Turning Impulsive

Apr 29, 2016

In most situations, I consider myself an underbuyer. Buying huge amounts of anything makes me feel anxious instead of secure. And I tend to agonize over even very small purchases, like sandals or toothpaste. I usually end up not buying anything rather than actually forking over the money.

I think I've mentioned before that I teach piano lessons on a few afternoons every week. When Mike was in school, that extra money went right into the mix to buy groceries, housing, and other necessities. But when he graduated and got a full-time job, that money became mine to do with as I pleased.

It has taken me a long time to get used to. In fact, I usually spend the bulk of it on things like preschool or extracurricular activities for the boys or gifts. And I'm totally fine with that because it means we can save more of our actual income for house projects or other big things.

But in the last six months or so, I've become a little more rash and impulsive. I can think of a number of purchases I've made on the spot, without agonizing over them at all, and, for the most part, I've been happy, even thrilled, with all of them.

For example, one evening when we were at Costco, they had a display of down-filled, quilted coats for $40. Normally, this is the kind of potential purchase I would go home and "think about." But it was exactly what I wanted, and I knew I wasn't going to find it for that price again, so I bought it right then.

And, oh my goodness, I've loved that coat. It's warm without being bulky, and it is so comfortable. I wore it every day this past winter, and it made the cold not seem quite so unbearable. Even though I hadn't gone into Costco thinking I would buy a coat, it was exactly what I'd been looking for, and I was so glad I hadn't let my underbuyer side get in the way of a good purchase.

I made similar impulsive purchases when I bought a dress (actually two) for Mike's work Christmas party, a swimming suit (after I'd already bought one for the upcoming season), and a pair of converse sneakers.

And then, of course, there have been the books: Finding Winnie because I loved it so much after we read it and Amazon had it for under $10; The Reindeer Wish and Santa Clauses because they had been on my wish list, so when the price dropped, I jumped on it; Sense and Sensibility because it was my birthday and it was so pretty.

And just last week, Little Men. After I read it last November, I wanted my own copy, but I didn't like any of the current editions except for a UK one that I couldn't find in the US. But then last week, Suzanne and I scheduled our monthly Book Blab, and I was planning on recommending Little Men. I always like to have a copy of the book to show while we're chatting, but all the library copies were checked out. So I decided to just see if there was just a cheap paperback on Amazon that I could buy and not feel guilty about. And then, instead of just an ugly copy, there was a beautiful new edition for only $6. It was exactly like what I wanted to find a few months ago, so I didn't wait. I snatched it up and then bought Jo's Boys too. (And I would have bought Little Women and Good Wives as well if Amazon had had them in that edition.) It was so fun getting them in the mail and lining up their cute spines on the bookshelf. 

These purchases weren't impulsive in the same way that some things are impulsive. They were all things I'd thought about and had my ideal of in my head. No, they were impulsive because I bought them immediately upon finding them instead of pacing for twenty minutes in the store before deciding to go home and come back to the store later if it was still something I really wanted.

And that's rare for me and also, I discovered, a little bit liberating.

Gretchen Rubin advocates "indulging in a modest splurge" to boost happiness. It's taken me awhile to figure out how to do that without being quickly overtaken by buyer's remorse. But I think I've finally got it. I don't like shopping, especially when there is something specific I need (like a new outfit for a wedding). But, like most people, I have a running list of things I'm on the lookout for that will fill a specific purpose. So when I find myself out shopping, and I happen to see one of those items on my list, I buy it. I don't question it or talk myself out of it. I buy it right then and there. It feels impulsive to me, so I get a little bit of a rush, but it's really not because it's stuff that I've already thought through. I'd call that a win-win.

Are you an underbuyer or overbuyer? What does impulsive look like for you? Tell me about a happy, impulsive purchase you've made recently!


  1. Yay for no buyers remorse. I also am working on being out of the "student mindset." About a month ago I needed to run to the scout store. We were leaving the library & I was feeling tired (34 weeks along at the time). It was lunch time, so I stopped at the Wendy's drive through for a dollar burger, fries, and a frosty. I gave moat of the fries to the kids & enjoyed my food. I never stop by the drive through & never suggest we eat out, I am in charge of cooking all our meals & it feels like I'm not doing my job if I do that. But this time I did & really enjoyed it (silly me HAD to pay in cash instead...no electronic trail that way ;)

    1. That's awesome, Marseille. I think it's important to identify which little splurges will really add joy to your life and then to make sure you follow through! I love that you paid with cash so that there was no trail! :-)

  2. I support your purchases as well! When we finished residency the thing we added to our lives was weekend trips. Getting away to beautiful southern Utah for a few nights and not feeling guilty is a real tangible improvement. This is sad, because I could not have been more in love with Little Women when I was young, but I have never read Jo's Boys or Little Men!!! I must remedy right away!

    1. That's such a perfect example, and the memories from those trips are going to be PRICELESS in the coming years!


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