Impulse Buying

Imagine: you’re in the checkout line, and you see something small and inexpensive on display. Without thinking, you grab it and buy it. It’s cheap, it’s quick, and it’s easy to grab and add to your purchases.

If it’s a consumable, you pop it in your mouth right after you check out, and then it’s gone. If it’s a gadget, you immediately try using it, and it typically becomes instant garbage. If it’s a toy for a child, we give it to them, and in a few days the toy is broken or shoved in a closet somewhere. And we forget about it.

Impulse buying is exactly what it sounds like– neither the impulse to buy the thing, nor the product’s role in our life, lasts. Online shopping has even taken impulse buying to a new level; in just a few clicks, we can buy things without ever really thinking about whether we need or even want them.

In order to combat our urge to impulse buy, it’s important to prepare ahead of time and ask yourself some questions. Below are some possible questions to ask yourself before, during, and after the impulse to buy something hits you:

Before shopping:

  • What will I be buying today in-person/online?
  • How can I stay focused on what I need to buy, and not get distracted by other things?
  • How can I time my shopping to be after a meal or after taking stock of what I own, so I won’t be as tempted to buy more food or things?
  • How can I resist the urge at the checkout counter or at the checkout screen to grab something else and add it to my cart without thinking?
  • What are my personal triggers for impulse buying? How can I mitigate them in the moment?

While shopping:

  • Will this extra thing add value to my life/my family’s life? Will the added value last?
  • Is this impulse purchase worth the money I will spend on it?
  • What “want” is this product filling in my life or my family’s life? What is another way to fill that want?
  • What emotion is coming up for me as I become aware of my impulse to buy?
  • How is this in-person or online store encouraging me to buy more things?
  • What would it look like to say no to the impulse to buy this thing?

After shopping:

  • What was I aware of when I was in the decision moment to buy or not?
  • How did I make the decision whether to buy the product? How did the decision feel?
  • How did my impulse to buy affect the rest of my day?
  • What did I learn about my reaction to impulse buy that I can use the next time I’m in an impulse buy situation?

God helps us in our temptations

By making ourselves more aware of how consumer culture encourages impulse buying, and our own inner urge to impulse buy, we can work towards less impulse buying. At the same time, God is helping us work through our temptations to be more of who God wants us to be.

Jesus understands what it is to be tempted, because he himself dealt with temptation . When he spent time in the wilderness after his baptism, he fought against the temptations of selfishness, power, and fame. But he did so successfully.

In fact, the story of Jesus being tempted was deemed so important for us to read that it was written by three of the four Gospel writers: Mark 1:12-13 , Matthew 4:1-11, and Luke 4:1-13. We can rest assured that Jesus knows what temptation feels like, as God in human form.

Because Jesus himself experienced temptation, he can also help us when we are tempted to impulse buy. God doesn’t leave us alone to deal with temptation on our own. God is with us as we work to overcome temptations.

No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (The Message)

With God’s help, we can become more aware and fight against both our inner urge to impulse buy, along with the the outer pressures of consumer culture. How is God helping YOU to stop buying things without thinking?


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About 
Becca Ehrlich, AKA The Christian Minimalist, is striving to be a Christian minimalist in a consumer society. She currently lives in Upstate New York with her husband Will. You can read more about her story and how her blog came to exist by clicking the website link above.

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