How to stop impulse spending

Picture of a red wallet with three padlocks for my post on how to stop impulse spending

Put a padlock on your purse!


Keen to stop impulse spending? You’re not alone.

Apparently, Brits spend a quarter of their spare money within just two days of pay day, according to research published this week by Nationwide. One in five people splurge even more, half their spare cash, in that two days.

I was asked to go on BBC local radio a couple of times this week to talk about the stats, and share ways to stop impulse shopping.

Now I’m not knocking anyone who wants to spend their own money, their own way. Fancy a gold spangly catsuit? If you can afford it, go for it!

But the research also found that three in five regretted their spending habits after payday. For those who regularly made impulse purchases, that rose to a whopping 92% regretting their spending choice. That’s a lot of guilt swirling around.

It also causes problems at the end of the month, with people left with little to live on, or being forced to dip into savings, overdrafts or credit cards. 

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Pinterest size image of purse with padlocks for my post on how to stop impulse spending


So, if you’d like to stop impulse spending, shift guilt and sleep easy, here are some suggestions:

Identify your triggers

The clue is in the name: impulse spending. It’s not something planned. 

So think about when you splurge and why. What triggers your impulse spending? Maybe you’re more likely to spend in certain shops, when you’re out with certain friends, or if you’re feeling a certain way.

If you can identify your triggers, you can change your habits, to avoid certain situations. I genuinely believe the more you can avoid impulse shopping, the easier it becomes in future.

Work out how long your money needs to last

If seeing a big bank balance triggers you to spend, think how long it really needs to last. Say you end up with £200 spare after paying all your bills. You might think ‘Wahey! £200 smackers! What can I buy??’. But really, if that £200 needs to last till next month’s payday, it’s actually less than £50 a week, so only around £7 a day. Suddenly £7 a day doesn’t seem like such a big budget, and you might be less tempted to spend.

Picture of Ellie and Helen, the Scummy Mummies, modelling gold catsuits and jackets

Holiday or spangly gold catsuit? Choices, choices…

Focus on what you really want

Think about a money goal you’d really like to achieve – a car, a holiday, a home, ever having a hope of retiring, whatever it might be. If you have a clear idea why you’re saving, it can help inspire you to stop impulse spending. Rather than feeling disappointed if you say no to a takeaway, for example, you can feel delighted at being closer to your holiday / car / home.

Then when a little voice starts saying ‘treat yourself’ or ‘you deserve it’, stick your fingers in your ears and focus on your real goal instead.

The go the whole hog, and pop a picture of that savings goal  in your purse or by the side of your screen, so you’re reminded of your money goal at the times you are most tempted to spend.

Start saving

If you genuinely want to save some cash, set up a standing order into a savings account straight after payday. Don’t wait till the end of the month to save what’s left, if you’re likely to spend the lot!

And if you worried you won’t be able to afford a set amount each month, try an automatic saving app like Chip or Plum instead.

More on How to save despite yourself

Stop shopping

If you don’t want to go buy sweets – don’t go into a sweetshop!

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But how often have you thought ‘I’ll just have a browse’, nipped into a shop, and emerged with something you never intended to buy?

So if you really want to stop impulse shopping, don’t go window shopping in your lunch hour. Explore the area, wander round a park, go for a run instead. Rather than meeting friends at a shopping centre at the weekend, find a free alternative activity. And when online, try to avoid ‘having a quick look’ at whichever websites you find most tempting. I basically assume I have zero willpower, rather than putting it to the test!

Cash not cards

Even I admit it might not be possible to stop spending entirely 🙂

There’s a whole host of research showing that we spend more as it gets easier to spend – hence retailers’ enthusiasm to get us to switch from cheques to chip and pin to contactless cards. So if you’re really keen to stop impulse spending, carry cash. It feels more painful counting out coins and notes, it’s easier to see when you’re running out, and it’s harder to spend money if you don’t have it! 

Whether you visit a cash machine on the way to drinks after work, or split your monthly spending money into actual envelopes, it can help rein in impulse purchases.

Turn off 1 click ordering

On similar lines, turn off 1 click ordering on Amazon, and delete stored card details on websites. The extra effort of finding your card and typing in all the numbers might be just enough to make you think twice about impulse spending.

Swap to online supermarket shopping

Reckon we all know that food shopping on an empty stomach isn’t the best idea, as extra goodies get piled into the trolley. Turns out payday has the same affect, with extra treats and unusual items sneaking into the shopping.

One alternative is to try an online delivery. With online shopping, it’s easier to keep track of the total, and easier to take things in and out of your basket. Plus, less temptation from offers you’d wouldn’t even think of buying otherwise.

More on 80+ ways to save money on your food shopping

Unsubscribe from marketing emails

Do email offers send you on a spending spree? I regularly go through my email inbox hitting ‘unsubscribe’ on marketing emails. There will always be another sale, and another bargain. I’d rather spend when I choose, rather than when a company’s marketing department decides.

You can even use an app like to highlight marketing emails and unsubscribe from loads at the same time.

Unfriend, unfollow

If anyone you follow on social media is having a bad effect on your bank balance – unfollow! unfriend! 

Life is too short to scroll through feeds that make you feel dissatisfied or envious. In the Nationwide research, a big chunk of people, especially the younger generation, ‘fessed up that famous people affect how much they spend, and what they buy. 

Just remember that other people might look like they are living it large – but you don’t really know if they can actually afford it, or it’s all based on a mountain of debt. You do you – and prune your feeds down to posts that raise a smile.

More on: What does being rich mean to you? 

Fess up to your friends

I reckon we don’t talk about money enough. If you’re feeling pressured to spend by friends – come out for a drink! come out for a meal! come out clothes shopping! – try talking about why you’d rather do something else.

Once when money was tight I explained I’d rather go to a less pricey restaurant. Turned out both my friends were also pretty short on cash, for assorted reasons. We ended up heading over to one friend’s house with some food, had a fab time catching up, and spent far less. Get creative about ways to spend time with your favourite people without spending a fortune.


Now – over to you. Are you an impulse shopper? What helps you to stop?

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  1. 13th October 2019 / 2:02 pm

    Great post – a lot of it comes down to willpower I think! Maybe a pill will be invented which curbs our spending urges! 🙂

    • Faith
      18th October 2019 / 8:36 am

      Yes a magic pill would certainly help!
      I do try to organise my spending on the assumption I don’t have any will power at all, hence deleting marketing emails, avoiding shopping website and steering clear of shops. Otherwise can be all too tempting.

  2. Eloise
    16th October 2019 / 5:24 pm

    Great advice here. I do the sums each payday and transfer a little more than I think I can afford to into my savings. On a good month, it all stays there but now and then I have to draw on it in the last week of the month but that’s ok. It works for me but it’s about finding the right way for the individual. I wish I’d been more disciplined when working full time. Back then I could afford to spend more freely but how I wish I’d been better at saving when I could have afforded to. Maybe now I’d be retired instead of resenting the fact that I still need to work (though fortunately only part time).

    • Faith
      18th October 2019 / 8:38 am

      Good plan about transferring savings straight after payday. Glad you’ve found an approach that works for you. I also wish I’d saved more when I was earning more, but try to remind myself there’s no point crying over spent money. I can only try to improve from here!

  3. thara
    10th July 2022 / 8:16 pm

    Since getting Milo last year I have stopped going on non essential shopping trips. Instead I now do a food shop in order to cut way down on my overall shopping costs. I only like to buy my fruit and vegetables from PYO farms, meat comes from weekly farmer markets in town and cheese is purchased at farm shops in no particular order. It is far cheaper and healthier. Wine I only tend to order in a certain quantity in boxes. Any money that is saved is used to fund a few cheap fun family days out each month or spent as a small contribution to a family camping trip.

    • Faith
      13th July 2022 / 9:51 am

      Great that you’re able to put your savings on shopping towards family trips – hope you have a great summer!

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