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Stop Impulse Buying – 10 Easy To Follow Steps

By Samuel Jefferies
Money Nest does not provide financial advice in any form. Contact a licensed professional before making any decision. Investments can go down in value as well as up. Post may contain affiliate links.

It was 8:15 on Monday, October 1st.

Billy had just woken up, he started to smile as he thought through the previous two days partying. Yet felt a sudden pang of regret as he checked his online bank. His saving’s had been diminished and his saving goal had yet again, slipped further away.

This week was going to be different, he told himself. This is the week I’m going to stick to my budget, this is the week I change.

And then life happened.

Monday & Tuesday he worked late, so picked up a couple of mid-week takeaways. Thursday he walked through town and purchased a new jacket (he couldn’t remember his clothes budget anyway). Finally, on Friday lunch he purchased a new winter coat after receiving a promotional email.

It was on this same Friday lunch he bumped into Jack. Jack worked the same job as Billy joining a year later but since being transferred to another department they no longer saw each other much.

Jacks first house
It wasn’t pretty, but it was his – Jacks first house.

When Billy asked Jack what he was up to this weekend he almost fell over – ‘You’re moving into a house…a house YOU purchased’ said Billy. ‘Yes, replied Jack I stopped impulse buying and started saving up over the last couple of years.’

‘What!’ Billy thought to himself, ‘it’s been my goal to purchase a houspe since I joined this company three years ago! How’s Jack done it in two years… my savings are still the same as they were three years ago, his heart trembled. I know! His parents must have bought the house for him.’

So, Jack – Billy replied ‘You’re lucky, not all our parents can afford to buy us houses’.

‘My parents?’ Replied Jack, ‘oh no I saved myself after reducing my impulse spending’.

‘What!?’ Replied Billy.

Jack replied, ‘Billy, I’ll let you in on a secret, once I set about reducing my impulse spending. It was just a case of waiting for my savings to accumulate.’

‘Well replied Billy, tell me how!’

‘Sure’ replied Jack ‘The first way was…’

I’ve compiled all 10 of Jack’s anti-impulse buying strategies into an easy-to-reference training guide you can download and follow if you’re serious about reducing your impulse spending…..

Step 1. Have and understand your budget

Potential change: 14%

The first step is to build your foundation. This comes through not only ‘having’ a budget but understanding it to the point you know by memory how much per week you can spend in each area (e.g. Socialising, clothes, food).

This is easier than it first sounds since most of your costs (tax, rent, fuel, council tax, phone, gym) are fixed (or vary little week by week). So focus on socialising (e.g. going out, eating out, cinema etc), clothing and food.

Personally, I’ve saved them in my phone and written them on my office whiteboard so I can easily pull them up.

Jacks Sub-steps:

  • Create a budget

    Having a budget gives you exceptional clarity over your overall financial health – if you’ve got no map how can you be expected to arrive? If you’ve haven’t already got one, I recommend you grab my free budget template.

  • Write the figures down where you’ll see them

    I’ve saved these as a phone reminder and written them on my office whiteboard (visible whenever I’m on my laptop). Typically you’re most likely to overspend on socialising, clothes and food. So ensure you know these numbers to massively improve your chances of keeping to a budget.

  • Write down everything you spend

    When I first left home I wrote everything I spent down in a small notepad. The habit didn’t last beyond several months but gave me a clarity on my typical spending habits alongside ingraining habits (where to buy groceries and how much to expect in utility bills).

Step 2. Don’t use plastic – draw cash for the week

Potential change: 20%

My mum recounts the story of how she used to be paid weekly by cash – any money she hoped to save was quickly deposited in the bank. Whilst the rest sat in an envelope being drawn throughout the week. As the week went by the thickness of the envelope got thinner and thinner making decisions to impulse spend harder to justify.

Yet in today’s world, we’re all carrying less and less cash and only ever really need it when shopping at a market. In the day’s of contactless and PayPal the emotion involved in making a purchase has almost been completely removed. We can be completely unattached from the debt we’re building…until it’s too late.

One way to avoid this is to draw all the cash you need (according to your budget) for the week, avoiding any card payments. You may just find your spending habits shift as you literally see your money vanish before your eyes.
Debit card

Step 3. Use your bank

Potential change: 10%

[sociallocker id=”523″]
When I got my first ‘proper job’, my intention was to move any leftover money at the end of the month to a savings account. Naturally, this rarely occurred.
However, after reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad I got into the idea of paying myself first meaning before I spent any money I put aside savings into a separate current account.

By opening up a separate bank account I keep any savings completely separate from my spending account. So I can easily check my balance and see how much money I have left for the rest of the month, whilst watching my savings (hopefully!) accumulate over time.

This has the double benefit as I shift my money into another current account I’m able to gain better interest on my money.
Transferring between accounts[/sociallocker]

Step 4. Buy your groceries online

Potential change: 15%

This has been a game changer for me. Ever dread your weekly grocery shop? It takes time, you never remember everything and usually overspend. After moving in with my girlfriend we started ordering our groceries online (to save time). What we didn’t anticipate was just how much we’d save. Once you enter a grocery store you fall down the advertiser’s rabbit hole – at every corner, there is a deal or tempting sample to try.

Did you know grocery stores hire psychologist’s to discover how to extract more money from you? Cornell University even discovered food marketers design friendly faces on cereal boxes who look at a downward angle so they hit eye contact with small children?

By avoiding entering grocery stores you can avoid this huge temptation.

Pro Tip: Plan your meals ahead of time. By planning our meals for the week (Monday – Friday) then only buying the ingredients for these. We’ve almost managed to eliminate the mid-week shop, reduce waste and save even further.

Online grocery delivery

Step 5. Unsubscribe from newsletters you keep buying from

Potential change: 5%

Ever decided to put off that online purchase, only to shortly receive a promotional email? Yep, the Marketers are back! Not only are they following you all over Facebook they’re sending you product-specific promotional emails.

By unsubscribing not only will you have a clear inbox, you’ll reduce the huge temptation that arrives every time your favourite retailer drops you an email.

Unsubscribe link

Step 6. Unfollow the tempting brands/retailers on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram

Potential change: 3%

Like to the previous step – if you’re trying to reduce your impulse spending and you’ve got a newsfeed full of designer clothes brands,  sportswear, and high street fashion how is this going to help? Unlike these pages to reduce the Marketing.

Unlike pages

Step 7. Take a break from Pinterest.

Potential change: 3%

This deserves its own step. Pinterest is like a beer festival to an alcoholic. It’s a mecca of the latest and greatest <insert search term here> I know, I know that shiny dress/necklace/hair bob you saw your colleague/friend/person on the train wear and you just gotta get your own – giving Pinterest a break will great for your financial health as well as mental !

Pinterest Logo

Step 8. Avoid going into your favourite shops (especially when your willpower is low)

Potential change: 20%

When I first started this blog post I was going down a completely different angle. As my research ran deeper, I realised reducing your impulse spending was really about reducing the temptation points to impulse spend. Reduce the temptation points and you’ll naturally buy less stuff.

Particularly in the evening when the American Psychologist Association has proven your willpower is lower.

Leading us nicely into our next point….

Reading town centre

Step 9. Avoid high streets

Potential change: 10%

Is there a way you can completely avoid the high street? Three years ago, I worked in Oxford and would drive past McDonald’s both on my way to work, on return and pass another McDonald’s every lunch. As you can imagine I ate a lot of McDonald’s this year!

With the warm aromas of open food vendors, chattering of market stall operators and pumping music. Walking down a high street (or shopping centre) is like an assault on your six senses. Unfortunately for you, your sixth sense, in this case, happens to be an almost involuntary arm movement as you reach for your credit card.

Avoid high streets as much as possible to again reduce the temptation to overspend.

Google maps

Step 10. Set phone reminders.

The University of Colorado proved learning something new has been proven to release dopamine, making us feel excited and good about ourselves. Yet the solution usually involves a tireless continual habit day on day. Take dieting as an example, a book can set you a strategy (work out your daily caloric needs, eat -100 calories a day and track everything). Yet it’s up to you to build a habit around the strategy and yield the result.

Impulse spending is no different – a mixture of reducing temptation, building habits and training willpower. Over time all become easier but in the early day’s you have some work to do. To keep you on track set a weekly reminder in your phone prompting you of at least one of the previous steps.



Reducing your impulse spending is incredibly effective at bolstering your savings.

Just be sure you follow these steps to make sure your efforts are maximised:

Step 1. Have and use a budget
Step 2. Don’t pay with plastic
Step 3. Use multiple bank accounts
Step 5 – 7.  Unsubscribe/unfollow from shops you’re most likely to buy from
Step 4, 8& 9. Avoid town/shopping centres and physical shops
Step 10. Set phone reminders to keep yourself motivated

The next step for you is to download my impulse spending action plan. I’ve packed up a set of huge bonuses to help you massively reduce your impulse spending, inside the resource centre you’ll get:

  • – All 10 strategies in an easy-to-reference training guide
  • – A copy of my personal budget template
  • – A copy of my sticking to a budget guide



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Reader Interactions


  1. Great post as always Sam! I’m definitely guilty of quite a few of these… It’s so easy to just go into a shop or cafe, pay on card (you don’t even have to remember your PIN anymore) and the next thing you know you have to dip into your savings as you’ve ran out of money for the month… Will try some of your tips out!

    • The other day in Decathlon I got my debit card out to pay, I decided to use my credit card instead but before I could the contactless scanned my card despite being a 20cm or so away! Let me know how you get on with the tips!

  2. Great post. I wish had stuck to these tips years ago! Spending on plastic is the one I still struggle with the most. It’s just so convenient, but then I guess that’s what the banks want!

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