How to spot red flags to help stop impulse buying

1 June 2024

Strategies for spending less
  • Behavioural economist Evan Lucas offers simple tricks on how to stop impulse buying and spot red flags.
  • Avoid late-night online shopping by ‘sleeping on it’ and ensuring your decisions align with your needs in the morning.
  • Be aware of retailer strategies such as shelf placement and enticing smells. Shop with intention and stick to your list. 

Impulse spending is more than buying chocolate at the supermarket register. Understanding how your feelings come into play is important for avoiding financial scammers, stopping late-night online shopping sprees and, yes, resisting temptation while grocery shopping.

Evan Lucas on clever hacks to curb your impulse shopping and save more

Sleep on it’ before making online purchases

Is online shopping becoming part of your bedtime routine? You’re not the only one. Research shows that the later in the day it is, the harder it becomes for us to make good decisions and resist bad ones. “That’s why buying those new trainers or that dress feels like an absolute necessity late at night,” Evan explains. “It’s like we have a daily decision budget – it gets used up over the course of the day.”

He suggests that the next time your thumb is hovering over ‘add to cart’, “sleep on it, recharge your decision batteries and make sure you still want it in the morning”.

Only buy what you need in the supermarket

Did you know supermarkets put the milk at the back, so you have to wander past temptation? “There are myriad ways retailers reel you in,” says Evan. “Notice how the most expensive items are often at eye level?” Start looking above and below the shelf directly in front of you. “Bargains might be hiding in plain sight.”

With the bakery comes another clever tactic. “Those tantalising smells are not just to sell bread; they’re designed to make you feel at home and spend more,” says Evan. “So don’t let your senses lead you astray.”

While free samples are great, have you noticed that they make you feel a bit guilty if you don’t buy something afterwards? And we all know those chocolates and lollies are placed at the register to tempt us while we wait.

“Shop with your eyes wide open,” suggests Evan. “By recognising these retail strategies, you can shop smarter and make sure your choices line up with your goals.”

For more money saving tips and support available to help you navigate the rising cost of living, visit the cost of living hub.

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Things you should know

This article provides general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as personal financial product advice. The views expressed by contributors are their own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of CBA. As the information has been provided without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on this information, consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement and Terms and Conditions, and whether the product is appropriate to your circumstances. You should also consider whether seeking independent professional legal, tax and financial advice is necessary. Every effort has been taken to ensure the information was correct as at the time of printing but it may be subject to change. No part of the editorial contents may be reproduced or copied in any form without the prior permission and acknowledgement of CBA.