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The most common impulse buy can be a big surprise.


Main points:

  • Impulse purchases can break your budget, and some impulse purchases are more common than others.
  • Food is actually the most common impulse purchase.
  • You can avoid this by not going grocery shopping when you’re hungry or stressed, committing to list-only shopping, and considering grocery pickup/delivery.

If you’re on a budget, impulse purchases can undo all your hard work. Budgeting means setting boundaries and deciding where you want your hard-earned money to go. If you make unexpected purchases, it will be harder to stick to your plans, and you may end up reaching for credit cards or overdrawing your bank account and leaving your balance too low.

There are many different types of impulse buys that people make, but a recent study by Ramsey Solutions found that the #1 impulse buy is what people make.

Can you guess what the most common impulse buy is?

According to a study conducted by Ramsey Solutions, the most common impulse purchase people make is actually food that they come across when they shop for other things at the store.

Many people fall victim to this haphazard shopping spree. Overall, more than a third of Americans said they made an unexpected purchase at least once in the past three months, with grocery shopping making up the majority of these surprise purchases.

This probably doesn’t come as much of a shock to anyone who has ever been to a grocery store, or even been to a department store or big box store that sells gourmet foods. These stores are designed to convince you to throw a new food item or two into your cart, with colorful and attractive sweets and snacks, often right at the entrance or on end-of-aisle hoods where you can’t miss them.

Unfortunately, many people who give in to their impulses end up wishing they hadn’t. About 60% of people who responded to a survey by Ramsey Solutions admitted to feeling guilty after making an impulse purchase, and 53% regretted buying things they hadn’t planned to buy before going to the store.

How can you avoid unplanned impulse purchases?

When shopping, it can be really hard not to throw things in the cart, but there are ways around it.

One solution is to make sure you don’t go shopping when you’re hungry or stressed. Being stressed is more likely to trigger unexpected spending, with 64% of survey respondents saying they are more likely to make an impulse buy when they feel this emotion. And, obviously, if you’re hungry at the store, all the tempting food will be impossible to resist.

You can also commit to making a list and stick to it and carefully budget for groceries, as 85% of people who keep a budget said it helped them stop impulse spending.

If you’re still having trouble adding random items to your grocery cart, you can also see if grocery shopping is available to you. Many stores will actually do the shopping for you if you order online, and then you can just bring the bags to your car. If you never actually have to go into the store to buy your groceries, you can’t fall prey to impulse purchases when you’re inside. Plus, you can see how much you’re spending when you add items to your cart.

Whatever approach works for you, make sure you’re aware of how common impulse buying is. Knowing that these items are such a temptation can be half the battle to avoid unplanned expenses.

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