Buy Now, Pain Later

By Christi Posner

I struggle with impulse spending. I can justify any purchase if I want it badly enough. Being a professional in personal finance though, if I talk the talk, I want to walk the walk. I help many people address their impulse spending, yet I am still tempted to buy whether it’s in the budget or not. You know why? Because I’m human, and I’m just like you.

My weaknesses aren’t the typical “mall finds.” I’m the person who falls head over heels in love with beautiful stationary and journals. I love comfortable pens that write smoothly. Sticky notes and highlighters for my reading? I’m sold. Oh, and speaking of reading, I love cracking the spine of a crisp new book, none of this used library nonsense. I could spend hours in the home section of a Winners store. And yes, also the clothes section. Find me a reason to need a new outfit and I’ll come home with three.

However, in the past, this was one of the main causes of my debt. I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but back in my early twenties when I lived on my own for the first time, I actually remember saying to myself, “I don’t care what anything costs, I am going to live like a queen for one month.” Momma wanted, Momma got. Luckily, Momma wasn’t caught up in name brands and electronics or the damage could have been much worse. But whether or not I was buying impulsively from Value Village or Prada and Coach, I was doing the same thing: I was spending money I didn’t have. A couple months later, I remember looking at the credit card balance from my month as a queen and I had already forgotten everything I had purchased.

It might be said that impulse spenders often feel buyer’s remorse once the bill comes. I, myself, never regretted the items that I bought on a whim. What I regretted was the fact that I bought impulsively, and then had to scramble to figure out how to pay back my credit card. I guess I have what you would call spender’s remorse.

While I will still purchase something on a whim every now and again, I have come a long way from living life like a queen. I am now conscious of my shopping triggers. Some people have told me that they shop impulsively when they are happy/sad, or when they had a great/horrible day. I tend to spend impulsively when I see an item because I imagine what joy it would bring to my life, how I would feel wearing it, or how nice it would look in my house.

Now, when I purchase something outside of my plan, I am aware that I am going to have to rob Peter to pay Paul. I have assigned every penny of our income to a specific category, so if I am going to buy that item, another category is going to have less this month. In all honesty, sometimes that’s enough to prevent me from buying the item. Other times it’s not and I still think, “I’ll find a way to make it work.”

So how can you prevent impulse spending? That is up to you. For me, I need to shop with a plan, I need to shop for a specific reason, and I need to avoid browsing. I can’t remember the last time I went to a mall, because I know that if I do, I’ll be very tempted to spend off plan. But honestly, the biggest prevention I have is my allowance. When I’m out of money, I’m out of money. By giving myself an allowance, I’ve given myself permission to spend impulsively, if I want to, but within a safe limit.

What are the items that you typically buy on a whim? By being aware of what items I tend to buy on impulse, why I buy them, and how I can prevent myself from doing it over and over, I have reduced my unplanned spending. I will likely struggle for the rest of my life, but that’s okay, because I’m human, and so are you.


Originally posted on

Christi Posner is a Credit Counsellor for the Credit Counselling Society, a non-profit, charitable organization. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Christi is a newlywed, a new homeowner, and with the exception of car loans and a mortgage, she is newly debt-free. Her goal is not merely to survive, but to financially thrive; and to do so with some passion, empathy, humour, and a smile.