invest. But, I don’t necessarily regret spending this money; and just in case you are wondering, I will not cancel my trip. More on why below.

So, how to beat impulse-spending?

There is a lot of advice on the net, such as budgeting for fun or freezing your credit card. While these sound like good ideas, they have about the same effect as putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound.

Deeper self-analysis is required to overcome impulse-spending

Impulsivity is a reaction, more than a character trait. After spending impulsively, the real question is: what are we reacting to?

It all comes down to spending triggers

We all have these, including myself. I have been probing under the surface to figure out what I was reacting to.

I have been reassessing my relationships across the board, lately. A lot of things have changed over the last couple of years, in my social life and in my friends’life. Unfortunately, it has not all been for the better and it has impacted me negatively.

The fact I am single and that I don’t have any family here also didn’t help.

I have been feeling lonely, and it triggered this impulse purchase. Loneliness has crept up on me for some time, despite not being alone. I have been thinking about ways to beat it, not just for my finances, but also for my mental health and well-being.

Final word

It is only once you have figured out the real cause of your impulse spending that you can find solutions to end it. Self-analysis can be painful and make one feel vulnerable. But it is a necessary step.

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