Are you an impulsive shopper?


How Impulsive a Shopper Are You?

Here’s a made up shopping story. What do you think an average person would normally do?

Shawna is a 20-year-old university student with a side job. It’s a few days before she gets her next paycheck and she has only £15 left for the things she needs. In addition to food, Shawna needs a pair of warm socks for an outdoor work event this weekend. She goes with one of her friends to a department store to buy the socks. As they are walking through the store, Shawna sees a sweater that would be perfect for the event on sale for £35.

Which one of five choices below will Shawna make?

1. Buy the socks only
2. Want the sweater, but not buy it
3. Decide not to buy the socks
4. Buy both the socks and the sweater with a credit card
5. Buy the socks and the sweater plus matching slacks and a shirt, also with a credit card

Which one did you choose? Before we look at your choice and what it says about your buying impulsiveness, let’s look at the psychological principles behind the question.

Based on our surroundings — family, friends, and the social setting we grow up in, we learn to view certain behaviours as being normal. Behaving a specific way feels simply right to us. We go on to expect others to behave “normally,” that is, just like us. We project the way we would behave in a certain situation onto others, and expect them to behave the same way. So in our example, by predicting how Shawna would “normally” behave, you’re really predicting how you would act in her situation.

If you selected one of the first two choices, congratulations, you’re unlikely to be an impulsive shopper. If you chose any of the other options, you may well be one (many of us are). Even option 3, deciding not to buy the socks is a slightly impulsive behaviour because it indicates a tendency to throw out your shopping plan, though this one is the most financially conservative. If you chose either 4 or 5, these are Shawna’s most impulsive options, you might accept this kind of impulsiveness in your own shopping.

Whether you tend to be impulsive or not, there are things you can do to support making good financial choices – even in those emotional moments. Be sure to read our previous entries on making a needs list and how to use it to give yourself the support you need when those sale items seem too good to pass up.