Five ways to avoid impulse buys

If shopping is a contact sport, the entire marketing industry is in one corner of the ring; in the other, you stand alone. How can you even up the odds of spending only as much as you can afford, and only on those items you really want or need? Here are five suggestions to counter those enticements to impulse buying.

1. Don't sit down. Not long ago, I had a question about my bank account, so I stopped at my local branch. The teller hooked me up with one of the cubicle people who escorted me to his office so he could look up my account. As I took a seat, however, I belatedly realized that this was merely a ruse to get me on his turf. Sure enough, he immediately began pitching new credit cards, CDs, and other products. I'm embarrassed to say that I ended up with a rewards card I have no use for, and now I have to go to the trouble of canceling it. I'll never sit down in a bank office, car dealership or showroom again, unless I'm committed to a purchase. Remain on your feet and you can control the situation. Sit, and your normal reluctance to appear rude can trap you into a full-scale pitch session.

2. Don't read newspaper circulars. How many times have I picked up the Sunday ads, needing nothing, only to discover that I suddenly couldn't live without the Blue-Ray player, Crocs or holiday ham featured in the glossy ads? The goal of advertising is as much to create desire as to lure you to fulfill an existing desire in a specific store. If you don't open your mind to these enticements in the first place, you'll avoid many an impulse buy. The same goes with direct mail advertising.